Ten per cent of northeast B.C. oil and gas wells leak — more than double the reported rate in Alberta: new study

A survey of the province’s database shows wellbores releasing 14,000 cubic metres of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — every single day amid weak regulations and inconsistent monitoring

Gas well Farmington B.C.

A well on farmland near Farmington, in B.C.’s northeast where there has been a fracking boom in recent years. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

Northeastern British Columbia has been a major centre of conventional oil and gas production since the 1960s. More recently, the shale gas sector has also targeted the region.

One of the issues the oil and gas industry faces is the leakage of gases from wellbores — the holes drilled into the ground to look for or recover oil and natural gas. Methane leakage from wellbores has become an important issue because this greenhouse gas is far more potent than carbon dioxide.

My colleagues and I recently examined a database containing information about 21,525 active and abandoned wells located in the four main shale gas formations of northeastern British Columbia: the Montney, Horn River, Liard and Cordova basins. This represents almost all of the conventional and shale gas wells existing in the region.

Our study was the first to examine the data contained in the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission Wellbore (OCG) Leakage Database.

We found that almost 11 per cent of all oil and gas wells had a reported leak, together releasing 14,000 cubic metres of methane per day. This is more than double the leakage rate of 4.6 per cent in Alberta, which may have less stringent testing and reporting requirements.

Our research in northeastern B.C. also found weak regulations on mandatory reporting, continued monitoring and the use of protective measures — oversights that represent risks for the environment.

Shale Gas Plays Northeast B.C. Map The Narwhal

A map showing the location of B.C.’s main shale gas plays. Map: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

Deficiencies in wellbore design, construction a concern

Shale gas, principally methane, is exploited through the combined techniques of horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Shale gas fracking has increased as conventional gas reserves have declined after decades of exploitation.

Northeastern B.C.’s shale gas reserves are estimated to hold 10,000 billion cubic metres of methane, enough to supply worldwide consumption for almost three years.

All modern oil and gas wells are constructed in a wellbore, which typically traverses many geologic layers containing brines and hydrocarbons. Fracking involves the deep underground high-pressure injection of large volumes of water, sand and chemicals into the wellbore, to fracture the rock and release the natural gas, petroleum and brines. Pipes and sealants (usually cement) placed in the wellbore protect it against collapse and squeezing, and prevent fluids from moving between geologic layers.

But these structures are not always fail-safe. Deficiencies in the design or construction of the wellbore, or weakening of the pipe or sealant over time, can connect layers that would naturally remain geologically isolated. In a deficient well, the buoyancy of the underground gas causes the fluids to be pushed towards the surface through these connections.

Wellbore leakage can occur along actively producing wells or wells that have been permanently abandoned after their productive life is over.

The possibility of leakage from these wells has raised environmental concerns, especially since leaky wells are likely under-reported.

In addition to the release of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming and climate change, these leaking wells could contaminate groundwater and surface water with hydrocarbons, chemicals contained in fracking fluids and brines.

Public health and environmental consequences of leaky wells

There are three main consequences to public health and the environment from wellbore leakage:

  1. The contamination of aquifers and surface waters from gases, brines, liquid hydrocarbons and hydraulic fracturing fluids.
  2. The contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, especially from venting methane.
  3. The explosion of methane accumulated in poorly ventilated areas.

According to the B.C. OGC database, leakage had occurred in 2,329 of 21,525 tested wells.

Altogether, these leaking wellbores are releasing greenhouse gases equivalent to 75,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. This is roughly equivalent to the emissions from 17,000 passenger vehicles.

Unfortunately, there is no record of the frequency of testing for wellbore leakage in B.C., nor are there requirements to monitor deep aquifers near oil and gas wells for contamination.

Although current regulations stipulate that all incidences of leakage must be repaired prior to well abandonment, there is no monitoring program in place for leakage after wells have been permanently plugged, buried and abandoned.

There is also the possibility that the venting gases will contain hydrogen sulphide gas, which is poisonous and deadly at high concentrations.

