Updated January 2022
To understand methane emissions and methane performance at the same level of detail that is found our methane requirements (some of which are source specific), we expanded on the emissions data that is reported through Petrinex (the reporting platform used across western provinces to collect flaring and venting data). In addition to the Petrinex emissions data, operators must now annually report fugitive emissions (unintentional releases of gas to the atmosphere) and emissions from specific sources through our OneStop reporting platform.
Here are some key emissions statistics from 2020 reported data:
- Total reported fuel use decreased by 4.3 per cent to 26.5 109 m3. The decrease is likely the result of both a production decline from 2019 to 2020 and the fuel, flare, and vent definition changes that came into effect in 2020.
- Total reported flaring increased by 21.5 per cent to 865.9 106 m3. Flaring volume increase was expected because of the fuel, flare, and vent definition changes. This increase may also reflect companies meeting new venting limits in Directive 060 by flaring, incinerating, or combusting. This was the first year the AER collected data under the new definitions, and we expect the magnitude of yearly change to be less substantial in subsequent years.
- Reported solution gas flaring increased by 23.5 per cent to 475.7 106 m3.
- Total reported venting increased by 98.8 per cent to 347.4 106 m3. Venting volume increase was expected because of the fuel, flare, and vent definition changes. This was the first year the AER collected data under the new definitions, and we expect the magnitude of yearly change to be less substantial in subsequent years.
- OneStop source-specific venting and fugitive emissions were both reported for the first time this year at a total volume of 547.1 106 m3.
- Solution gas venting increased by 2.3 per cent compared to 2019 at 147.9 106 m3.
Solution Gas Conservation
- Solution gas conservation decreased to 97.2 from 97.7 per cent in 2019.
- Total fugitive emissions reported in OneStop were 70.1 106 m3. This was the first year the AER has received comprehensive fugitive emission data required under the new methane requirements in section 8 of Directive 060.
- Surface casing vent flow (SCVF) and gas migration (GM) were reported at 10 246 wells, which was a decrease of 0.8 per cent. The associated fugitive emissions decreased by 2.4 per cent to 64.5 106 m3.
Volumes of gas that are vented, flared, or consumed as fuel for each oil and gas site are reported through Petrinex, and we have publicly report these volumes each year in our ST60B: Upstream Petroleum Industry Emissions Report (formerly ST60B: Upstream Petroleum Industry Flaring and Venting Report). The tables below show annual fuel, flare, and vent gas volumes dating back to 2010. It is important to note that fuel, flare, and vent gas definitions were revised in 2020. This resulted in a shift in volumes from one reporting category to another in 2020 when compared to 2019. For example, the previous definition of gas used to drive a pneumatic device was fuel gas. Since this gas is ultimately vented to the atmosphere, we changed the definition of this gas to vent gas and now it is reported as vent in Petrinex.
Fuel, Flare, and Vent Data Trends
Fuel gas use has primarily been increasing each year; in 2020, fuel gas use decreased to 26.5 109 m3. One reason for this decrease is because of a change in the fuel gas definition within Directive 060. Volumes that would have previously been reported as fuel gas are now being reported as vent gas. For example, the previous definition of fuel gas would have included gas used to drive a pneumatic device. Since this gas is ultimately vented to the atmosphere, we changed the definitions to now consider this as vent gas and require it to be reported as such in Petrinex. However, this is not the only contributor to the fuel gas reduction. Reported fuel volume decreased by 1189.7 106 m3, while flare and vent volumes increased by 153.0 106 m3 and 172.6 106 m3, respectively. The fuel gas decrease is greater than the increases in flare and vent volumes combined, indicating that the lower active facility count and lesser production in 2020 were also contributing factors to a fuel gas decrease.
Total reported flaring in 2020 was 865.9 106 m3. Flare volumes in 2020 likely increased because of both the flare gas definition change and the introduction of new methane requirements in 2020 that emphasize methane (vent gas) reductions. Certain gas volumes, such as waste gas or pilot or purge gas used during combustion activities (prevalent at crude bitumen batteries given the high associated solution gas venting potential), were previously being reported as fuel in 2019 but are now being reported as flare. The 2020 flare volume increase may also reflect an actual increase in flaring. Operators may be minimizing venting to meet the new Directive 060 limits by routing vented emissions to combustion equipment. This would result in an actual increase in the reported flare volume.
Overall, venting had been decreasing since 2014. For the rationale given above (fuel, flare, and vent gas definition changes), the vent gas volumes reported in 2020 are greater than those reported in 2019, but the trend in subsequent years is expected to align with the reported values of 2020. These volumes are then expected to undergo a decline because of the methane emission reduction requirements.
Emissions data reported to the AER through OneStop provides greater detail on the source-specific contributions to the methane emission baseline. This is the first year the AER required reporting of both vent and fugitive emissions data via OneStop. Given the substantial shift in both the scope of reported emissions and the reporting software, we expect data quality to continue to improve each year, as industry becomes more familiar with the requirements.
The data presented here represents a 90% submission compliance rate.
In the map below you will see total reported OneStop vent and fugitive volumes by AER field centre. Click on the circles to see the total volume broken down by source category.