Research Report

Shale Gas in British Columbia: Risks to B.C.’s climate action objectives

Matt Horne
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2011
Published by: Pembina Institute
Pages: 31
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Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 2-3)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 4-4)
  3. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 5-8)

    British Columbia has been extracting natural gas for half of a century but until recently, conventional wisdom held that the province’s economic gas reserves would be significantly depleted by 2020; the readily accessible gas was running out and other reserves were either too remote or too costly to extract. That notion has been challenged in the past several years because the costs of extracting hard-to-access sources of gas, notably shale gas, have dropped significantly. The impacts are far-reaching, as it is now known that B.C. is located on top of gas reserves that are significant not only provincially but also...

  4. 2. Anatomy of emissions from British Columbia’s gas sector
    (pp. 9-13)

    Greenhouse gas emissions are produced at every stage of the process from the point when natural gas is removed from the ground to the point when it is eventually burned. Figure 2 and Figure 3 provide estimated breakdowns of the emissions from British Columbia’s gas sector. The specific emissions for any individual company depend on the geology in which the gas is located, the composition of the raw gas, the proximity to water and other key inputs, the proximity to processing and transmission infrastructure as well as the technologies, processes and sources of energy relied upon to extract, transport and...

  5. 3. Opportunities to reduce emissions
    (pp. 14-17)

    For British Columbia to meet its short-, medium- and long-term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets the emissions from the natural gas sector need to decline significantly — along with the emissions from all sectors. This section provides a brief introduction to four possible ways to reduce emissions from the natural gas sector. It is not a comprehensive list and is not intended to provide a detailed assessment of the emissions reduction potential, technical feasibility or cost-effectiveness of the options. Nor does it assess the economic implications of encouraging or requiring any of the potential solutions. Recognizing those limitations, the options...

  6. 4. Government production and emissions forecasts
    (pp. 18-20)

    British Columbia’s Climate Action Plan includes two basic scenarios for production and greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas sector. The first scenario is typically referred to as “business as usual” (BAU) and it is considered to be the worst-case scenario for emissions, where nothing is done to restrain them. The second scenario adjusts the BAU production and emissions trajectory in response to the policies in B.C.’s Climate Action Plan — some of which have already been implemented and others of which have been committed to. The Climate Action Plan continues to be the primary guiding document for B.C.’s efforts...

  7. 5. Updating the Climate Action Plan to Reflect New Realities
    (pp. 21-26)

    The business as usual and Climate Action Plan scenarios discussed in the previous section likely understate future emissions from British Columbia’s gas sector for two reasons:

    1. The level of natural gas production is now forecast to be higher than estimated in the Climate Action Plan; all else being equal, greenhouse gas emissions will be higher. The underestimate occurred because the relatively low-cost ability to extract shale gas resources, which are now expected to dominate B.C.’s gas sector, was not then understood.

    2. Shale gas from the Horn River basin has much higher levels of formation carbon dioxide than conventional gas production...

  8. 6. Recommendations
    (pp. 27-28)

    The previous sections have raised a number of concerns relating to greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas activity anticipated in British Columbia over the next decade. In order to ensure that B.C. understands and manages the water and climate risks responsibly, the Pembina Institute offers the following eight recommendations for the B.C. government.

    1. Update and complete the Climate Action Plan for the province to indicate how B.C. will achieve its 2012, 2016 and 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. For targets to be meaningful, governments need plans and policies that give a credible chance of achieving the targets.

    2. Develop greenhouse...

  9. Appendix 1
    (pp. 29-29)
  10. Appendix 2
    (pp. 30-30)
  11. Appendix 3
    (pp. 31-31)