Leaks under-reported

Only wells that show wellbore leakage must be reported to the B.C. OGC and included in the database. According to regulations, all wells drilled after 2010 should be tested after initial completion and all wells drilled after 1995 tested upon abandonment.

There is no monitoring program in place for the inspection of wells that have already been abandoned. These abandoned wells could leak for a long time before the leakage is detected and repaired. Recent studies have also documented methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania.

Shale gas exploitation can have environmental impacts long after a well has been abandoned. Provinces should implement regulations that require monitoring wells after abandonment, reporting the results and applying corrective measures to stop leaks from abandoned wells.

To this day, very few field investigations have been carried out in B.C. to directly monitor the leakage from abandoned wells. One showed that 35 per cent of investigated abandoned wells exhibit emissions of methane and hydrogen sulphide gas or a combination of both.

The discrepancy between the database reports and the field study — as well as recent observations that human-made methane emissions are underestimated by 25 per cent to 40 per cent — suggests that wellbore leakages in B.C. may go unreported.

To improve health and environmental safety, active surveillance and monitoring are necessary. SOURCE

 

 

Disputed environmental claim championed by Tories comes from Shell insider

Headlines of op-eds and sponsored content taken from Postmedia and the Canadian Energy Centre. Background image is handout photo of LNG Canada. Postmedia, Canadian Energy Centre screenshots, LNG Canada photo

A disputed environmental claim publicized by the fossil fuel firms backing a $40-billion liquefied natural gas project in B.C. can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautioned in interviews that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Rob Seeley has been held up as an independent consultant who has demonstrated the green bona fides of natural gas coming from the proposed B.C. project, LNG Canada. The Coastal GasLink pipeline being built through unceded Wet’suwet’en Nation territory is meant to transport fracked gas to this terminal, where it would be liquefied, loaded onto ships and exported to Asia.

One particular claim by Seeley has taken on a life of its own. It appeared in a piece of sponsored content, or “advertorial,” that LNG Canada paid to have published in Postmedia’s Vancouver Sun in 2018. The claim has been quoted by everyone from federal Conservative finance critic and former cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre to pro-oil and gas websites including one run by Alberta’s energy “war room,” officially known as the Canadian Energy Centre.

Seeley’s claim is that if LNG Canada can ship liquefied natural gas from B.C. to China, and the Asian nation uses it to displace its coal-generated electricity, it would reduce carbon pollution by “60 to 90 million tonnes annually” — a stunning figure that is roughly equivalent to all of B.C.’s annual emissions.

This tantalizing piece of information would seem to underpin what both the federal Liberals and Conservatives have said in support of LNG Canada: that on top of the promised jobs and economic benefits, it could also help the environment. The Trudeau government is on board, chipping in $275 million to the project, while Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has blasted Coastal GasLink opponents.

But there’s a catch: Seeley’s heavily quoted figure represents a disputed conclusion about the benefits of natural gas, and he says he intentionally left out real-world factors in his calculations.

Other analysts point to the fact that natural gas exploitation releases methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, while renewable energy sources are rapidly becoming cost-competitive with coal and gas in China. What’s more, the man behind the famous figure is not just a run-of-the-mill energy consultant. LNG Canada did not return a request for comment.

Rob Seeley appears in an advertisement from Shell Canada about exploiting oil in the oilsands. Wunderman Thompson Toronto screenshot

‘I was hired by LNG Canada’

In a series of interviews with National Observer, Seeley acknowledged that much of his career was spent with Shell Canada, the subsidiary of British-Dutch firm Shell that has the largest slice of the LNG Canada joint venture. Shell owns 40 per cent, Malaysia’s Petronas owns 25 per cent, Japan’s Mitsubishi and PetroChina own 15 per cent each, and the Korea Gas Corporation owns five per cent.

Seeley said he’s a chemical engineer with 40 years of experience in energy projects like gas plants and refinery retrofits, as well as oilsands development, and emissions management. At one point, he was even featured in a TV commercial for Shell. He retired in 2013 and moved into consulting — a year before the companies behind LNG Canada formalized their joint venture.

