SEP 20, 2019 9:49 AM PDT

Tackling Methane Emission: a Canadian Perspective

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

(Pixabay)

Back in  July 2016, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico signed an agreement on reducing the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas that's 34 times more potent in warming our planet than carbon dioxide. To reach the goal set in the Paris climate agreement, the three amigos would have to slash 45% of their current level of methane release by 2025.

Take Canada for example, about 40% of the country's methane discharge happen within its western province of Alberta. Of all human-caused emissions in Alberta, 71% is contributed by its oil and gas sectors.

The release of methane happens at almost every step of natural gas and oil production. Certain scenarios of emission occur intentionally for safety and operational causes, while others are unforeseen. 

Separators, the apparatus used to separate the emulsion of oil, water, and gas that comes out of every oil well, rely on pneumatic controls to regulate their internal pressure. To prevent over-pressurizing, these devices release fuel gas (the majority of which is methane) to the atmosphere. Some equipment allows the fuel gas to burn off (a process known as flaring), which can reduce the release of methane albeit wasting consumable energy at the same time.

In Canada, industrial, regulatory, and academic researchers are devoting their efforts to drive innovation to help resolve issues related to methane release.

Calscan Solutions an Albertan company created an electrically-powered control system, which eliminates the need for venting fuel gas. What's more, their device runs on solar power or batteries, which eliminats the need for gas generators or other non-sustainable power sources, making it a real "green" solution.

Unlike the controlled venting from pneumatic systems and oil wells, small, unexpected leaks of methane from pipelines and processing equipment, which is referred to as fugitive release, are difficult to detect and mitigate.

A Montreal-based company GHGSat developed a method to monitor fugitive release from aerospace. Different gases have their own absorbance of light at distinct wavelengths, which creates a signature spectral fingerprint. Their system use sensors mounted on satellites and aircraft to measure the amount of light absorption at specific wavelength at locations of interest, so that it can pinpoint and quantify unexpected methane emissions. 

In a study led by Environment and Climate Change Canada, researchers at the federal agency developed an isotope-based method of detecting human-caused methane discharge. Their mobile analytical system can spot an increase of anthropogenic methane by continuous monitoring ambient CH4 with stable carbon isotopes (12CH4 and 13CH4) and ethane (C2H6).

Currently, reducing methane emissions is among the low-hanging fruit in drastically slashing anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases. All these innovators have their eyes on capturing and reducing the release of methane by developing effective and inexpensive methods. Let's hope that these emerging technologies can make a real-world difference in reducing methane emissions.

Want to explore more on how technology can be applied in monitoring methane release? Check out this video from the United Nations:

Invisible Emissions - High tech cameras reveal methane leaks (UN)

Source: CBC

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
SEP 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Turning Pulsars into Deep Space Beacons
SEP 24, 2020
Turning Pulsars into Deep Space Beacons
Navigating beyond Earth's orbit is tricky. Any misstep in movement could lead to the crushes of space probes and ves ...
OCT 11, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The mysteries of tiny surfing robots revealed
OCT 11, 2020
The mysteries of tiny surfing robots revealed
Mechanical engineers from Michigan Technological University have implemented the laws of surface tension and propulsion ...
OCT 23, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Expanding on Einstein's theory of time dilation
OCT 23, 2020
Expanding on Einstein's theory of time dilation
Research published recently in the journal Nature Communications considers the influence of the quantum mechanics c ...
OCT 27, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Why doping polycrystalline solar cells improves efficiency
OCT 27, 2020
Why doping polycrystalline solar cells improves efficiency
While there is certainly a fair amount of warranted pessimism about the future of our planet, there is also warranted op ...
NOV 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
The Universe is Getting Hotter, not Cooler, as it Expands
NOV 20, 2020
The Universe is Getting Hotter, not Cooler, as it Expands
Up until now, scientists have theorized that as the Universe expands, its temperature has gradually declined. New resear ...
DEC 02, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
New sensor detects hydrogen using light instead of heat
DEC 02, 2020
New sensor detects hydrogen using light instead of heat
A new hydrogen sensor has been developed by researchers at RMIT University in Australia using light instead of heat. The ...
Loading Comments...