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British Columbia underestimating emissions from gas wells

by Sharon OosthoekK, special to C&EN
February 12, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 7

A person points a video camera at a gas well.
Credit: Suzuki Foundation
A Suzuki Foundation researcher takes infrared video of a gas well vent.

British Columbia’s natural gas wells emit significantly more methane than the government estimates, suggests a David Suzuki Foundation study released on Jan. 31. Researchers used infrared cameras to identify plumes of methane escaping from vents, then put balloons over the leaks to measure volumes. They found more than 27 m3 per day of methane vented on average for each of the 49 wells surveyed in August 2015 in northeastern British Columbia. That rate translates to an annual total of 83,000 metric tons for the province’s 13,000 active gas wells. In contrast, the provincial government estimates total fugitive methane emissions from all parts of the oil and gas industry at about 78,000 metric tons in 2012, the most recent estimate. “The B.C. Oil & Gas Commission has already been working on initiatives that were recommended in the report, including developing a broader field-sample program to better quantify methane emissions, and fugitive emission management plans,” commission spokesperson Phil Rygg says.


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