CALGARY -- A new report commissioned by an environmental group says Canada's oil and gas industry could reduce methane emissions by 45 per cent using existing technology.
The study, carried out by energy industry research firm ICF International, found that the industry could eliminate the equivalent of 27 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions at a cost of $2.76 per tonne.
The Environmental Defense Fund says that means that for a theoretical investment of $726 million, the industry could achieve the same climate benefits as taking every passenger car in Alberta and British Columbia off the road.
"Curbing highly potent methane emissions offers a huge, untapped opportunity to better protect the climate now," said Drew Nelson, senior manager at Environmental Defense Fund.
"Even during these challenging economic conditions, methane reductions are one of the lowest-cost, highest-value ways to tackle climate change in the energy business today."
The report says the reduction in emissions could be achieved by cutting methane leaks and through less intentional venting of gasses, adding that the industry could benefit by selling the conserved methane.
The potential reductions are based on projected emission levels in 2020 and are on top of what could be achieved with current regulatory and voluntary actions.
The report says methane is an important greenhouse gas, with a short-term impact many times greater than carbon dioxide. Reduced methane emissions would also reduce conventional pollutants like volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants.
The oil and gas industry is Canada's largest emitter of methane, with the bulk of those emissions coming from operations in Alberta and British Columbia. The study projects that annual methane emissions from the oil and gas industry will remain stable until 2020 at the equivalent of 60.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.