“I was hired by LNG Canada based on my experience and the leadership roles that I had held in my Shell career, including the role of general manager, sustainable development, for Shell Canada, which included greenhouse-gas management,” Seeley said. “Although I have not been directly involved in the article that you are referring to, (the) Vancouver Sun advertorial by LNG Canada, I have been providing analysis and advice to LNG Canada regarding GHG management.”

A disputed environmental claim that has been championed by pro-fossil fuel voices can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautions that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Carol Clemenhagen@ottawaccarol

“…LNG…could reduce global GHG emissions by 60 to 90 million tonnes annually, equivalent to all of B.C.’s GHG emissions in a year…” 20 elected band councils approve. 5 hereditary clan chiefs don’t. http://business.financialpost.com/wcm/c65c5619-c6ed-4593-9f78-7d3e78d7dbff 

Philip Cross and Pierre Poilievre: Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal

If protesters truly cared about the environment, they’d be demonstrating for projects like LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink, not against them

business.financialpost.com

See Carol Clemenhagen’s other Tweets

None of Seeley’s background with Shell, or the fact that he was hired by LNG Canada to provide advice on emissions, is mentioned in the Vancouver Sun sponsored article, which was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division. The news agency did not return a request for comment.

Nor are these facts mentioned by Poilievre, who used Seeley or his consulting firm and the “60 to 90” figure in two op-eds promoting the benefits of natural gas: “Taxed green tomatoes” in the Toronto Sun on July 12, 2019 and “Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal” in the Financial Post on Feb. 14, 2020, which he co-authored. Both newspapers are owned by Postmedia.

Nor are they mentioned in the Dec. 5, 2019 article posted on the website of the Alberta “war room,” titled “If you care about climate change, here’s why you should support Canadian natural gas.” Like the Poilievre articles, it just names Seeley and his consulting firm.

Another publication, the energy-industry-linked Canada Action, simply linked to the Vancouver Sun. And an article on the website of the Christian Labour Association of Canada union mentioned the “60 to 90” figure without reference to Seeley or his firm. Finally, the Conservative Party’s 2019 candidate for Ottawa Centre, Carol Clemenhagen, linked to Poilievre’s co-written article in a tweet where she also quoted the “60 to 90” figure.

It is possible Poilievre and the others did not know about Seeley’s background and his recent status with LNG Canada. “Taxed green tomatoes” links to an op-ed that Seeley contributed to the Vancouver Sun in June 2018 — six months before the LNG Canada-sponsored article appeared in the same paper — and that contains a version of the “60 to 90” claim. Like the advertorial, the op-ed does not mention Seeley’s formal associations with Shell or LNG Canada. Poilievre’s office did not return a request for comment.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tours the LNG Canada site in Kitimat, B.C. in January 2020. B.C. Government Photo

‘There’s a lot of sensitivities around it’

Seeley cautions that his “60 to 90” figure is not totally comprehensive. “I would call it a theoretical point or position,” he said.

He explained that he arrived at the figure by examining the hypothetical amount of energy that LNG Canada would produce, and then calculated what would happen if it was all offloaded in Asia and all used for producing electricity, essentially acting as a replacement for coal.

He pulled in part from International Energy Agency numbers, as well as a lifecycle analysis that he worked on in 2014-15 for Pace Global Energy Services, a consulting firm owned by Siemens, the manufacturing conglomerate. The report was prepared for the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a trade association of producers, shippers and others.

Seeley said he stands behind his calculations. “It’s still a pretty good anchor number,” he said. “I think those numbers are still strong, and in fact I think if you took a theoretical position on gas versus coal displacement for power, the numbers are probably even bigger.”

But he acknowledged his figure was “presented in a range to allow for many uncertainties in this type of analysis,” and that “there’s a lot of sensitivities around it.”

Those “sensitivities” are real-world factors, such as the fact that natural gas drilling, processing and transport releases large amounts of methane, which is at least 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. A 2019 study in the journal Biogeosciences connected a rise in global methane levels since 2008 with the boom in fracking operations.

