This week the Alberta Energy Regulator finally released its long-awaited draft updates of Directive 060 and Directive 017.
Alberta tends to get a lot of flak from environmentalists about how dirty they think the oil and gas industry is in Alberta, but we’re actually doing a pretty good job overall.
One area where Alberta is a world leader is in reducing natural gas flaring and venting. According to the statistics quoted in this CBC Calgary story on natural gas flaring, 96 per cent of gas is conserved in Alberta, helping to conserve an estimated 7.2 million tons of carbon in the nine years prior to this story from 2007.
Have a look at this video. It starts about 15 seconds in:
“That’s equivalent to one and a half million vehicles off the roads in Alberta for an entire year,” said Darin Barter of the EUB in the story (now ERCB – Energy Resources Conservation Board).
Alberta’s done a good enough job that it’s an example that the World Bank thinks Alberta’s natural gas flaring guidelines should be used around the world. I knew that a lot of natural gas flaring was done around the world, but I had no idea of the scale of the problem until I watched this video.
Bent Svensson of the World Bank said in the story that the amount of natural gas flared in the world contributes to “almost 1,200 million tons of CO2 being emitted each year.” The reporter said that if that alone was done, the targets of the Kyoto Protocol would be met.
To get an idea of how much natural gas flaring is done around the world, take a look at this video from the World Bank. Such a waste!
It’s interesting to note that in 2007, Canada’s demand for natural gas was 3,114 BCF (billion cubic feet). To convert that to BCM (billion cubic metres), divide it by 35.3. That puts Canadian natural gas demand at about 88.2 BCM.
According to World Bank estimates, Nigeria and Russia’s flaring alone add up to around 66 BCM, or enough to supply 75% of Canada’s entire natural gas demand for a year. That’s a lot of gas and I’m not even including the natural gas flared by the other major gas flaring countries.
So next time you hear someone criticizing how Alberta handles natural gas flaring, point them to some of the links and videos here. Alberta, Saskatchewan (proposed new Saskatchewan flaring and venting regulations) and the rest of Canada are actually doing a pretty good job. We can do even better and that’s what we’re working towards.
ERCB Report: Flaring and Venting of Solution Gas Increases 7.6% in 2008
July 30, 2009
Nonetheless, solution gas flaring in Alberta has been reduced by 77 per cent since 1996, and solution gas venting has been reduced by 41 per cent since 2000. Flaring is the burning of natural gas that cannot be conserved. Venting is the release of natural gas into the atmosphere. Solution gas is natural gas produced in association with crude oil and bitumen production.
The ERCB’s ST60B-2009: Upstream Petroleum Industry Flaring and Venting Report also indicates that in 2008, the upstream oil and gas industry conserved 95.1 per cent of all solution gas produced in Alberta last year for use or sale, rather than flaring and venting it.
Flaring of solution gas dropped 5.8 per cent in 2008. In total, 306 million cubic metres of solution gas were flared in 2008 compared to 325 million in 2007.
Venting of solution gas increased 20.1 per cent in 2008. In total, 417 million cubic metres of solution gas were vented in 2008 compared to 347 million in 2007, primarily due to an increase in the number of new crude bitumen wells that produce small volumes of solution gas. These volumes are neither sufficient to keep a flare stack lit nor meet the ERCB’s test for conservation. Although the amount vented per facility is small, the growth in the number of crude bitumen operations was sufficient to increase the overall amount of solution gas vented.
The Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA) Flaring and Venting Project Team, which is composed of stakeholders from environmental groups, the petroleum industry, the ERCB, Alberta Energy, Alberta Environment and other government agencies, is working on a number of recommendations for regulatory changes to address solution gas venting in crude bitumen production operations and other facilities. One of the issues currently under review is the economic test currently utilized to determine if oil facilities must conserve solution gas.
This news release is available on the ERCB website at www.ercb.ca
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