Air Policy Issues and Knowledge Gaps

 Public Policy Issue Knowledge Gap(s)

Methane Emissions 

Federal and provincial regulations require the oil and gas sector to reduce methane emissions by 45% by 2024 and the new federal policy is to continue that reduction to 75% by 2030.  Industry is focused on meeting the reductions targets and timing in the most cost-effective way possible. Advancements in methane detection, quantification, and controls technologies, to allow the sector to implement solutions in a timely manner.

1.       Optimized methane monitoring and verification
There have been significant advancements in technologies to detect and quantify methane releases, including new OGI cameras, fixed and mobile ground sensors, manned and unmanned aerial sensors, and satellite sensors. The gap to close is determining a suite of technologies will provide a high probability of detecting a methane flux in real-world conditions cost-effectively.

2.       Improvements to the Methane Emissions Inventory, accuracy and precision:  Having an accurate inventory of methane emissions by source will ensure industry and regulators are focused on the areas with the greatest reduction potential. Projects could target ongoing disagreements with top-down vs bottom-up measurements and test whether poorly understood sources, such as emissions from inactive facilities, meaningfully contribute to the emissions inventory.

3.       Understanding Routine and non-Routine Venting from Tanks:  Efforts to establish an accurate methane emission inventory has identified tank venting as a contributor to methane emissions at oil production and processing facilities.  In addition, anecdotal information suggests that large, abnormal, episodic events can be a significant contributor to a facility’s emissions, but because of their nature, are difficult to detect and quantify.  Measurement and mitigation of routine and non-routine venting from tanks. There are a number of projects underway to address this gap.

4.       Evaluating Methane Control and Measurement Technologies:  PTAC has successfully demonstrated a number of technologies to reduce methane emissions, typically in limited field trials. It is important to evaluate near commercial technologies with different operators, in different operating conditions and different facility types, and document the capabilities and limitations of each technology in a transparent manner, so that all operators can determine the applicability of each technology in their unique asset mix. Priority focus areas for further evaluation include:

  • Seeking technologies related to efficient engines and skids including options to move away from solution gas destruction (i.e., flaring) and source technologies that can utilize solution gas as fuel.
  • Instrument Air systems that are inexpensive and suitable for a single well/separator. Older existing sites are a major challenge to reduce GHG emissions due to economics. The system would ideally be self-contained, easily transferrable to another well and low cost.
  • Measurement options. Regulatory and internal measurement requirements frequently encourage the installation of more equipment (i.e., test separators). This extra equipment comes with both cost and GHG emissions. Multiphase metering is expensive and high cost to manage. PTAC is seeking low-cost highly reliable measurement options.
  • Burner technology improvements: PTAC is seeking more advanced burner management systems with efficiency optimization added as a primary function vs the current common design that only address safety and regulatory aspects.
  • Tank vent metering. PTAC is seeking options to economically meter tanks.
  • Efficient low or no emitting heating technologies are being sought for building heaters.
  • Methane Emissions due to incomplete Catalytic Conversion.  A study which builds on or re-assesses the prior completed AUPRF study which assessed catalytic heater efficiency and seeks to further investigate catadyne heater incomplete conversion, development of operational/maintenance best-practices and a field-trial of economical solutions to prevent/mitigate methane emissions from catalytic heaters.

5.       Incomplete Combustion of Methane:

  • Industry is observing methane slippage from select reciprocating engines and there is an opportunity to better understand this.  How can methane slip be minimized while still meeting regulatory NOx emission requirements?
  • How do methane emission factors from reciprocating engines, boilers, heaters, and flares measured in the field study compared to published emission factors?
  • What is a representative inventory of equipment types in Alberta that could be used to improve the estimate of total methane emissions from stationary combustion and flaring?
  • Develop operations/maintenance best-practices and field-trial economical solutions, to prevent/mitigate methane slip from reciprocating engines.
  • Unlit flares – may be intentional vent stacks. Stack that is identified as releasing methane, what is the story behind this, is this a gap?
  • VRU’s – reliability of VRU’s. design operation and maintenance. broad mitigation uses.

6.       Virtual Elimination of emissions

Are there options to consider for the virtual elimination of methane emissions on oil and gas sites.  What is the role of planning frameworks such as the Peace River Directive to be applied to other areas.  What sort of infrastructure solutions would be needed to enable this aspirational goal. What barriers and opportunities exist to deliver on this aspirational goal.

Air Quality Indicators 

Ambient air quality objectives are continuously being reviewed and updated, and industry is being required to meet more stringent targets. To determine the impact of such policy changes, it is important for industry to understand the contribution that upstream oil and gas facilities have to the substances being reviewed.

An accurate understanding of the potential release of substances subject to new or revised air quality objectives from the UOG industry is required. Additionally, if the substance is being released in quantities that may be subject to regulatory requirements, reasonable and cost-effective emission control options would need to be developed.

Air Emission Inventories

Air emissions inventories are becoming an increasingly important method of monitoring and reporting on industry emissions, for the public, governments, and individual companies. Further, governments are using these emissions inventories to negotiate international treaties, establish air emissions policy measures and targets, and develop emission forecasts. As such, it is important that upstream oil and gas operators report facility emissions using standardized methodologies and realistic emission factors with low uncertainty, and also have access to a wide variety of effective emissions monitoring technologies. Inaccurate and/or overly conservative emissions factors can result in an inaccurate portrayal of the emissions profile of the oil and gas industry. This in turn can lead to unnecessary or ineffective regulatory requirements, and additional public scrutiny.

The development of technically defensible and effective emission management policies and regulations is reliant upon good quality emissions data in order to both identify potential opportunities for emission reductions and to determine industry performance and emissions reductions in future years. There are opportunities to address this knowledge gap by investigating potential improvements to the certainty of quantification (emission factors and measurement technologies and methodologies), monitoring, data management, and reporting of emissions from the upstream oil and gas sector.

Collaboration and coordination as we develop a tool to better understand our provincial NOx inventory/baseline (using recently collected MSAPR test data), and development of a model which will reveal practical, strategic, and cost-effective options for our sector to achieve AAQOs/CAAQS objectives. Identify other emerging issues among other air contaminates.

Data Analysis

There is an ever-growing amount of data generated by oil and gas companies and various repositories collecting data.  It would be useful to analyze the data into meaningful insights that will help industry address ongoing challenges.

Data analysis aimed at informing and helping industry to make better, smarter, cost-effective decisions.