The oil and gas industry — the largest contributor to methane emissions — flares or vents methane into the atmosphere. Methane also leaks accidentally from oil and gas equipment. A 2017 peer-reviewed study in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found that methane leaks from B.C.’s oil and gas industry were at least two and a half times higher than provincial estimates.

Wahiba Yaici, a research scientist at Natural Resources Canada, said that in a straight-up comparison between natural gas and coal, coal is clearly worse. Not only is it more carbon-intensive, it also releases particulate matter when it’s burned, as well as pollutants and heavy metals linked to asthma, cardiovascular problems and premature death.

Given that natural gas processing and transport releases methane, however, these sorts of comparisons are “exactly the challenge,” said Yaici, who studies how to reduce emissions from energy generation. She said converting systems to use hydrogen, which doesn’t emit carbon pollution, could be superior to either coal or natural gas.

Jinsheng Wang, another research scientist at Natural Resources Canada who studies unconventional oil and gas, confirmed that LNG could only result in less carbon pollution than coal if the methane emissions from increased natural gas exploitation were minimized.

Coal-to-gas or coal-to-renewables?

This minimization is exactly what Seeley is counting on. He acknowledged that accounting for methane is an important consideration, and the lifecycle analysis that he worked on does include an extensive description of methane leaks and how they can affect questions about carbon pollution.

But he also pointed to the Trudeau government’s commitment to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Ottawa has negotiated a draft deal with B.C. that would recognize its own methane regulations as contributing to that goal.

Foreign LNG-producing nations, like Nigeria, which signed a deal in December to boost its LNG output by over 30 per cent, won’t have such stringent regulations in place, Seeley warned.

“That’s the point that I’d really like to make. ‘Well, what about methane?’ or ‘what about this?’ or ‘what about that?’ — those questions are correct, they need to be asked. But Canada isn’t accountable for everyone else,” he said. “If we don’t develop our own highly-sustainable LNG, it just means more from Nigeria, Qatar and other places that really don’t have the same regulations. And so then we end up with carbon leakage.”

That’s not necessarily true, argued Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada and University of Toronto part-time instructor who has worked on climate policy for almost 20 years.

Reuters reported last year that renewables are “set to compete on an equal footing with coal- and gas-fired electricity” in China, according to the country’s state planning agency. Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables has also said the average levelized cost of electricity for solar and wind is already cheaper than gas in China, and will be competitive with coal by 2026.

“Natural gas is on balance better than coal, but I think that’s no longer the only choice,” said Stewart.

“A lot of these calculations were done when it was assumed that renewables were always going to be more expensive than coal. But now in many places it’s actually cheaper to build and operate wild and solar plants than it is to buy the coal to go into a coal plant.”

The Pembina Institute conducted similar research when it examined the pollution-saving claims of the former Pacific NorthWest LNG project. The think tank concluded that LNG from B.C. “would not only compete with carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as coal, but also with low- and zero-emitting sources of energy, including nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind.”

The most “likely scenario,” it found, is that B.C. LNG will actually “displace clean and renewable forms of electricity, resulting in a significant increase to global greenhouse gas emissions.”

LNG Canada did not return a request for comment as to why its advertorial does not disclose Seeley’s status, background, or “sensitivities.”

The ‘bridge to nowhere’

It is also not clear what the global gas market will look like down the road. Thanks in part to the fracking boom, the world is currently awash in cheap natural gas — so cheap that, in some places like the Permian basin in Texas, gas prices have fallen to negative numbers, meaning producers are paying others to take it off their hands. They are also flaring, or burning it off, at record levels.

Seeley acknowledged the difficulty of predicting gas demand. “Actual global greenhouse gas reductions from the sale of B.C. LNG to China would depend on the end use of the gas and what it will displace or replace,” he noted.

Over the past two years, he said, China has largely used LNG for industrial heat and for residential areas, as opposed to swapping it in to coal power plants, but this would still deliver 40 per cent lower emissions on a lifecycle basis.

