Flaring and venting is regulatedAs part of routine operations, natural gas is flared through controlled burning. Flaring is also critical to the safety of operations, reducing facility pressures in emergency and other non-routine events. Venting is the controlled release of gases into the air as part of natural gas operations. Both flaring and venting release greenhouse gases (including methane), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) into the atmosphere.
In Alberta, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) uses Directive 60 to regulate flaring, venting and incinerating at oil and natural gas operations. The AER set targets for gas flaring and does not consider venting an acceptable alternative to flaring. From 1996 to 2014, there was a 63 per cent reduction of natural gas flared in Alberta.
In British Columbia, the Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) also has Flaring and Venting Reduction Guidelines that provide regulatory requirements for flaring, venting and incinerating at any well site or facility. B.C's goal to eliminate all routine flaring as defined by the BC Energy Plan, has been achieved.
In both Alberta and British Columbia, operators provide advanced notice to the public of any planned flaring or incineration.
Success story – Capturing vent gas turn emissions into fuel
In 2012, with funding from its Environmental Innovation Fund and the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC), Encana initiated a three-year program to install vent gas capture systems at 57 natural gas compressors in southern Alberta.
Each system captures fuel gas vented to the atmosphere as part of normal operations and redirects it into the compressor’s engine air intake to help fuel the engine. The technology was developed by REM Technology Inc., a division of Spartan Controls, based in Calgary.
The project was successfully wrapped up in September of 2014 with all vent gas capture systems operational. By redirecting the gas to fuel the engines, the project can recover about 175 mcf of natural gas per year, reduce emissions by more than 69,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually and generate $1 million per year in carbon offsets.