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Canadian Energy Centre

Canadian energy producers among worlds’ best at limiting gas flaring

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The Nahr Bin Omar oil field and facility near Iraq’s southern port city of Basra on February 11, 2022. In the oilfields of southern Iraq, billions of cubic feet of gas literally go up in smoke, burnt off on flare stacks for want of the infrastructure to capture and process it. (Photo by HUSSEIN FALEH/AFP via Getty Images)

From the Canadian Energy Centre

International comparisons of gas flaring among top oil producers

Canada contributed just 0.7% of the global amount of gas flaring despite being the world’s fourth-largest oil producer

By Ven Venkatachalam and Lennie Kaplan

This Fact Sheet analyzes the upstream oil industry’s record on flaring in Canada relative to other top oil-producing countries. Gas flaring is the burning off of the natural gas that is generated in the process of oil extraction and production. Flaring is relevant because it is a source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) (see Appendix).

In 2022, 138,549 million cubic meters (m3) (or 139 billion cubic meters (bcm)) of flared gases were emitted worldwide, creating 350 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Canada is a significant oil producer; it has the third-largest proven crude oil reserves and is the fourthlargest crude oil producer in the world (Natural Resources Canada, undated), and so contributes to flaring.

Flaring comparisons

This Fact Sheet uses World Bank data to provide international comparisons of flaring. It also draws on U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) crude oil production data to compare flaring among the top 10 crude oil producing countries.

Table 1 shows gas flaring volumes in 2012 and 2022. In absolute terms, Russia recorded more flaring than any other country at 25,495 million m3 (25.4 bcm) in 2022, which was 1,628 million m3 (7 per cent) higher than in 2012.

The four countries that are the top GHG emitters through flaring (Russia, Iraq, Iran, and Algeria) accounted for 50 per cent of global gas flaring in 2022.

At 945 million m3, Canada was the eighth lowest flarer in 2022 (23rd spot out of the top 30 countries). It decreased its flaring emissions by 320 million m3 from the 2012 level of 1,264 million m3, a 25 per cent drop.

In 2022, Canada contributed just 0.7 per cent of the global amount of gas flaring despite being the world’s fourth largest oil producer (see Table 1).

Sources: World Bank (undated)

Flaring declined worldwide between 2012 and 2022

Figure 1 shows the change in flaring volumes between 2012 and 2022. Nine countries flared more in 2022 than in 2012, while 21 countries flared less. In the last decade, the global flaring volume decreased by 3 per cent.

  • The three countries that most significantly increased flaring between 2012 and 2022 were the Republic of the Congo (65 per cent), Iran (56 per cent), and Iraq (41 per cent).
  • The three countries that most significantly decreased flaring between 2012 and 2022 were Uzbekistan (-76 per cent), Columbia (-75 per cent) and Kazakhstan (-74 per cent).
  • As noted earlier, flaring fell by 25 per cent in Canada between 2012 and 2022.
Sources: World Bank (undated)

Comparing flaring to increased production

The decreases in flaring in Canada between 2012 and 2022 shown in Table 1 and Figure 1 understate the magnitude of the decline in flaring in the country. That is because Canada’s crude oil production increased by 45 per cent in that period, even as absolute flaring decreased by 25 per cent (see Table 2).

Canada compares very favourably with the United States, which increased crude oil production by 82 per cent and decreased flaring by 16 per cent.

Sources: World Bank (undated) and EIA (2023)

Largest oil producers and flaring intensity

To fully grasp how much more effective Canada has been than many other oil producers in reducing flaring, Table 3 compares both flaring intensity (gas flared per unit of oil production) and crude oil production among the top 10 oil producing countries (which account for 73 per cent of the world oil production).

Canada is the fourth-largest producer of crude oil, and its gas flaring intensity declined by 48 per cenft between 2012 and 2022. Four of the top 10 oil producers witnessed their flaring intensity increase between 2012 and 2022.

Sources: World Bank (undated) and EIA (2023)

Conclusion

Gas flaring contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is possible for countries to both increase their oil production and still reduce flaring. Canada is one noteworthy example of a country that has significantly reduced flaring not only compared to its increased production of crude oil, but also in absolute terms.


Appendix

Background

Flaring and venting are two ways in which an oil or natural gas producer can dispose of waste gases. Venting is the intentional controlled release of uncombusted gases directly to the atmosphere, and flaring is combusting natural gas or gas derived from petroleum in order to dispose of it.¹ As Matthew R. Johnson and Adam R. Coderre noted in their 2012 paper on the subject, flaring in the petroleum industry generally falls within three broad categories:

  • Emergency flaring (large, unplanned, and very short-duration releases, typically at larger downstream facilities or off-shore platforms);
  • Process flaring (intermittent large or small releases that may last for a few hours or a few days as occurs in the upstream industry during well-test flaring to assess the size of a reservoir or at a downstream plant during a planned process blowdown); and
  • Production flaring (may occur continuously for years while oil is being produced).