In the end, Stewart argued, the issue boils down to corporations attempting to lock in fossil fuel emissions for decades by building large pieces of energy infrastructure, regardless of how much LNG might actually be in demand.

“Increasingly we’re seeing renewables coming in so cheap that if you’re investing in natural gas, you’re kind of blocking out renewables,” he said. “From Greenpeace’s perspective, we need to get off fossil fuels, and LNG is a bridge to nowhere.” SOURCE

Most of us are blissfully unaware of how much fracking takes place in B.C.

Methane is 70 to 80% more powerful than CO2. Methane traps 84 times as much heat as carbon dioxide while in the atmosphere

Process releases methane and polluting and carcinogenic chemicals into the atmosphere.

Many of us living in urban centres in southern B.C. are blissfully unaware of how much fracking is taking place in the northeastern part of the province. DAVID MCNEW / GETTY IMAGES FILES

It’s a long weekend and we’re returning from the Gulf Islands on the new B.C. ferry, the Salish Eagle. Along the inside corridor on the main floor, we come face to face with a large mural created by FortisBC extolling the virtues of the natural gas that powers the boat we are on.

One panel assures the reader that CO2 emissions will be reduced by 15 per cent to 25 per cent annually by this new “clean” fuel, and another panel promises a “cleaner, brighter future” through the use of natural gas.

What the ad doesn’t say is that the Salish Eagle’s fuel is fracked gas and that over 85 per cent of our province’s natural gas now comes from fracking, mainly in northeastern B.C.

Fracking is an industrial process used to extract underground natural gas deposits from shale rock. The technique involves drilling a shaft vertically for up to four kilometres into the rock, and then horizontally for up to three more kilometres.

Massive amounts of water, combined with sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure into the well, inducing micro-cracking and fissuring of the rock to release the natural gas known as methane.

The ad fails to inform the reader that the fracking process results in a considerable amount of methane escaping into the atmosphere.

Once released, methane traps 84 times as much heat as carbon dioxide while in the atmosphere. And so far, the technology has not been able to prevent these leaks. Because of this, scientists are concluding that fracking natural gas is actually worse for global warming than oil or coal.

The province recently introduced its new targets for greenhouse gas emissions: a reduction of 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040, and 80 per cent by 2050. Yet unless an immediate moratorium is declared on new fracking developments, B.C. will fail to meet its own targets.

Then there is the effects of fracking on water use. Each fracking procedure uses more than 10 million litres (36 Olympic-sized swimming pools) of clean water. In parts of the U.S., drinking water wells have dried up due to withdrawals for fracking.

The ad also fails to mention that the chemicals added to frack fluid to help maximize methane extraction have the potential to cause cancer and disrupt hormonal activity in both humans and animals, through the release of polluting and carcinogenic chemicals into the atmosphere and water.

Fracking also produces large amounts of contaminated wastewater containing both the carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting chemicals initially added to the frack fluid, but also radioactive chemicals and heavy metals released from deep underground. One study showed radium levels (a chemical known to cause cancer) in fracked water 200 times greater than background levels. Some of this contaminated water will eventually leak into the water table.

Higher rates of leukemia have been found among people aged five to 24 living near fracking operations. More babies born with congenital heart defects and higher rates of pre-term birth have been found in people who live close to fracking sites. Research has shown an increase in hospital visits among asthmatics living close to fracking sites.

For all these reasons, a recently published article in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine called for policy makers to reject the false promise of natural gas.

Fracking also causes earthquakes. 62 per cent of significant earthquakes in western Canada between 2010 and 2015 were induced by fracking and 31 per cent by the disposal of fracking wastewater into the ground under high pressure.

In fact, many countries, including England, France, and Germany, have banned fracking, and at least three Canadian provinces have declared various levels of moratoria on fracking because of its known harms.

Many of us living in urban centres in southern B.C. are blissfully unaware of how much fracking is taking place in the northeastern part of the province, where some rural and Aboriginal community members have described themselves as living in a “sacrifice zone.”

