How Much Greenhouse Gas Emissions Do Pipelines Emit in Canada?

A lot of people wonder just how much greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are created by mid-stream components such as pipelines. In Canada, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) sheds some light on this topic.

According to the latest data from 2014, you might be amazed at just how little skin Canadian pipelines have in the grand scheme of things.

Q - Do Canadian pipelines contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions?

Of course they do, but they account for only a smidgeon of Canada’s annual GHG emissions – at 1 percent of the national total.

Given that Canada makes up just 1.6% of the world’s total GHG emissions, this is a very small fraction – 0.016% of the world’s GHG.

Q - Where do these Canadian pipeline emissions come from?

Incomplete combustion of fuel at compressor stations in addition to small leaks and maintenance tasks which release methane gas into the atmosphere are the three main causes.

Compared to the upstream oil and gas sector, emissions that come from transmission, storage and distribution systems are much less, accounting for about 10 percent of the total GHG emissions created by Canada’s oil and gas sector.

Q - What are the other causes of Canada’s GHG emissions?

Did you know that there’s about 1.4 million cows and heifers in Canada and that their farts produce about 18,000 kilotons of methane every year? That’s around three times the amount of methane created by the pipeline industry every year!

No seriously, but what are the causes of Canada’s GHG emissions? Looks like the methane from cow’s digestive processes must be included….

According the Environment Canada, National Inventory Report 1990-2014, Part 3, here’s how Canadian pipelines fit into the bigger picture:

  • 22% - Upstream natural gas; conventional and unconventional production of fossil fuels
  • 19% - Road transportation; all kinds
  • 12% - Heat and electricity generation
  • 10% - Agriculture, including emissions from cows
  • 8% - Domestic railways, aviation, marine and other off-road transportation
  • 7% - Industrial processes such as the production of lime and cement
  • 6% - Residential
  • 6% - Manufacturing
  • 4% - Waste disposal
  • 4% - Construction industry, institutional, commercial sources
  • 1% - Pipelines including fugitive emissions and stationary combustion
  • 1% - Other

Canadian Pipelines > Other Pipelines

We Must Get to Yes on Pipelines or Everyone Loses

It’s apparent that with new pipelines comes increased production of oil and gas resources. This means that GHGs from these would increase. However, it’s important to keep in mind that if a pipeline to meet rising global demand for oil (+12% by 2040) isn’t built in Canada, it will simply be built elsewhere in the world.

Elsewhere in the world means a place like one of the OPEC countries where there’s very little or no environmental rules and regulations concerning oil and gas production. Keep in mind that some of these places also have little or no human rights when compared to many other countries of the world.

Canadian oil and gas producers are held to the strictest rules and regulations throughout every step of the production process: upstream, midstream and downstream, with regulatory approvals required at each phase.

Therefore, if you support the world’s global environment, you should support Canadian pipelines!

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