Report sheds light on the causes of fugitive methane emissions, namely daily leakage from 35 per cent of inactive wells and 85 per cent of active gas wells

VANCOUVER — New science released today confirms that fugitive methane emissions from B.C.’s oil and gas industry continue to be vastly underreported by government and industry.

Released by the David Suzuki Foundation, Fugitives in our midst: Investigating fugitive emissions from abandoned, suspended and active oil and gas wells in the Montney Basin in northeastern British Columbia details fieldwork results from summer 2016.

The new research corroborates findings from a spring 2017 study by the Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University, which found that methane emissions from B.C.’s oil and gas industry are at least 2.5 times higher than industry and government report.

“These underreported methane emissions from B.C.’s oil and gas companies are among the most serious greenhouse gas problems we face in Canada, especially as our governments consider expanding the export of fracked and natural gas via the LNG industry,” said David Suzuki Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce. “Following last year’s peer-reviewed report, this new study shows us the origins and causes of these harmful emissions.”

The federal government’s draft methane regulations are currently out for public consultation. Final regulations are expected this year.

“We are concerned that industry pressure will result in watered-down regulations when we desperately need strong leadership and strict enforcement from our federal and provincial governments,” Bruce said. “Given how large the industry’s methane pollution footprint is, action is needed more than ever.”

The report shows of the 178 sites investigated:

  • On average, 35 per cent of inactive wells exhibit measurable and, in some cases, significant methane leakage.
  • More than 85 per cent of actively producing gas wells vent methane gas directly into the environment daily.

The report states a clear need for mechanisms to properly quantify the impact of the oil and gas industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, and to develop means of controlling them. Specifically, the report provides six recommendations to government:

  • Mandate that all oil and gas companies operating in B.C. immediately undertake leak detection and repair, at the very least, starting with the sites identified in the report.
  • Immediately develop and implement regulations for mandatory quarterly leak detection and repair in all areas of the province, including on all abandoned and suspended wells.
  • Immediately develop and implement regulations for industry to replace oil and gas infrastructure that is designed to vent fuel gas (e.g., pneumatic devices, pumps, compressors) with non-emitting devices.
  • Immediately develop and implement regulations for mandatory and transparent reporting on all emissions and the steps being taken to address them; and where significant flows are measured, demand those wells be repaired.
  • Require industry to provide adequate resources for on-the-ground monitoring and enforcement of these regulatory measures and prioritize hiring locally affected First Nations to support independent monitoring.
  • Move forward with the provincial government’s commitment in the 2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement to apply the carbon tax to the oil and gas industry’s methane pollution to reduce and eventually fully phase-out fugitive methane emissions.

“When it comes to controlling fugitive methane emissions, there is no doubt that the oil and gas industry has a problem,” said David Suzuki Foundation senior science and policy advisor and lead researcher on the study John Werring. “A carbon tax on these fugitive methane emissions would hold emitters accountable, forcing them to pay for their massive contributions to our overall greenhouse gas emissions, or preventing them altogether.

“Every citizen in this province already pays carbon taxes to help combat climate change, so why shouldn’t the biggest polluters be required to do the same? We need urgent action on this issue, and we look forward to seeing what the B.C. Budget 2018 has to offer next month.”

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For more information, please contact:

Emily Fister, David Suzuki Foundation,, 604-440-5470