Natural gas is not a clean fuel and the misleading advertising on B.C. Ferries should be removed immediately. SOURCE

 

No more fire in the kitchen: Cities are banning natural gas in homes to save the planet

VIDEO: Cities are banning natural gas stoves to save the planet

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, mostly methane, and produces 33% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas causing climate change.

“There’s no pathway to stabilizing the climate without phasing gas out of our homes and buildings. This is a must-do for the climate and a livable planet,” said Rachel Golden of the Sierra Club’s building electrification campaign.

These new building codes come as local governments work to speed the transition from natural gas and other fossil fuels and toward the use of electricity from renewables, said Robert Jackson, a professor of energy and the environment at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

“Every house, every high-rise that’s built with gas, may be in place for decades. We’re establishing infrastructure that may be in place for 50 years,” he said.

These “reach” or “stretch” building codes, as they are known, have so far all been passed in California. The first was in Berkeley in July, then more in Northern California and recently Santa Monica in Southern California. Other cities in Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington state are contemplating them, according to the Sierra Club.

Some of the cities ban natural gas hookups to new construction. Others offer builders incentives if they go all-electric, much the same as they might get to take up more space on a lot if a house is extra energy-efficient. In April, Sunnyvale, a town in Silicon Valley, changed its building code to offer a density bonus to all-electric developments.

No more gas stoves?

The building codes apply only to new construction beginning in 2020, so they aren’t an issue for anyone in an already-built home.

Probably the biggest stumbling block for most pondering an all-electric home is the prospect of not having a gas stove.

“It’s the only thing that people ever ask about,” said Bruce Nilles, who directs the building electrification program of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based think tank that focuses on energy and resource efficiency.

Roughly 35% of U.S. households have a gas stove, while 55%have electric, according to a 2017 kitchen audit by the NPD Group, a global information company based in Port Washington, New York.

For at least a quarter of Americans, it doesn’t matter either way. They already live in houses that are all-electric, and their numbers are rising, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s especially true in the Southeast, where close to 45% of homes are all-electric.

For the rest of the nation, natural gas is used to heat buildings and water, dry clothes and cook food, according to the EIA. That represents 17% of national natural gas usage.

But the number of natural gas customers is also rising. The American Gas Association, which represents more than 200 local energy companies, says an average of one new customer is added every minute.

“That’s exactly the wrong direction,” Nilles said.  MORE

Climate change has turned permafrost into a carbon emitter

Tundra plants can’t absorb enough carbon in summer to make up for carbon released in winter


People ride all-terrain vehicles on the tundra as the sun sets near the Arctic community of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, on Aug. 20, 2013. Scientists have measured carbon dioxide emissions of 1.7 billion tonnes a year from Arctic permafrost, about twice as high as previous estimates. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Research has found Arctic soil has warmed to the point where it releases more carbon in winter than northern plants can absorb during the summer.

The finding means the extensive belt of tundra around the globe — a vast reserve of carbon that dwarfs what’s held in the atmosphere — is becoming a source of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

“There’s a net loss,” said Dalhousie University’s Jocelyn Egan, one of 75 co-authors of a paper published in Nature Climate Change.

“In a given year, more carbon is being lost than what is being taken in. It is happening already.”

The research by scientists in 12 countries and from dozens of institutions is the latest warning that northern natural systems that once reliably kept carbon out of the atmosphere are starting to release it.


Wild blueberries and lichen grow on the tundra in the Northwest Territories. Arctic plants are thought to take in just over one billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year during growing season. That means Arctic permafrost has a net emission of 700 million tonnes a year. (Susan Taylor/Reuters)

Until now, little was known about winter emissions from permafrost and the soil above it. Even scientists assumed the microbial processes that release the gases came to a halt in the cold.

“Most people think in the winter, there’s no respiration, that the microbes eating the carbon that produce these emissions aren’t active, which isn’t actually the case,” Egan said.

