Current Projects

Improving Greenhouse Gas and Pollutant Emissions Inventories in the Oil and Gas Sector

Like many other countries, Canada and its oil and gas producing provinces have made commitments to monitor, regulate, and reduce short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) emissions in the energy sector, especially methane and black carbon.   Several new and different methane regulations have been introduced, and within Canada, determining the “equivalency” of these various regulations is a critical challenge in the decision of whether federal or provincial regulations can take precedence.  This type of analysis relies on detailed inventory estimates or sources that in many cases are highly uncertainty.  We are currently undertaking a variety of research projects aimed at improving Canada’s methane and black carbon inventories.  In parallel, we are engaged in comprehensive, site-level, quantitative comparisons of different methane regulations to understand relative strengths, gaps, and opportunities going forward.

Novel Optical Technology to Measure Methane Flux from Transient Venting Sources

Casing gas venting, either at the well-head or through production tanks, is the dominant source of reported venting emissions in the Canadian oil and gas sector. Successful reduction of methane emissions and overall reduction of greenhouse gases depends on finding and implementing practical solutions for these critical sources. This project seeks to develop and deploy a first-of-its-kind optical field measurement system for highly transient methane flows from casing gas vents and tanks.  As specifically identified in recent broad stakeholder consultations, this type of technology is urgently required to efficiently direct mitigation actions for some of the most critical upstream methane emission sources.  Leveraging existing and new relationships with government and industry partners including Insitut National d’Optique (INO), Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Husky Energy, Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), and Doull Site Assessment Ltd., the technology will be developed, tested, and deployed in field trials. Several important outcomes are anticipated including improved operating practices, streamlined compliance with new regulations, quantified methane reductions, and new emissions crediting potential.

Techno-economic Analysis of Flaring, Venting, and Fugitive Emissions Mitigation Potential in the Canadian Oil and Gas Sector

Flaring and venting volumes have increased sharply in recent years, in large part due to the development of heavy oil resources (where venting of casing gas is common) and the rapid development of hydrofractured oil and gas wells.  In this work, we are conducting detailed, analysis of mitigation potential at ~10,000 upstream production sites in Alberta, Canada.  The comprehensive analysis evaluates a range of mitigation options considering both technical factors (e.g. infrastructure requirements and sizing, decline rates, etc.) and economic parameters (e.g. gas price projections, borrowing costs, inflation) while quantifying uncertainties through Monte Carlo analysis.

NSERC FlareNet Strategic Network

The Honourable Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr visiting EERL, April, 2017.

Led by Matthew Johnson our of the Energy & Emissions Research Lab, the NSERC FlareNet Strategic Network is a large-scale collaboration among researchers at Carleton University, University of Alberta, Western University, University of British Columbia, University of Waterloo, and National Research Council, and is further backed by an array of national and international partners including the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC), World Bank Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Alberta Environment and Parks, and Clearstone Engineering Ltd..  The overall objectives of FlareNet are to provide quantitative understanding of flare generated pollutant emissions critical to enabling science-based regulations, accurate pollutant inventories, understanding of climate forcing and health implications, and engineering design and assessment of mitigation strategies to minimize environmental impacts in the energy sector.  Research combines large-scale experiments in the Carleton University flare facility and the Western University Boundary Layer Windtunnel Facility, with field experiments using a range of developed optical methods.  Research is organized under five main themes:
1. Flare Emissions during Flowback of Hydrofractured Wells
2. Emissions of Steam- and Air-Assisted Flares
3. Effects of Real-World Turbulent Wind on Flare Emissions
4. Properties of Emitted Particulate and Black Carbon
5. Development and application of novel field measurement technologies

Quantifying Methane Emissions in the Oil and Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry emits significant quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. Fugitive emissions from sources such as pneumatic equipment, storage tanks, unintentional leaks, or accidents can be very difficult to detect and quantify, but can also be responsible for the majority of emissions at many production sites. In collaboration with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Scientific Aviation Inc., and Aerodyne Research Inc., we are working to quantify methane emissions in the Canadian oil and gas sector through a combination of airborne measurements, ground-based mobile surveys, and detailed inventory analysis. Measurements have focused on active production regions in Alberta, Canada and are highly relevant to ongoing federal and provincial efforts to introduce new methane regulation for the energy sector.  An additional component of this effort includes development and testing of novel computational methods for continuous detection and quantification of unknown fugitive sources using networked sensors.