Canada is leading the world in methane emissions reductions

Methane emissions from Canada's oil and gas sector are falling – even as production is increasing. Find out how.
By Deborah Jaremko

Glob­al inter­est in reduc­ing methane emis­sions from oil and gas is ris­ing, but for near­ly two decades, it’s already been an area of focus – and suc­cess – in Canada.

Accord­ing to CEC research, Canada’s methane emis­sions fell by 16% between 2000 and 2018, even as oil pro­duc­tion increased by 91%. But world­wide, methane emis­sions increased 27% and oil pro­duc­tion by 38%.

“Cana­da is the glob­al leader in tech­nolo­gies to reduce methane emis­sions,” says Soheil Asgar­pour, CEO of Petro­le­um Tech­nol­o­gy Alliance Cana­da (PTAC), a non-prof­it help­ing tech­nol­o­gy devel­op­ers cross the bridge from R&D to com­mer­cial success.

Ambi­tious Reduc­tion Targets

The gov­ern­ments of both Alber­ta and Cana­da now expect oil and gas pro­duc­ers to meet the tar­get of reduc­ing methane emis­sions by 45% in 2025 com­pared to lev­els in 2012.

“We’re see­ing a shift in mind­set of the indus­try to where oil and gas pro­duc­ers are see­ing it as a strate­gic choice with eco­nom­ic upside to improve their emis­sions per­for­mance,” says Con­nor O’Shea, pres­i­dent of Cal­gary-based clean­tech com­pa­ny West­gen Technologies.

Westgen’s tech­nol­o­gy reduces methane emis­sions from oil and gas well sites. In the last three years, its rev­enue increased 1,400%, and is expect­ed to more than triple again in 2022.

O’Shea says the company’s explo­sive growth is thanks to cus­tomers increas­ing­ly rec­og­niz­ing the val­ue of low­er­ing their envi­ron­men­tal footprint.

“I don’t think it’s going to stop,” he says. “I think man­age­ment teams are going to con­tin­ue to want those year-over-year improve­ments in emis­sions per­for­mance. And there’s lots of opportunity.”

Work­ing for more than a decade on the chal­lenge of methane emis­sions reduc­tion, PTAC achieved a major mile­stone last year. As of Octo­ber 2021, the tech­nolo­gies field test­ed through the research orga­ni­za­tion have capac­i­ty to reduce methane emis­sions by more than 45% — if adopt­ed by oil and gas producers.

A Long-term Glob­al Leader

The oppor­tu­ni­ty for these tech­nol­o­gy providers isn’t just with­in Cana­da. Dur­ing last year’s COP26 cli­mate sum­mit in Glas­gow, Scot­land, Cana­da and over 100 oth­er coun­tries signed the Glob­al Methane Pledge to reduce world methane emis­sions by at least 30% from 2020 lev­els by 2030.

“If we can main­tain our glob­al lead­er­ship on tech­nolo­gies that reduce methane emis­sions, there’s going to be huge mar­ket cre­at­ed glob­al­ly,” Asgar­pour says.

PTAC CEO Allan Fog­will says Canada’s suc­cess in reduc­ing emis­sions and devel­op­ing tech­nolo­gies that address the chal­lenge will help the world meet its methane targets.

“There’s noth­ing to sug­gest we couldn’t have sim­i­lar impacts in the Unit­ed States, the Mid­dle East, or for­mer Sovi­et coun­tries that also are involved in oil and nat­ur­al gas pro­duc­tion. It could be quite sig­nif­i­cant,” Fog­will says.

“I don’t know of any oth­er juris­dic­tion that is as far for­ward in terms of its methane man­age­ment as Canada.”