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The Commission monitors air quality which can be impacted by flaring, venting and equipment exhaust from oil and gas activities.

Through administration of the Oil and Gas Activities Act (OGAA), Drilling and Production Regulation, Environmental Management Act, and Oil and Gas Waste Regulation, the Commission authorizes, regulates and limits air discharges to the environment from oil and gas activities.

Our Monitoring Equipment

We utilize a number of different air quality monitors:

CAMEL

The Commission Air Monitoring Environmental Laboratory (CAMEL) is a mobile trailer unit fitted with a full suite of sensory equipment designed to measure and record air contaminants - gases, liquids and suspended particulate matter with chemical properties that can impact air quality.

Being mobile and capable of continual collection and measurement of data, CAMEL can be deployed to measure air quality and potential sources of airborne contaminants in locations that do not have fixed air monitoring stations.

The recently developed Commission Air Tool (CAT) is an interactive, web-based map that provides public access to information on air discharges from oil and gas operations and monitoring data collected by CAMEL.

Camel
Commission Air Monitoring Environmental Laboratory (CAMEL)

RAM

We have a second mobile unit containing specialized ambient monitoring equipment. Designed as a quick response unit for addressing emergencies and urgent concerns is the Roaming Air Monitor (RAM) van.

As a quick response unit, RAM is usually stationed at our Fort St. John office for instantaneous deployment. When RAM is not being used for quick response, it can be utilized to conduct short-term air monitoring.

RAM is able to produce a trace of air monitoring results as it is in motion. Thus, it is able to respond to situations where there are air quality concerns and provide perspective for where air contaminants originate.

RAM
Roaming Air Monitor (RAM)

Farmington Community Hall Station

The Farmington Community Hall Station is a fixed station deployed for a period of years to monitor community air quality. Summary information on the results of its ambient air monitoring are available within the BC Air Data Archive and on the Oil and Gas Research and Innovation Society (OGRIS) website.

Farmington graphic for web with title at bottom

Portable Monitors

Where the public has raised concerns regarding air quality resulting from oil and gas activities, we can respond with AreaRAE Pro Plus transportable air monitors.

These monitors are the size of a small suitcase, and can measure:

  • Hydrogen sulphide (H2S).
  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2).
  • A subset of hydrocarbons known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Meteorology such as wind speed and direction and relative humidity.

While AreaRAE monitors are not able to detect levels as low as CAMEL and RAM, they are an effective complement to the Commission’s monitoring units.

Our monitoring equipment is deployed based on the following considerations:

  • Protection of public safety.
  • Community engagement.
  • Oil and gas industry focus.
  • Ensuring industry compliance with permits, regulations, and OGAA conditions.
  • Ensuring industry compliance with ambient air quality standards.
  • Assessment of trends in relation to expanded development.
  • Tracking spatial distribution of air contaminants.
  • Research and increased knowledge.

Tracking GHGs

Greenhouse gases, or GHGs, are gases in the earth’s atmosphere that absorb and emit energy and contribute to climate change. GHGs typically released from oil and gas operations are predominantly carbon dioxide and methane, and to a lesser extent nitrous oxide.

Establishing an inventory of GHGs is important. By monitoring and cataloguing emissions, GHG sources and trends are identified and tracked. The findings inform the strategies and policies developed to reduce emissions, and provide a baseline for monitoring progress towards attaining reduction targets.

British Columbia releases an annual Provincial Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (Inventory). The latest published Inventory for B.C. is for the 2017 calendar year with oil and gas sources accounting for 20 per cent of total provincial GHG releases.

The majority of this 20 per cent is from upstream operations with a smaller portion from downstream sources such as petroleum refining and natural gas distribution.

Reported methane emissions from the oil and gas sector have declined slightly between 2014 and 2017 while production has increased. These reductions can be attributed to a number of factors, including the greater use of non-emitting devices and broader electrification of some production facilities which reduces the amount of vented methane, fugitive methane and combustion related emissions from the sector.

Increased production in the Montney region has also reduced the amount of vented carbon dioxide emissions reported by the sector due to lower amounts of carbon dioxide in the gas extracted compared to historical sources

Reducing Emissions

CleanBC:

The Government of British Columbia announced CleanBC on Dec. 5, 2018 with priorities focused on achieving the Province’s legislated climate targets and goals. Under CleanBC there is an initiative to reduce methane emissions from upstream production of oil and natural gas by 45 per cent by 2025 relative to 2014 levels. The Commission is working under direction provided by CleanBC to reduce GHG releases from the oil and gas industry.

New Regulations:

On Jan. 16, 2019, we announced new regulations to reduce methane emissions from upstream oil and gas operations to meet or exceed federal and provincial methane targets. The amendments under the Drilling and Production Regulation (DPR) came into effect Jan. 1, 2020

To further support progress in meeting provincial and federal methane reduction targets, we are also involved in the BC Oil and Gas Methane Emissions Research Collaborative (MERC), created to make recommendations on the design and implementation of key research deliverables that will help identify, quantify, and control methane emissions.

Emissions Sources

Flaring: Flaring is the burning of natural gas that cannot be processed or sold. It is a necessity for certain aspects of oil and gas production. All flaring in B.C. must be conducted in accordance with Commission regulations and government air quality objectives and standards.

Flaring can occur at the production phase, during well cleanup and testing, solution gas flaring and for safety reasons during process upsets. Flaring can also occur during the processing phase, for safety reasons.

Over time flaring has generally decreased. The BC Energy Plan target of eliminating all routine associated gas flaring was achieved. While B.C. annual gas production has increased by 2.5 times over the past 20 years, flaring volume has decreased by approximately one third.

Venting: The intentional controlled release of un-combusted gases directly to the atmosphere.

Exhaust emissions: The release of gases resulting from combustion directly to the atmosphere.

Fugitive emissions: Unintentional releases of gas or fumes resulting from production, processing, transmission, storage, and delivery of gas. This may occur from breaks or small cracks in seals, tubing, valves and pipelines, or when lids or caps on equipment or tanks have not been properly closed or tightened.

We are dedicated to taking action to reduce greenhouse gas releases and to continue to manage air contaminant releases from oil and gas operations.

Drilling Deeper

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