The National Pollutant Release Inventory [NPRI] Oil and Gas Sector Review by Environment Canada, January 10, 2014
Environment Canada is undertaking a review of National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) reporting requirements for oil and gas facilities in order to achieve appropriate rates of reporting coverage for pollutants of concern, as well as simplified data reporting/data collection processes for industry and Environment Canada. The review will be completed in two phases. Phase 1 is intended to respond to the environmental petition submitted to the Auditor General of Canada, requesting Environment Canada to address NPRI reporting for shale gas and in-situ oil sands extraction. Phase 2 will build on Phase 1, and examine NPRI reporting requirements and remaining issues for the sector as a whole.
The NPRI is Canada’s legislated, publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases (to air, water and land), disposals and transfers for recycling. … It captures data on over 300 substances of concern, including many substances declared toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) and key air pollutants from a wide variety of industrial sectors.
Under section 46 of CEPA 1999, the Minister of the Environment issues notices to require facilities to report information each year for the purpose of creating an inventory of data. The NPRI reporting requirements, as published in the Canada Gazette, Part INotice with respect to substances in the National Pollutant Release Inventory, specify the chemicals which need to be reported and set minimum quantities for reporting. As such, the NPRI does not capture data on all pollutant emissions in Canada. …
Facilities from the oil and gas sector are required to report their releases, disposals and transfers of all substances listed on the NPRI for which they meet the reporting criteria, as published in the Canada Gazette notice. For the most recent reporting year (2011), close to 4,000 oil and gas extraction facilities reported to the NPRI, representing over 40% of all facilities reporting to the NPRI. All producing Canadian oil sands operations and off-shore oil and gas extraction facilities reported, as did most natural gas processing plants. Reporting coverage is lower for conventional oil and gas batteries, compressor stations and gas-gathering systems. Many facilities of these types were not required to report based on NPRI thresholds. Current NPRI reporting requirements capture most combustion-related emissions from the sector, but do not require reporting of fugitive or venting emissions (e.g. volatile organic compounds and hydrogen sulphide) from oil and gas extraction facilities with fewer than the equivalent of 10 full-time employees, or releases from oil and gas drilling and exploration activities.
… Environment Canada responded to the petition on October 25, 2011, indicating that it will be undergoing a review of NPRI reporting from the oil and gas sector and would consider NPRI reporting for shale gas and in-situ oil sands extraction as part of that review. …
The NPRI Oil and Gas Sector Review will primarily examine NPRI reporting requirements for oil and gas extraction and for support activities for oil and gas extraction (North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes 211 and 213). However, it should be noted that the review is not limited to facilities and activities with these two NAICS codes and may examine other facilities or activities from the oil and gas sector.
The scope of this review will look at the known gaps with NPRI data for the oil and gas industry and the potential contributing factors. The issues have been identified based on input from stakeholders and departmental needs. It should be noted that as this review progresses and discussions and consultations take place, other issues and contributing factors may be identified. However, for the time being, Environment Canada will be reviewing the impacts of the nine issues identified below and considering changes that would capture additional information on oil and gas activities and facilities. The review will be completed in two phases and the issues will be considered as part of Phase 1 and/or Phase 2, as applicable.
1. The exemption for oil and gas exploration or drilling (Phases 1 & 2)
This exemption has two main implications. First, it exempts facilities that are solely involved in these activities from reporting to the NPRI. Due to this reporting exemption, most pre-production facilities (e.g. those in pilot phase or in exploration or drilling phase) are not currently required to report to the NPRI. Second, for facilities that engage in other activities, the oil and gas exploration and drilling portion of their operations are exempt from reporting. Consideration of possible changes to this exemption will also need to take into account that exploration and drilling are not usually ongoing activities.
2. The 20,000 employee-hour (i.e. the equivalent of 10 full-time employees) threshold for reporting (Phases 1 & 2)
Many oil and gas facilities (such as wells, batteries and compressor stations) are unmanned or have few employees, and are therefore not required to report to the NPRI, except for criteria air contaminants (CACs) (see issue #3 below). It should be noted that the employee threshold does not apply to facilities that are engaged in certain specified activities (e.g. incineration). The review will consider whether certain oil and gas activities should be added to the list of activities for which reporting is required regardless of the number of employee hours.
