Innovation is key to improved environmental performance

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The techniques used to find and produce natural gas are built on many years of developing technology to get the resource out of the ground. However, industry is also committed to find innovative ways to reduce its impacts on the environment.  

Technology and innovation are not new to industry. For example, in recent years, combining advancements in hydraulic fracturing with multi-well drilling has not only unlocked natural gas resources that were previously uneconomical to develop, but has also allowed companies to drill multiple wells from a single location, reducing the overall surface footprint of drilling activities. 

Multi-well drilling reduces impact on the land

From a land use perspective, by using a horizontal multi-well drilling pad, several horizontal wells drilled from a multi-well can access a greater area of the reservoir from a smaller piece of land than vertical wells drilled from single well pads.

Reducing methane emissions

Industry is serious about meeting Canada’s commitment to reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations by 45 per cent by 2025. And the use of technology is critical to find innovative ways to reduce methane emissions. 

An array of technologies and approaches are being developed and implemented that ensure industry’s methane emission reduction targets are met or exceeded in the most effective and efficient ways possible.

Industry’s use of solar panels to power pumps which eliminates the venting of emissions that result from traditional sources of power is an excellent example of an innovative way to reducing methane. Another approach is the installation of systems at natural gas facilities designed to capture vented gases, including methane. These gases can then be used as fuel, providing a supplemental power source for the facility.

Improved methane detection and monitoring is another key area for industry. Better detection methods will enable industry to detect and eliminate fugitive emissions (i.e., unintended emissions due to leaks and other causes). Improved detection will also help companies design and evaluate specific methane reduction initiatives, and allow industry as a whole to proactively monitor its progress toward achieving the 45 per cent methane emissions reduction goal.

Institutions such as Natural Resources Canada, Emissions Reduction Alberta and a number of universities are working together to develop a robust ground, aerial and satellite-based methane detection network. Industry has also partnered with the Petroleum Alliance of Canada (PTAC) on a variety of projects, including the use of truck-based sensors for area methane detection.

Companies such as Shell are leaders in innovative approaches to methane detection technology. Shell is piloting a project to test next-generation methane detection technologies. The pilot project, located at one of Shell’s shale gas sites near Rocky Mountain House in Alberta, will enable better early detection and repair of methane leaks, leading to reduced emissions.

Collaboration on research and innovation

Through various partnerships and programs, industry is working together to develop innovative solutions to improve environmental performance. The Alberta Upstream Petroleum Research Fund (AUPRF) was created to minimize the environmental impact of the industry through research and development, innovation, and collaboration. 

The B.C. Oil and Gas Research Innovation Society (OGRIS) is a not-for-profit society with membership from CAPP, Explorers and Producers Association of Canada and the BC Oil and Gas Commission and serves to enable relevant applied research to inform environmental matters related to oil and natural gas exploration and development in B.C.