Wednesday July 23, 2014

Focus on Flaring

OGC shares success stories at Northeast Climate Action Exchange
James Waterman Photo

Howard Madill, director of stewardship with the BC Oil and Gas Commission, told the Northeast Climate Exchange crowd that routine flaring in the province has decreased considerably while natural gas production has increased. The event was held in Dawson Creek on Tuesday, October 16.

Despite increasing natural gas production in the northeast corner of the province, routine flaring in British Columbia has decreased dramatically since 1996.

That was the key message from the BC Oil and Gas Commission’s (OGC) director of stewardship Howard Madill when he took the podium at the Northeast Climate Action Exchange in Dawson Creek on Tuesday, October 16 to discuss achievements in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions by the OGC and the natural gas industry.

There was a 26 per cent reduction in volumes of gas flared annually between 2006 and 2010. Also, while natural gas production increased by 49 per cent from 1996 to 2010, the amount of gas flared decreased by 59 per cent during that time.

“Extraordinary story,” said Rob Abbott, executive director of Carbon Neutral Government and Climate Action Outreach for the Province, during his keynote address to kick-off the event.

Abbott was referring to B.C.’s climate action successes, emphasizing the importance of local and regional efforts such as those undertaken by the natural gas industry and its regulator in the northeast.

“Business as usual… isn’t going to cut it,” Abbott continued, noting that those efforts must continue in order to reach emissions goals.

The problem as explained by Abbott is that climate scientists have determined that a maximum 2 degrees Celsius rise in temperature due to climate change is acceptable. Temperatures can stay below that threshold if 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) are added to the atmosphere, but there are 2,795 gigatonnes of carbon in proven coal, oil and natural gas reserves.

“Time to upgrade,” said Abbott.

Upgrading is the essence of the Carbon Neutral Government program, which dictates that all government buildings be carbon neutral.

As part of that initiative, the OGC has new offices in Victoria that are certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum and the new offices being built in Fort St. John will be LEED Gold.

The OGC has also reduced fleet emissions.

“We’re getting our staff to think about it,” said Madill.

Adaptation is the key to solving the climate change problem, according to Ryan Hennessey of Urban Systems, who spoke about the potential effects of climate change on the Peace Region during the Northeast Action Climate Exchange.

“We have no idea what’s going to happen,” said Hennessey, remarking that people don’t generally handle that sort of variability very well.

“We are having an effect,” he added.

“We don’t actually know what’s going on out there.”

However, Hennessey did say that the Peace Region can expect temperatures to rise by 0.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius over the next 30 years. Also, weather could be two per cent dryer or wetter, probably going either way from year to year. That will put stress on ecosystems, consequently causing changes in species distribution, and alter hydrology.

The trouble with adaptation, according to Hennessey, is that it can be a hard sell because of the expense.

“Shape the policy debate around money,” suggested Abbott.

Abbott also emphasized the value of collaboration, as well as the need to be conquer the “poverty of imagination” to find creative and innovative solutions.

“Sustainability is not a problem to be solved,” said Abbott. “It is a future to be created.”

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