To track GHGs from flaring and venting, Environment Canada (2016) defines such emissions as:

  • Fugitive emissions: Unintentional releases from venting, flaring, or leakage of gases from fossil fuel production and processing, iron and steel coke oven batteries, or CO2 capture, transport, injection, and storage infrastructure.
  • Flaring emissions: Controlled releases of gases from industrial activities from the combustion of a gas or liquid stream produced at a facility, the purpose of which is not to produce useful heat or work. This includes releases from waste petroleum incineration, hazardous emission prevention systems, well testing, natural gas gathering systems, natural gas processing plant operations, crude oil production, pipeline operations, petroleum refining, chemical fertilizer production, and steel production.
  • Venting emissions: Controlled releases of a process or waste gas, including releases of CO2 associated with carbon capture, transport, injection, and storage; from hydrogen production associated with fossil fuel production and processing; of casing gas; of gases associated with a liquid or a solution gas; of treater, stabilizer, or dehydrator off-gas; of blanket gases; from pneumatic devices that use natural gas as a driver; from compressor start-ups, pipelines, and other blowdowns; and from metering and regulation station control loops.

1. Many provinces regulate flaring and venting including Alberta (Directive 060) British Columbia (Flaring and Venting Reduction Guideline), and Saskatchewan (S-10 and S-20). Newfoundland & Labrador also has regulations that govern offshore flaring.

Notes

This CEC Fact Sheet was compiled by Ven Venkatachalam and Lennie Kaplan at the Canadian Energy Centre: www.canadianenergycentre.ca. All percentages in this report are calculated from the original data, which can run to multiple decimal points. They are not calculated using the rounded figures that may appear in charts and in the text, which are more reader friendly. Thus, calculations made from the rounded figures (and not the more precise source data) will differ from the more statistically precise percentages we arrive at using source data. The authors and the Canadian Energy Centre would like to thank and acknowledge the assistance of an anonymous reviewer in reviewing the data and research for this Fact Sheet.

References (All links live as of September 23, 2023)

Alberta Energy Regulator (2022), Directive 060: Upstream Petroleum Industry Faring, Incinerating, and Venting <https://bit.ly/3AMYett>; BC Oil and Gas Commission (2021), Flaring and Venting Reduction Guideline, version 5.2 <https://bit.ly/3CWRa0i>; Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (2007), Offshore Newfoundland and Labrador Gas Flaring Reduction <https://bit.ly/3RhKpKu>; D&I Services (2010), Saskatchewan Energy and Resources: S-10 and S-20 <https://bit.ly/3TBrVGJ>; Johnson, Matthew R., and Adam R. Coderre (2012), Compositions and Greenhouse Gas Emission Factors of Flared and Vented Gas in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association 62, 9: 992-1002 <https://bit.ly/3cJRqPd>; Environment Canada (2016), Technical Guidance on Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions/Facility Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Program <https://bit.ly/3CVQR5C>; Natural Resources Canada (Undated), Oil Resources <https://bit.ly/3oWWhW0>; U.S. Energy Information Administration (undated), Petroleum and Other Liquids <https://bit.ly/2Ad6S9i>; World Bank (Undated), Global Gas Flaring Data <https://bit.ly/3zXuxGX>.

Alberta

Canada’s advantage as the world’s demand for plastic continues to grow

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

‘The demand for plastics reflects how essential they are in our lives’

From the clothes on your back to the containers for household products to the pipes and insulation in your home, plastics are interwoven into the fabric of day-to-day life for most Canadians.

And that reliance is projected to grow both in Canada and around the world in the next three decades

The Global Plastics Outlook, published by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), forecasts the use of plastics globally will nearly triple by 2060, driven by economic and population growth.  

The use of plastics is projected to double in OECD countries like Canada, the United States and European nations, but the largest increases will take place in Asia and Africa. 

“The demand for plastics reflects how essential they are in our lives, whether it is packaging, textiles, building materials or medical equipment,” says Christa Seaman, vice-president, plastics with the Chemical Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), which represents Canada’s plastics producers.  

She says as countries look to meet climate and sustainability goals, demand for plastic will grow. 

“Plastics in the market today demonstrate their value to our society. Plastics are used to make critical components for solar panels and wind turbines. But they also can play a role in reducing weight in transportation or in ensuring goods that are transported have less weight in their packaging or in their products.” 

