Joule Bergerson, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering is seen in this undated handout photo. New research concludes that Canada has one of the most carbon intensive oil industries in the world. But the same University of Calgary study says Canada is a world leader in regulations that could reduce the industry’s global climate change impact. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Study concludes Canadian oilpatch rules could cut global emissions

Canada’s industry has rules that if adopted worldwide could make a big dent in global greenhouse gas emissions

Research suggests Canadian oil is among the world’s most carbon-heavy, but Canada’s industry also has rules that if adopted worldwide could make a big dent in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Joule Bergerson of the University of Calgary said emissions from oil production could be cut by almost a quarter if oil-producing countries adopted regulations similar to Canada’s that limit the amount of gas flared or vented into the air.

“It could make quite a bit of difference,” said Bergerson, a co-author of a paper funded by Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and published in the journal Science.

Bergerson and her colleagues from Stanford University in California analyzed how much carbon was contained in oil from nearly 9,000 oilfields in 90 countries, representing about 98 per cent of global production. Using data from satellites, industry, government and previous research, they also estimated how much methane and other greenhouse gases were released along with the oil.

They added the two sources of climate-changing emissions together and calculated how much of them were released per barrel of oil. That calculation showed Canada’s oilpatch was the fourth most carbon-intensive on the planet behind Algeria, Venezuela and Cameroon.

RELATED: Natural Resources committee meets to talk about pipeline decision

Canada’s rating was nearly twice the global average.

“We’ve known that for quite some time, that it’s a more difficult resource to get out of the ground,” Bergerson said. “That results in additional greenhouse gas emissions.”

What was surprising was the difference that flaring and venting made to carbon emissions. The paper concludes that about half of the highest-carbon oil comes from fields with high rates of flaring and venting.

Gas releases are why Algeria and Cameroon are more carbon-intensive than Canada, said Bergerson.

Gas flaring increased steadily between 2010 and 2016, the paper says. That includes countries such as the United States, where flaring has nearly quadrupled.

Those increases could be stopped if everyone took a more Canadian approach, which Bergerson described as world-leading.

The paper points out that in Canadian offshore fields, production restrictions are imposed if flaring is excessive.

In Alberta, flaring fell nearly two-thirds between 1996 and 2014.

The paper concludes that if minimal flaring standards were imposed worldwide, the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from producing the average barrel of oil would fall by 23 per cent.

Duncan Kenyon of the energy think tank Pembina Institute agreed flaring in Canada’s oilpatch is well-regulated.

“If we were to take Canadian regulations and applied them globally we’d be way better off,” Kenyon said.

RELATED: B.C. natural-gas pipeline challenger says he’s received threats

But he pointed out several recent studies that have measured emissions in Canadian oil facilities have found much higher readings than industry estimates.

“We severely under-report our methane emissions,” he said. “We’re having a serious compliance and enforcement issue.”

Kenyon said under-reporting is common around the world.

While most carbon from fossil fuels is released when they are burned, cutting releases from production also matters, Bergerson said.

“This is the evolution, to adopt much more stringent regulations.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Rough seas delay Prince Rupert/Haida Gwaii ferry

Northern Expedition is expected to leave Prince Rupert for Haida Gwaii at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 13

In Pictures: Remembrance Day in Queen Charlotte

Drums, bells and bagpipes sounded across Haida Gwaii this Remembrance Day, which… Continue reading

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

North Coast figure skater to star in Dancing On Ice

Carlotta Edwards learned to skate in Prince Rupert, before becoming a star with millions of viewers

On the Wing: Living in chartless nothing

By Margo Hearne Juncos are back at the feeder, teal are in… Continue reading

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

VIDEO: Newcomer kids see first Canadian snowfall

Children arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings last week from Eritrea

Calgary 2026 leader expects close vote in Winter Games plebiscite

Residents to choose in a non-binding vote on Tuesday whether they want city to bid on 2026 Olympics

Feds dropped ball with WWI anniversary tributes: historians

Wrote one historian: ‘Other than the Vimy Ridge celebration … I think they have done a very bad job’

Sides ‘far apart’ in Canada Post talks despite mediation, says union

The lack of a breakthrough means rotating strikes will resume Tuesday

Feds’ appeal of solitary confinement decision in B.C. to be heard

Judge ruled in January that indefinite such confinement is unconstitutional, causes permanent harm

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

Shelter struggles: Landlord takes over rental unit whenever visiting B.C. town

Renter’s story highlights how hard it is to find accommodation in Revelstoke

Most Read