How "clean" is BC’s natural gas industry?

Methane: The other important greenhouse gas, Environmental Defense Fund:

By emitting just a little bit of methane, mankind is greatly accelerating the rate of climatic change. – Steve Hamburg EDF Chief Scientist

What is methane?
Methane is the primary component of natural gas, a common fuel source.

Why are we concerned about it?
If methane is allowed to leak into the air before being used—from a leaky pipe, for instance—it absorbs the sun’s heat, warming the atmosphere. For this reason, it’s considered a greenhouse gas, like carbon dioxide.

Is it as important to address as carbon emissions?

While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Both types of emissions must be addressed if we want to effectively reduce the impact of climate change.

About 25% of the manmade global warming we’re experiencing today is caused by methane emissions.

Where is it coming from?
Methane can come from many sources, both natural and manmade. But the largest source of industrial emissions is the oil and gas industry.

California’s massive methane leak:

On Oct. 23, 2015, a massive natural gas leak erupted at a storage well operated by SoCal Gas in Aliso Canyon, outside of Los Angeles. The leak has caused serious health impacts for nearby residents of the Porter Ranch neighborhood, and it opened eyes across the state – and the country – to the problem of oil and gas methane pollution.

Weeks later, the leak is ongoing and the gas company estimates it will be spring of 2016 before it can be stopped.

Aerial footage filmed Dec. 17, 2015, shows potent, climate-damaging methane gases escaping from a massive natural gas leak at a storage facility in California’s Aliso Canyon, with the San Fernando valley pictured in the background. The giant methane plumes were made visible by a specialized infrared camera operated by an Earthworks ITC-certified thermographer.

‘Bridge’ fuel may escalate atmospheric greenhouse gas
, Cornell University Chronicle, October 2015:

…thanks to a heavier dose of methane emissions resulting from increased use of shale gas, greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. may have been rising rapidly…

Curbing methane emission reductions leads to instant atmospheric concentration reductions that significantly slow global warming rates almost immediately, said Robert Howarth [Cornell’s Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology].

The natural gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions in the U.S. By reducing methane and soot (black carbon) emissions, society can buy time while moving aggressively toward a renewable energy economy, said Howarth.

While it is essential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, this alone would result in no measurable improvement on global warming rates in less than 30 years, he said.

“Methane emissions make it a disastrous idea to consider shale gas as a bridge fuel, letting society continue to use fossil fuels over the next few decades,” Howarth said. “Rather, we must move as quickly as possible away from all fossil fuels – shale gas, conventional natural gas, coal and oil – and toward a truly sustainable energy future using 21st-century technologies and wind and solar power.”

Premier Clark’s election campaign in 2013 promised that hundreds of billions of dollars from natural gas would result in a debt-free province, flush with new money for education, healthcare and other cash-starved social programs. Even better, she said, gas, BC’s clean fossil fuel, would replace coal, BC’s dirty fossil fuel.

Of course, we’ll still ship as much coal as we can and, when it comes to matters of the environment, opinions of peer-reviewed experts will be disregarded and disparaged. As our most gaseous minister says, “I’m not going to buy any of this.”

Since the actual result from gas development is expense, not income, and increased, not lessened, pollution, perhaps what Coleman said will be the response of BC voters when next given opportunity to evaluate Liberal promises.

Categories: Environment, Natural Gas

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13 replies »

  1. Thank you for an excellent explanation of the effects methane has on Global warming. We need this info to be spread all around, esp to the BC Liberals and Christy Clark.


  2. This is from the LA Daily News:

    “Events of this size are rare, but major leakage across the oil and gas supply change (chain) is not,” said Tim O’Connor, director of the EDF’s California oil and gas program, in a statement. “There are plenty of mini-Aliso Canyons that add up to a big climate problem — not just in California, but across the country.”


    “Methane, the main ingredient of natural gas, packs more than 80 times the global warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year span.”




  3. The BC Liberals and Christy Clark already know about the effects of methane. It’s very evident they don’t care. Here’s some offensive evidence:

    It’s no secret the main producers of methane and its equally deleterious kin are also the main producers of BC Liberal campaign funding and marching orders.

    The important target for this info is the electorate. Properly informed, it ultimately represents the solution. Instead of wasting our time on Christy Clark and the BC Liberal caucus, all long beyond redemption and representing the problem, we must focus on the traditional media and demand to know why its duty to properly inform in a functioning democracy remains unfulfilled.


  4. Coleman says in that report, “To date, industry has invested more than 20 billion dollars to advance development.”

    I would like to see where this money has landed. $20 billion would build roughly 5.5 Port Mann bridges or two Site C dams. If the money is already on the ground — and not in the BC Liberal Party's election account — where has it manifested itself, other than the Tillbury expansion?


  5. Yes, but don't forget that BC's coal production is primarily met coal for the production of steel. No coal-no steel. Its used in the manufacturing of windmills and solar panels and hydro dams. There is no viable alternative to met coal yet, its one of our necessary evils.


  6. Whether or not there is are viable alternatives to burning massive amounts of coal for steel making is debatable.

    Green Steel

    Cleaner, Cheaper Way to Make Steel

    Natural gas process will soon replace coke

    No one can expect immediate solutions but we can demand that governments and industries take all possible steps toward a low-carbon economy.

    There are 20th century examples of projects pursued because not pursuing them was unthinkable. If survival is at stake, humans can apply extraordinary resources to any problem.


  7. Where does all the money go? Billions being invested where? One has to wonder, about the “advancement of development” and who is “actually” benefitting? Its ironic that the BC liberals, have pushed this agenda in the extreme while Harper and the “zealots” of the oil and gas industry were in the fore front. Now, with climate change initiatives and the industry in the “tank” as it were,
    the BC Lib's have turned up on the wrong side of the climate agenda, and the federal governments new “green” approach.
    Still the “machine” of private donations to push a “non public” agenda will continue, as it would seem that even with donations, you can gain influence and even economic opportunity, and yes if it goes south, the taxpayer will get the bill. Removal of this group of miscreants, must be placed high on any political agenda the taxpayers can influence during the remaining time, our “supposed leadership”, still has in office.


  8. Does anyone know why they aren't at least flaring the escaping gas, to lessen its harmful effects? Even better: why aren't they recapturing it?


  9. California Has a Huge Gas Leak, and Crews Can’t Stop It Yet:

    …the presence of all that explosive natural gas adds an extra layer of complication. A tiny spark and everything can go boom. So at the leaking well site, work is restricted to daylight, says Bohlen, as lighting equipment could produce stray sparks. (The relief well is far enough away that drilling there can proceed 24/7.) Back in 1975, a well at Aliso Canyon caught fire because of sparks from sand flying up the well.

    And crews can’t set a deliberate fire, also known as flaring, which they often do at other remote areas with excess gas. The leak is so big and the flare would be so hot that it could make the mess even harder to contain.

    “There is no stone being left unturned to get this well closed. It’s our top priority,” says Bohlen. But even that is slow, with months of drilling to come as methane continues to billow into the air.


  10. Just throwing an idea out there: an image of a big inflatable tent came to my mind… like the ones you see at indoor tennis facilities. Get that over the leak and allow it to fill up. This would take the gas from high pressure to a more workable pressure. Next step would be to tap into the tent and extract the gas, pumping it back into nearby pipelines (ideal) or tanker trucks. At the very least, pipe it a safe distance away and flare it.

    If my idea has merit, I'll send it on.


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