The scientists placed carbon dioxide monitors along the ground at more than 100 sites around the circumpolar Arctic to see what was actually happening and took more than 1,000 measurements.

They found much more carbon was being released than previously thought. The results found carbon dioxide emissions of 1.7 billion tonnes a year are about twice as high as previous estimates.

Arctic plants are thought to take in just over one billion tonnes of the gas from the atmosphere every year during growing season. The net result is that Arctic soil around the globe is probably already releasing more than 600 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Scientists previously thought carbon absorbed by tundra plants during the summer more or less made up for what was emitted in the winter as well as for what was released from melting permafrost during warm months.

That’s not what’s happening, said Egan.

“We’re seeing that the value emitted in the winter is larger than the net uptake for the growing season.”

Emissions speeding up

What’s more, the pace of the emissions is likely to increase.

Under a business-as-usual scenario, emissions from northern soil would be likely to release 41 per cent more carbon by the end of the century.

But the Arctic is already warming at three times the pace of the rest of the globe. Even if significant mitigation efforts are made, those emissions will increase by 17 per cent, said the report. MORE

David Suzuki: Fracked gas heats the planet, but supporters say it’s a solution


GETTY

The best way to address climate disruption is… burn more fossil fuels? It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what industry, media, and governments want us to believe.

To profit as much as possible from fossil fuels before markets fall under the weight of climate chaos and better alternatives, industry and its allies tell us fracked gas is a climate solution.

It’s not.

A new study shows it’s as bad or worse for the climate than other fossil fuels. Cornell University researchers found alarming increases in atmospheric methane since 2008 can likely be pinned on the U.S. shale oil and gas boom.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas responsible for one-quarter of current global heating. It only stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years before it breaks down and gets reabsorbed into natural systems, but it causes a lot of damage while it’s there. It traps heat at a rate close to 85 times higher than carbon dioxide over 20 years. CO2 not absorbed by vegetation and oceans—where it causes acidification and other problems—can remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Methane is produced by biogenic (plant- and animal-based) sources, including tropical wetlands, rotting organic waste, cow burps, and pig manure. It’s also produced by leaks and “flaring” during fossil-fuel development, especially fracking.

Although some question the Cornell findings, arguing that the methane spike is mainly from biogenic sources, Cornell professor Robert Howarth maintains methane emissions from the (mostly fracked) natural-gas industry are much higher than industry and government report. Research by the David Suzuki Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University found that’s the case in B.C. Other researchers conclude methane emissions are underreported in Alberta.

Howarth argues that because methane from fracked gas, like plant and animal methane, is lighter than gas from other fossil-fuel development, some emissions attributed to biogenic sources likely come from fracking. He concludes that “shale-gas production in North America over the past decade may have contributed more than half of all of the increased [methane] emissions from fossil fuels globally and approximately one-third of the total increased emissions from all sources globally over the past decade.”

According to a Vox article, the U.S. is responsible for 89 percent of shale-gas production, with Canada making up the rest—and the industry is expanding rapidly, thanks in part to political support. MORE

Methane emissions from oil and gas exploration are under-reported

Image result for the conversation: Methane emissions from oil and gas exploration are under-reported
A seismic line (petroleum exploration corridor) traverses a wetland in northern Alberta. Eamon MacMahon

Wetlands in Canada’s boreal forest contain deep deposits of carbon-rich soils, made up of decomposed vegetation (peat) that has accumulated over thousands of years. Globally, peatlands store twice as much carbon as all of the world’s forests combined. Protecting this carbon store is critical in the fight against climate change.

But the amazing capacity of boreal peatlands to store carbon is being curbed by oil and gas exploration.

Our recent study in the journal Nature Communications shows how vast networks of seismic lines — long clearings constructed for petroleum exploration — increase greenhouse gas emissions from boreal peatlands. In Alberta alone, these undocumented emissions would boost Canada’s national reporting of methane in the category of land use, land-use change and forestry by about eight per cent.

And, regrettably, that’s probably an underestimate.

