​Competitiveness ‘top of mind’ on methane regs: McKenna

Federal environment minister Catherine McKenna. Image: Facebook/Catherine McKenna

Competitiveness is “top of mind” for the federal government, environment minister Catherine McKenna said Thursday in Calgary in announcing new regulations to reduce the emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the oil and gas sector.

The proposed rules would require industry to conserve valuable natural gas by regularly checking and fixing gas leaks and adopting new practices that prevent the gas from being vented into the air during oil and gas production.

This includes oil and gas wells and batteries, natural gas processing plants, compressor stations, and supporting pipelines.

The regulations, to be phased in between 2020 and 2023, are part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change to reduce methane emissions by 40 per cent to 45 per cent by 2025.

The government plans to publish the draft regulations May 27, 2017 in the Canada Gazette, providing for a 60 day comment period to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). Final regulations will be released in 2018, following continued consultation with industry, the provinces and territories, indigenous peoples and environmental non-government organizations and other stakeholders.

“Competitiveness is top of mind. We need to be smart about what we do. We see this as a huge opportunity to catch up to what the [United States] is doing, but also to ensure we position Canada as a leader,” McKenna said.

She said ECCC held extensive consultations with the western Canadian provinces to ensure coordinated action on methane and to inform development of a federal approach. It also worked actively with industry on its regulatory approach and adjusted proposed dates for the new rules coming into force, providing more lead time for industry to plan for changes and spread out costs over time, McKenna said.

Under Canada’s proposed approach, provinces and territories will have the flexibility to develop their own regulations to replace the federal ones if they can achieve similar outcomes. The government said it remains committed to working with the provinces to establish equivalency agreements to avoid duplication.

In Alberta, a multi-stakeholder committee of the Alberta Energy Regulator has been working on rules for methane emission reduction.