05/28/2013 01:16 EDT | Updated 07/27/2013 05:12 EDT

Climate Bombshell: B.C.'s Pollution Numbers Blow Up


The B.C. provincial government has been throwing around some big numbers and promises with the planned expansion of natural gas operations, but one large number missing in the discussion is the millions of tonnes of heat-trapping methane gas they are not reporting in official government documents.

According to an investigative report appearing on the site DeSmog Canada, by award-winning science journalist, Stephen Leahy, several experts he interviewed consider the planned expansion of natural gas extraction and exports will push B.C.'s climate targets up by as much as 25 per cent, or the equivalent of adding three million cars to our province's roads.

That's a lot more climate pollution in the air, when you consider that there are only about two million passenger cars currently on the road in B.C. The problem, according to Leahy, is the under reporting of methane leaks by the provincial government. Methane is the prominent gas in what we call "natural gas" and a lot of it leaks out into the air when drilling for gas and shipping it to market.

One industry pipeline expert describes to Leahy that:

"Seals, valves, joints, compressor pumps all can leak. There are literally hundreds of thousands of points where this can occur."

The problem is that, like carbon dioxide, methane is a very, very powerful gas when it comes to trapping heat, and that is the cause of climate change and the atmospheric disruption we are seeing today.

Because it would be very hard for the government and industry to detect every single methane leak along hundreds of miles of pipe, the government makes an assumption about how much methane is lost into the atmosphere through leakage. According to industry experts, the provincial government's estimates are well below the accepted industry standards.

While most in the natural gas industry assume somewhere between two per cent and nine per cent methane leakage, official government documents show that B.C. only assumes a leakage rate of 0.3 per cent to 0.9 per cent -- less than one per cent over all. So even at the low end of the industry standard of two per cent, the B.C. government would have to double their assumptions. And that's just the low end.

"Current methane emissions are making a mockery of the Climate Action Plan but LNG export plans would "blow them way, way out of the water," Matt Horne, director of the Pembina Institute's Climate Change program, told Leahy. "The math simply does not add up."