Petroleum and peatlands

Oil sands deposits in Alberta. Government of Alberta
 

 

Alberta has immense petroleum deposits, including the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world. The bulk of these deposits are found in the northern part of the province: a landscape that also contains an abundance of peatlands.

When most people think of northern Alberta’s petroleum industry, they envision the large surface mines located near Fort McMurray. Yet most of the province’s oil and gas, including 97 per cent of the oil-sands area, is found in reservoirs that are too deep for surface mining.

Across much of Alberta, petroleum companies use deep wells to access oil and gas….

In the hunt for subsurface petroleum deposits, oil and gas companies construct seismic lines. Seismic lines are linear features, two metres to 10 metres wide, cut through the forest using bulldozers or other types of machinery.

Once cut, seismic lines provide access for field crews to place geophones and other types of survey equipment to search underground for petroleum reservoirs. This form of exploration has been taking place in Alberta since the 1940s.

Seismic lines are linear clearings two to 10 metres wide that have been constructed for petroleum exploration. Sarah ColeAuthor provided 

More than 1.8 million kilometres of seismic lines have been cut in Alberta alone, enough to circle the planet 45 times. This little-known feature is by far the most common type of industrial disturbance in Alberta’s boreal forest.  MORE

 

Arctic Bogs Hold Another Global Warming Risk That Could Spiral Out of Control

As warming brings earlier spring rains in the Arctic, more permafrost thaws, releasing more methane in a difficult-to-stop feedback loop, research shows.

Alaska wetlands. Credit: S Hillebrand/USFWS

A doubling of the rate of methane released in the Arctic could have consequences that climate change projections don’t currently take into account. Credit: S Hillebrand/USFWS

Increasing spring rains in the Arctic could double the increase in methane emissions from the region by hastening the rate of thawing in permafrost, new research suggests.

The findings are cause for concern because spring rains are anticipated to occur more frequently as the region warms. The release of methane, a short-lived climate pollutant more potent than carbon dioxide over the short term, could induce further warming in a vicious cycle that would be difficult if not impossible to stop.

“Our results emphasize that these permafrost regions are sensitive to the thermal effects of rain, and because we’re anticipating that these environments are going to get wetter in the future, we could be seeing increases in methane emissions that we weren’t expecting,” said the study’s lead author, Rebecca Neumann, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Washington. The study appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. MORE

Fossil fuels are bad for your health and harmful in many ways besides climate change

Fossil fuels are bad for your health and harmful in many ways besides climate change

Pumpjacks dot the Kern River oil field outside Bakersfield, Calif. Credit: James William Smith/Shutterstock.com

Many Democratic lawmakers aim to pass a Green New Deal, a package of policies that would mobilize vast amounts of money to create new jobs and address inequality while fighting climate change.

Led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they are calling for massive investments in  and other measures over a decade that would greatly reduce or even end the nation’s overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels.

As experts in environmental geographysociology, and sustainability science and policy, we wholeheartedly support this effort. And, as we explained in a recently published study,  is not the only reason to ditch fossil fuels.

While conducting our research, we constantly encounter new evidence that depending on fossil fuels for energy harms people and communities at every point along fossil fuel supply chains, especially where coal, oil and natural gas are extracted.

The , oil and  industries are also major contributors to human rights violationspublic health disasters and environmental devastation. MORE

Don’t confuse “best before” with “expired”

Are you sitting down?

Yogurt with a best before date of today is still good (and safe) to eat for seven to 10 days whether open or unopened.

Reading best before dates as expiry dates probably contributes to food waste and every year a staggering amount of the world’s food is wasted after it has been harvested. That’s wasted fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood, cereals, dairy products and meat.

Let’s change that.

Best before dates have to do with food quality — freshness, texture, flavour and nutritional value — not safety. They are not expiry dates.

Not confusing “best before” with “expired” will lead to these three things:

  1. You’ll waste less food.
  2. You’ll save money.
  3. You’ll avoid sending food waste to the landfill, which contributes to increasing methane emissions. MORE

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