Earlier this month, the Alberta government had announced that it had reached an agreement on methane regulation with the federal government.
Both the federal and provincial governments had regulations come into effect at the start of 2020, which would mandate methane reduction in the oil and gas industry in Alberta.
As part of their regulations, the federal government offered provinces the option to sign an equivalency agreement.
Basically, if a provincial government can establish their own methane regulations that meet the federal target of reducing methane emissions from oil and gas by 40–45% of 2012 levels by 2025, the provincial regulation can apply in the province, which eliminates oil and gas companies ensuring they adhere to two regulations.
According to the federal government, Alberta’s methane regulations— introduced in 2018 by the NDP government and modified slightly earlier this year by the UCP—meet those targets.
As part of the announcement, the Alberta government claimed that “Alberta’s methane regulation is estimated to cut more emissions by 2030 than the federal system would if it applied in Alberta”.
And that’s kind of true.
Here are the reductions for the two regulations between 2020 and 2024.
Alberta’s regulations will reduce methane emissions over the next 5 years by 18.59 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is 0.12 megatonnes less than the federal regulations.
Without regulations, methane emissions would have grown from 30.66 megatonnnes of CO2 equivalent this year to 30.47 over the next 5 years. If you add up all the year-over-year increases, we’d see an accumulated total of 30.76 megatonnnes of CO2 equivalent, mostly because of natural emissions reductions in 2021 and 2022 because of less production.
With the regulations, we’d see only 12.17 megatonnes in accumulated emissions under the provincial programme and 12.05 under the federal one.
So it’s not quite true that Alberta regulations reduce emissions more, if we look at only the 5-year assessment period of the equivalency agreement.
But let’s look at 10-year projections:
Without the regulations, Alberta’s methane emissions would grow from 30.66 megatonnnes of CO2 equivalent this year to 32.27 in 2029. That would amount to a total increase of 309.92 year-over-year emissions during that period.
Under the provincial regulations, that accumulated total would be reduced to 252.64, and it would be reduced to 253.44 under the federal programme.
Assuming Alberta follows through on the 2018 regulations, they’ll fall short of the federal targets during the assessment period but exceed them in the longer term. However, Alberta’s approach aims for 45% of 2014 levels, whereas the federal approach is based off 2012 levels.
In 2018, the oil and gas sector accounted for 26% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, making it the largest emissions source in the country. That year, emissions were 193 megatonnnes of CO2 equivalent, compared to only 106 megatonnes in 1990.
During this same period, emissions from conventional oil production increased by 24% throughout the entire country, while emissions from oil production through bitumen mining increased by 456%.
In Alberta, total greenhouse gas emissions were 173.1 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 1990, 232.0 in 2005, and 272.6 in 2018, an increase of nearly 100 megatonnes. In 2014, Alberta’s oil and gas sector accounted for 70% of the province’s methane emissions: 31.4 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent, which was also 25% all emissions from the upstream oil and gas sector.