Premier Jason Kenney says made-in-Alberta regulations to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are good enough and new federal rules shouldn’t apply.
The request for Ottawa to grant equivalency to Alberta’s methane standards was one of Kenney’s top five wishes Monday as he hobnobbed with business leaders and politicians in the nation’s capital.
Kenney and a third of his cabinet, along with a cadre of top civil servants, are in Ottawa this week to make their case for federal policy improvements they say would give Alberta a “fair deal” in Canada.
“Government policies made a bad situation worse,” Kenney told the crowd at a Canadian Club of Ottawa luncheon on Monday.
He said a study co-funded by the federal government shows Alberta’s rules are stronger and cheaper than the federal rules. Not everyone agrees.
More potent pollution
In 2015, the former NDP government’s Climate Leadership Plan set a goal of reducing Alberta’s methane emissions by 45 per cent from 2014 levels by the year 2025.
It tasked the Alberta Energy Regulator with drafting new regulations for curbing methane emissions, which were finalized in December 2018.
Natural gas, which consists primarily of methane, can escape at all levels of oil production, from wells, pipelines, tanks, or from remote control sites that vent it to reduce pressure.
As of Jan. 1, 2020, new provincial rules govern flaring, incinerating and venting of gas in oil and gas wells, facilities and pipelines in Alberta.
Also on Jan. 1, 2020, new federal rules take effect governing detection and repair of natural gas leaks, applying limits to methane emissions from compressors and disallowing venting gas from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations.
As a greenhouse gas, methane is many times more potent than carbon dioxide, packing a harder punch on climate change, says Jan Gorski, an analyst for the Pembina Institute who researches the issue.
The Alberta Energy Regulator says oil and gas operations were responsible for 70 per cent of the province’s methane emissions in 2014.
Stopping intentional venting and unintentional release of methane is an “easy winner” on climate change, Gorski said.
“It’s very cheap to reduce methane emissions,” he said. “Part of the reason is, we allow companies to vent off methane. If we captured it, you’d essentially put it back in the pipeline.”
The federal regulations are stronger, Gorski said, because Alberta’s rules only tackle pressurization, but not leaks or intentional venting.
A December 2018 analysis by Pembina and other environmental groups found the federal rules would reduce Alberta’s methane emissions by the equivalent of 35 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2025 compared to Alberta regulations, which would reduce the equivalent of 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Alberta’s rules would set the province up for failure to meet its 45 per cent reduction target, the groups said.
Alberta’s “weak” methane rules would also waste $18-million worth of natural gas per year, they said.
The cost of capture
With less than a month until two new sets of rules could apply, oil and gas firms are preparing for both standards, said Terry Abel, executive vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).
“Our position has always been that duplicative regulation is inefficient,” he said. “It’s not cost effective. We think provinces are in the best position to regulate an industry.”
B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan have all developed methane reduction rules and are at varying stages of attempting Ottawa to recognize their homegrown standards as good enough.
CAPP estimates it will cost members $2.4 billion to meet the federal standards between 2018 and 2025, but only a third of that cost to meet Alberta’s regulations.
Federal regulations are prescriptive about leakage from specific equipment, whereas Alberta’s rules allow more flexibility, Abel said.
Producers have no issue with the 45 per cent reduction target — they just want to choose how they get there, Abel said.
“We’ll get that outcome, but don’t make us spend more money than makes sense,” he said. “Let us go after the biggest sources. Let us go after the most cost-effective sources.”
The premier is set to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Tuesday on methane equivalency and other policy issues.
This content was originally published here.