An area where shale-drilling/hydraulic fracturing is heavy. Image: Simon Fraser University/Flickr

Canada Is Dragging Its Feet on Capping Dangerous Methane Leaks

The government finally has a plan to regulate methane leaks from the oil and gas industry. It doesn’t come into effect until 2020.

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May 26 2017, 2:47pm

An area where shale-drilling/hydraulic fracturing is heavy. Image: Simon Fraser University/Flickr

Canada is finally planning to implement regulations to reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, to help fight climate change. But these rules won't be enacted for next three to six years, and environmentalists say that's way too long to wait.

Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. While everyone freaks out over carbon dioxide, methane has a 25 times greater effect on global warming. As previously reported in Motherboard, Canada's oil and gas industry is leaking more methane into the environment than many people realized, and environmentalists have been calling for stricter rules.

"These regulations will help producers save over $1.5 billion worth of natural gas between 2018 and 2035. By better detecting and patching leaks, companies will be able to save and sell that natural gas and do their part to fight climate change," said Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, in a press release. "And this will support more modern technology and good new jobs in the oil and gas sector."

The full details on the regulations will be published tomorrow, but environmentalists are already expressing their frustrations with the proposed timeline.

Read More: Shell Is Abandoning Canada's Oilsands

While Environmental Defence welcomed the government's plan to regulate methane emissions, they said a three-year delay is too long. "[I]t is disappointing that the oil and gas industry's lobbying for weaker methane provisions appears to be successful," the nonprofit said in a statement. "In particular, pushing back the full implementation of the methane regulations from the promised start in 2020 to 2023 means the unnecessary release of an additional 55 million tonnes of carbon emissions between now and when the regulations reach their final target."

Members of the oil and gas industry raised concerns about how this regulations will affect the bottom line. Shell Canada said in a statement it supports the regulations, and timeline.

"We are pleased with steps the federal government is taking to reduce methane emissions and air pollution," said Shell Canada President and Country Chair Michael Crothers, noting the company has voluntary "leak detection and repair" right now.

Earlier this year, Shell made a deal to leave Canada's oil sands and now they're going to be offloading an almost $4.1 billion stake in Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

If Canada wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, it'll need to get serious about methane leaks. The sooner, the better.

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