Canada’s oil and gas sector is relying on new government figures that it says prove the industry can increase production and reduce emissions at the same time.
Analysis by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) industry group of the most recent federal production and emissions data shows that emissions from the country’s conventional oil and natural gas sector have fallen 24 percent. hundred over the past decade.
“When we talk about increasing Canada’s role as a responsible supplier of natural gas and oil to the world, emissions performance is one of those metrics,” said Lisa Baiton, President and CEO general of CAPP, in a press release.
“Canada’s conventional producers are demonstrating that we can increase energy production to ensure energy security while reducing emissions. »
Conventional production refers to all oil and natural gas production outside of Canada’s oil sands.
Over the study period, the decade between 2012 and 2021, Canadian conventional oil production fell 9 percent, but production-related emissions fell 27 percent, or 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012 to 76 million tonnes in 2021.
For natural gas, total C02 emissions decreased by 22 percent while production increased by 35 percent. Natural gas producers were able to reduce their total emissions of methane – a particularly harmful greenhouse gas – by 38 percent.
The new data comes as Canada’s oil and gas sector – the country’s largest emitting sector, accounting for 28 per cent of Canada’s overall emissions in 2021 – comes under increasing pressure to clean up its operations to help the country. comply with international emission reduction commitments. and fight against climate change.
This fall, the federal government is expected to unveil the promised cap on emissions from the oil and gas sector — a cap widely opposed by both industry and the government of Canada’s largest oil-producing province, Alberta.
Julia Levin, a*sociate director of the nonprofit Environmental Defence, said industry’s opposition to the cap shows it is not as confident in its long-term ability to reduce emissions. she claims.
“If you’re saying you can have higher production and lower your emissions, then you should welcome the emissions cap,” Levin said in an interview.
“They tell us they can do it. Let’s bluff and put in place a strict emissions cap.”
Levin added that a number of independent studies have recently cast doubt on how the oil and gas industry accounts for and reports its methane emissions to the government.
A study published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Science and Technology used airplanes to measure actual methane emissions to the air from heavy oil facilities in Saskatchewan, and found that they were releasing almost four times as much gas than what the companies had declared to the government.
Kevin Birn, vice president and chief a**lyst for Canadian oil markets at S&P Global, said it’s true that there is currently some uncertainty about how best to measure and account for methane emissions.
But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the sector’s emissions have fallen, which should be seen as an achievement.
“If the ultimate goal is to reduce carbon intensity to improve the carbon competitiveness of Canadian exports, that would be positive,” Birn said in an interview.
“And if the objective is also, within our national borders, to try to reduce our absolute emissions, I think that is also positive. »
CAPP’s a**lysis does not include the oil sands, which accounted for 65% of overall Canadian oil production at the start of 2023, and which some studies find generates 2.2 times more emissions per barrel than the average crude. mined in North America.
But an S&P Global report released earlier this month showed absolute greenhouse gas emissions from Canadian oil sands production were flat in 2022 at 81 million tonnes of C02, even as production total exceeded 3.1 million barrels per day, a gain of more than 50,000 barrels per day per year. -over a year.
Birn said this is the first year that total emissions from the oil sands sector have not increased, ruling out any major market disruptions that lead to lower production.
Although he said the sector’s overall emissions would likely start to rise again in the next two years due to increased production, the numbers seem to indicate that oil sands emissions could peak earlier than expected and at lower than previously estimated.
© 2023 The Canadian Press