Oil industry reports on Greenhouse Gas emissions

Vancouver, Canada (GLOBE-Net) - Greenhouse gas emissions from oil production in Canada have remained relatively stable over the past six years despite an increase in production, according to the 2005 Stewardship Report of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Emissions per unit of output may increase over the next few years however, as energy demand rises.

The report tracks the social and environmental progress of the Association, which represents more than 98% of Canada’s natural gas and crude oil production. Greenhouse gas emissions for the sector are broken down into three categories: conventional oil production, bitumen mining and upgrading, and in-situ bitumen extraction.

Emissions from conventional gas activity, which have remained stable over the last six years, may rise as mature oil fields in the Western Sedimentary Basin require increased energy inputs to continue resource extraction. Emissions have fluctuated only slightly from the 2004 level of 0.24 tonnes per cubic metre of oil equivalent during that period.

Emissions from oil sands mining and upgrading have improved slightly, and are expected to improve more as new large projects are undertaken and energy efficiency becomes more pronounced.

In-situ emissions rose slightly in 2004 after making sharp gains in earlier years. They will vary from site to site in the coming years, predicts CAPP, citing efficiency improvements and a possible shift to coke and asphaltenes as energy sources follow high gas prices.

One of the successful environmental initiatives undertaken by the industry was a drive to reduce unnecessary gas flaring and venting, which has been cut by over 70% since 1996. This has reduced emissions while providing increased efficiency and revenue.

The flaring and venting project was supported by Alberta’s Clean Air Strategic Alliance, a multi-stakeholder group that reports on air quality issues in the province. The alliance is made up of government, industry and non-governmental organizations. It’s unique approach has been cited as a model for future collaborations between stakeholders.

Water usage, the other primary issue associated with the oil and gas industry - particularly with oil sands extraction - is expected to increase with production in the next five years, says CAPP.

In 2004, surface water allocations for oil and gas amounted to 4% of the provincial total in Alberta compared to 46.9% for agriculture and 33.1% for commercial uses. For groundwater, oil and gas was the single largest consumer, with 34.5% compared to 26.3% for municipal uses.

As water usage increases, companies will be pushed to find conservation solutions, and may shift to employing saline water sources or carbon dioxide, the report notes. Water usage will increase by 36% when planned oil sands projects are undertaken, according to the Pembina Institute, which says that increased water conservation measures are needed to keep pace with growing demand for fresh water.

“The increasing demand for fresh groundwater for in situ production is a concern, as the water does not return to the watershed,” says Dr. Mary Griffiths, Senior Policy Analyst with the Pembina Institute. “We do not know how much withdrawal is sustainable, due to limited knowledge about fresh water aquifers and the fact that climate change will likely affect the rate at which they are recharged.”

New guidelines for water usage have been issued, and Alberta Environment’s multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee on Water Use Practice and Policy has identified needed reductions in fresh water use, says the CAPP report.

CAPP also reports on sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, oil spills and releases, and well abandonment and reclamation. The oil and gas industry is worth $90 billion annually in Canada, says the report.

The 2005 CAPP Stewardship Report can be viewed, Click Here.

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