Measurement and analysis of methane emissions from the Canadian oil and gas industry

MacKay, Katlyn Elizabeth (2023) Measurement and analysis of methane emissions from the Canadian oil and gas industry. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Reducing methane (CH₄) emissions from anthropogenic activities is one of the fastest ways to slow the rate of global warming. The oil and gas (O&G) industry is one of the largest contributors to global CH₄ emissions. Since CH₄ is the main constituent of valuable natural gas, reducing O&G CH₄ emissions has both economic and environmental benefits. On top of that, most of these emissions can be reduced using technologies that exist commercially today. Although the benefits of CH₄ reduction are clear, barriers for acting remain. Despite being a significant source of the global carbon budget, an in-depth understanding of O&G CH₄ emissions are lacking. National CH₄ inventories, which are used to track emissions over time, are also uncertain, partly due to a lack of knowledge and measurements of individual sources. Along with other major O&G producing countries, Canada has committed to significant reductions of CH₄ emissions from the O&G sector. While such commitments are promising, without accurate estimates of the baseline, and an understanding of spatial and temporal patterns, achieving these reductions will be a significant challenge. The overarching goal of this thesis and the individual studies within is to improve current understanding of CH₄ emissions from Canada’s O&G sector, and to ultimately aid in reducing these emissions. This thesis includes a synthesis and analysis of nearly 10,000 site-level CH₄ emission measurements, spanning across geographies that make up most of the country’s onshore O&G production. These data were used to examine CH₄ emission patterns and levels in producing regions that vary in production style, infrastructure, and geography. Production-weighted emission intensities and a total inventory for Alberta were calculated. The measurement-based inventory revealed that CH₄ emissions from the onshore O&G sector are likely underestimated by 50%. Further, a sensitivity analysis of modelled CH₄ emission inventories was performed using available measurement data and infrastructural/production characteristics. The major sources of uncertainty in inventory estimates were assessed using a Monte Carlo analysis. The final component of the thesis is the collection and analysis of the first CH₄ measurements for Canada’s offshore industry, which were collected using an aircraft measurement system. Measurements revealed that unlike the onshore sector, offshore CH₄ emissions are in line with current reported estimates. The primary contributions of this work include the first regionally nuanced estimate of Canadian O&G CH₄ emissions (on and offshore production), including production-weighted emission intensities by development. These new measurement-based estimates fill important knowledge gaps for onshore emission patterns and magnitudes, as well as Canadian offshore CH₄ emissions which have not been previously measured. Additionally, a framework for using sitelevel measurements to estimate CH4 inventories was developed, and the key sources of uncertainty in current official inventories were evaluated. This work also produced a publicly available database of O&G methane emission measurements in Canada, which can be used for future research and policy development. Overall, the outcomes of this thesis will help steer CH₄ reduction efforts across the O&G sector and inform future regulations that are expected as the world collectively moves toward a low-carbon future.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 15973
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references.
Keywords: methane emissions, measurement, oil and gas, inventories
Department(s): Engineering and Applied Science, Faculty of
Date: May 2023
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Methane--Environmental aspects--Canada; Gas industry--Canada; Petroleum industry and trade--Canada

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