Reducing methane emissions

Methane emissions in Alberta have reduced by 45% since 2014.

Alberta’s methane leadership

Alberta was the first oil and gas producing jurisdiction to put requirements on emissions from flaring, starting in the early 1990s, and the first regional government in North America to set a methane emissions reduction target for the oil and gas sector, committing to reducing these emissions by 45% from 2014 levels by 2025. Alberta’s approach to reducing methane emissions from flaring, venting and fugitives is an international best practice, and has won national and international awards.

Methane target reached early

Through a combination of policy tools including regulatory requirements, market-based programs, investments in technology and innovation, and by working closely with industry, Alberta officially reached this target as of 2022 – which is 3 years ahead of schedule. 
This momentum will continue through Alberta’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan. Alberta will advance new approaches to enhanced regulations, market-based incentives and programs to further reduce methane emissions, while protecting Alberta’s jurisdiction over the environment and economy in support of a carbon neutral economy by 2050.

Regulatory requirements

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), in collaboration with the Alberta government, amended Directive 060: Upstream Petroleum Industry Flaring, Incinerating, and Venting and Directive 017: Measurement Requirements for Oil and Gas Operations to backstop achievement of Alberta’s methane emissions target. The Directives also maintain Alberta’s jurisdiction in regulating the upstream conventional oil and gas industry, enabled through a federal equivalency agreement process. The Directives were developed with input from industry, technology development and research institutions, environmental non-government organizations, and the public.

The requirements set out in the AER Directives address common sources of methane emissions in from the upstream oil and gas industry: pneumatic devices, fugitive emissions, and equipment and solution gas venting at oil and gas sites. The Directives included changes to measurement, monitoring, and reporting of methane emissions to support improved understanding and tracking of oil and gas methane emissions.

The Directives are legislated through Alberta’s Methane Emission Reduction Regulation (MERR). Directives 060 and 017 and MERR took force on January 1, 2020. More information on AER’s Directive 060 and 017 can be found through the AER Methane Reduction information page. The AER Methane Performance page also shows methane emission reduction performance for the upstream oil and gas sector in Alberta.

To complement the regulatory approach to methane reduction, Alberta continues to use innovative non-regulatory programs and market-based tools to incent early action and reward projects that drive methane emissions reductions beyond regulatory requirements. Further investment partnerships between government and industry will help lower the cost of Alberta’s regulatory requirements and achieve better methane emissions reduction results.

Market-based programs

In Alberta, emission offsets can be generated by projects that have voluntarily reduced their greenhouse gas emissions. Emission offsets are quantified using Alberta-approved methodologies called quantification protocols, and are verified by a third party.

These emissions offsets have financial and environmental value, as they can be used as a compliance option for regulated entities under the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) regulation Alberta.

Two emissions offset quantification protocols support methane reductions in the oil and gas sector:

  • an offset protocol to encourage converting existing pneumatic equipment to highly efficient options
  • an offset protocol to encourage vent gas reductions

As new methane regulations come into effect between now and 2025, Alberta’s emissions offset protocols will be updated to ensure that the program will continue to drive reductions for projects that exceed actions required by law. More information is available at Alberta’s Emissions Offset System information page.

Technology and innovation

Enabling technology, innovation, and fundamental scientific research are key to Alberta’s approach to methane reduction and emissions performance. Using funds from the industry-supported TIER system, the Government of Alberta is to providing continued support for methane technology and innovation approaches across the oil and gas sector. Examples of current and previously implemented programs to support technology and innovation related to methane emissions reductions include:

Current programs:

  • Alberta Methane Emissions Program (AMEP): $17 million to support investigating and testing alternative approaches to detection and quantification of fugitive and vented emissions. More information on this provincewide program is available on the AMEP website.
  • Emissions Reduction Alberta and Alberta Innovates continue to support various methane emission detection and reduction projects. Visit Emissions Reduction Alberta and Alberta Innovates Clean Resources for information about the initiatives supporting methane emissions detection and reduction research and technology development.

Past programs:

  • Methane Technology Implementation Program (MTIP): $25 million to support installation of readily-available methane reduction technologies at conventional oil and gas facilities. More information is available on the Carbon Connect International website.
  • Baseline and Reduction Opportunity (BRO) Assessment Program: $15 million to support small and medium-sized oil and gas operators to conduct detailed assessments of methane reduction opportunities and fugitive emissions. More information is available on the Carbon Connect International website.