Fugitives in Our Midst: Investigating Fugitive Emissions from Abandoned, Suspended and Active Oil and Gas Wells in the Montney Basin in Northeastern British Columbia
In summer 2015, a specially equipped team of intrepid investigators from the David Suzuki Foundation went into the oil and gas patch near Fort St. John, B.C. to explore how oil and gas companies operating in British Columbia were managing their operations in regard to controlling methane emissions.
Using a simplified screening program, we were able to identify significant emissions of fugitive methane.
We found that:
- On average, around 35 per cent of all abandoned and inactive or suspended wells exhibit measurable and, in some cases, significant leakage of methane.
- More than 85 per cent of all actively producing gas wells were found to be venting methane gas directly to the environment daily.
We used these data to calculate an approximation of the total amount of fugitive methane emissions associated with individual well sites in the Montney basin (excludes large methane emission sources such as processing plants, compressor stations, etc.).
We conservatively estimate fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure in the Montney to be 98,190 tonnes. Much of this gas (85 per cent) is being deliberately vented directly into the atmosphere. It is not being captured or used in any way. This is much higher than the B.C. government estimates for the entire oil and gas industry (upstream, midstream and downstream): 78, 000 tonnes in total.
This strongly suggests that fugitive methane emissions from this industry are being heavily under-reported and/or estimated and there is a need for mechanisms to properly quantify the impact of this industry from a greenhouse gas emissions perspective and a means to control these emissions.
In this report, we include specific “asks” of government to better regulate this industry.
Investigation by the David Suzuki Foundation into Issues of Potential Environmental Concern Related to Oil and Gas Development in the Montney Shale Play in Northeastern British Columbia, August 14 – 28, 2015
This report is a summary of our discoveries in a field investigation in the Montney basin in northeastern B.C.