Canada produces about $35 billion worth of plastic resin and plastic products per year, or over five per cent of Canadian manufacturing sales, according to a 2019 report published by the federal government.  

Seaman says Canadian plastic producers have competitive advantages that position them to grow as demand rises at home and abroad. In Alberta, a key opportunity is the abundant supply of natural gas used to make plastic resin.  

“As industry and consumer expectations shift for production to reduce emissions, Canada, and particularly Alberta, are extremely well placed to meet increased demand thanks to its supply of low-carbon feedstock. Going forward, production with less emissions is going to be important for companies,” Seaman says.  

“You can see that with Dow Chemical’s decision to spend $8.8 billion on a net zero facility in Alberta.” 

While modern life would not be possible without plastics, the CIAC says there needs to be better post-use management of plastic products including advanced recycling, or a so-called “circular economy” where plastics are seen as a resource or feedstock for new products, not a waste. 

Some companies have already started making significant investments to generate recyclable plastics.  

For example, Inter Pipeline Ltd.’s $4.3 billion Heartland Petrochemical Complex near Edmonton started operating in 2023. It produces a recyclable plastic called polypropylene from propane, with 65 per cent lower emissions than the global average thanks to the facility’s integrated design. 

Achieving a circular economy – where 90 per cent of post-consumer plastic waste is diverted or recycled – would benefit Canada’s economy, according to the CIAC.  

Deloitte study, commissioned by Environment & Climate Change Canada, estimated diverting or reusing 90 per cent of post-consumer plastic waste by 2030 will save $500 million annually while creating 42,000 direct and indirect jobs. It would also cut Canada’s annual CO2 emissions by 1.8 megatonnes.  

Right now, about 85 per cent of plastics end up in Canada’s landfills. To reach the 90 per cent diversion rate, Seaman says Canada must improve its infrastructure to collect and process the plastic waste currently being landfilled. 

But she also says the industry rather than municipalities need to take responsibility for recycling plastic waste.  

“This concept is referred to as extended producer responsibility. Municipalities have the responsibility for managing recycling within a waste management system. Given the competing costs and priorities, they don’t have the incentive to invest into recycling infrastructure when landfill space was the most cost-effective solution for them,” she says.  

“Putting that responsibility on the producers who put the products on the market makes the most sense…The industry is adapting, and we hope government policy will recognize this opportunity for Canada to meet our climate goals while growing our economy.” 

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Business

Decarbonization deal opens new chapter in Alberta-Japan relationship

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

Agreement represents a homecoming for JAPEX, which first started work in the Alberta oil sands in 1978

new agreement that will see Japan Petroleum Exploration Company (JAPEX) invest in decarbonization opportunities in Alberta made history while also being rooted in the past, in the eyes of Gary Mar. 

JAPEX is seeking to develop projects in carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen and bioenergy. It’s part of the company’s JAPEX2050 strategy toward carbon neutrality. 

“This new endeavour is a great opportunity that demonstrates the world is changing but the relationships endure,” says Mar, the province’s former trade envoy to Asia and the current CEO of the Canada West Foundation 

“Alberta’s very first international office was opened in Tokyo in 1981. And we have built a tremendous soft infrastructure that includes partnerships between a dozen Alberta and Japanese universities.” 

For JAPEX, the agreement represents something of a homecoming for the company that first started work in the Alberta oil sands in 1978 and operated one of the first in situ (or drilled) oil projects for nearly two decades before selling its stake in 2018. 

We are now aiming to come back to Alberta and contribute to its decarbonization,” JAPEX president of overseas business Tomomi Yamada said in a statement.  

Mar says the memorandum of understanding signed this March between JAPEX and the crown corporation Invest Alberta stems from a strong relationship built over decades.  

“You cant be considered a reliable partner for a new venture if you havent been a reliable partner for decades in the past,” says Mar.  

Economies change and worlds needs change but strong relationships are important factor in whom you do business with.” 

Alberta’s established CCS infrastructure has already attracted new investment, including Air Products’ $1.6-billion net zero hydrogen complex and Dow Chemicals’ $8.8-billion net zero petrochemical complex 

Mar sees JAPEX’s deal with Invest Alberta opening a whole new market of potential carbon neutral investors in the Pacific Rim. 

“When other countries who are partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) see JAPEX invest in this decarbonization opportunities and net zero projects in Alberta, it will send a very clear signal to others in the TPP about the potential,” Mar says.  

“This deal may come from the decades-long relationship between Alberta and Japan but can also serve as a signpost for decades to come.” 

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