3. Facilities with few employees are only required to report specified substances and specified release sources (Phases 1 & 2)
Facilities that do not meet the 20,000 employee-hour threshold are only required to report CACs and are only required to consider these releases from stationary combustion sources. Consequently, the majority of CACs from combustion-related emissions are tracked through the NPRI, but the majority of fugitive or vented emissions are not (e.g. fugitive emissions of volatile organic compounds and hydrogen sulphide from oil and gas wells). The review will consider whether adjustment of the requirements to ensure reporting on these emissions is warranted.
4. Subterranean releases are not specifically listed as a reportable category under releases to land (Phase 1)
NPRI requires reporting of releases to air, surface water and land, with land releases reported separately by spills, leaks, or other releases to land that are not disposals. Underground injection for the purposes of waste disposal is reportable under the disposal category (either on- or off-site). Underground injection for the purpose of enhancing upstream oil and gas production (e.g. hydraulic fracturing and enhanced oil recovery) is not specifically listed as a reportable category. This results in uncertainty as to whether this injection should be categorized as subterranean releases, whether these releases need to be reported to the NPRI and how they should be reported. The review will consider whether and how to address this issue.
5. Reporting is only required for substances listed in the NPRI (Phases 1 & 2)
Reporting for a particular substance is required only if that substance is listed in the NPRI notice. Therefore, releases or disposals are not captured if the substances of concern are not listed on the NPRI. For example, hydraulic fracturing fluid is a mixture of substances that may contain specific NPRI substances. Reporting of this fluid would be based on the individual NPRI substances contained in the mixture and not on the hydraulic fracturing fluid as a whole. As part of this review, substances that are relevant to the oil and gas sector but not already listed on the NPRI may be identified, and if so will be considered for addition.
6. Reporting on NPRI substances is only required if the threshold for a particular substance is met (Phases 1 & 2)
Thresholds for amounts of a substance manufactured, processed or otherwise used (MPO), or released should be at a level that will trigger reporting of all significant releases or disposals. If the thresholds are too high, then those substances are not reported. If deemed appropriate, reduced thresholds could be considered to increase reporting.
7. NPRI facility definition (Phase 2)
Some [most] oil and gas facilities and activities can be transient or temporary and may not be captured by the current NPRI facility definition, and thus not be required to report. In addition, data users have difficulty comparing NPRI data to other sources, such as provincially reported data. In some cases, this is due to the NPRI facility definition not being aligned with other emissions reporting programs. Changes to how oil and gas sector facilities are defined under NPRI may be considered.
8. Certain types of information that may be relevant are not collected (Phase 2)
Certain types of information that may be relevant for this sector are not collected, such as equipment-level data, information on concentration and amounts of substances used, annual production data, etc. This is a potential issue for supporting the analysis needs of Environment Canada and other data users. The potential addition of certain additional data elements, which would be required to be reported by oil and gas sector facilities, will be considered.
9. Difficulty tracking facilities over time (Phase 2)
NPRI faces difficulty in tracking and processing reports from conventional oil and gas extraction facilities (such as oil and gas batteries and natural gas gathering systems) from year to year. This is due to the large number of these types of facilities and their frequent ownership changes, name changes and closures. Solutions on how to better track oil and gas extraction facilities from year to year will be explored. …
Phase 1: NPRI Reporting for Shale Gas and In-situ Oil Sands Extraction
The first phase of the review will look at NPRI reporting for shale gas and in-situ oil sands extraction activities, in response to environmental petition 317. The main issue raised in the petition is the concern that the chemicals injected into the ground for these activities are not being reported to the NPRI due to the current reporting requirements. All shale gas and in-situ oil sands facilities are required to report if they meet the NPRI criteria. However, pre-production facilities (i.e. those in pilot phase or in the exploratory or drilling phase) may not meet the NPRI requirements due to the exclusion for oil and gas exploration and drilling activities. Furthermore, once in production they may not trigger the 20,000 employee-hour threshold for reporting on substances other than air pollutants.
Environment Canada will consider changes that would capture more information on oil and gas activities and facilities beyond the traditional reporting thresholds. Phase 1 will focus on aspects of the issues listed in Section 2 that are relevant to shale gas and in-situ oil sands extraction. During 2013, stakeholders and the public will be consulted on the issues raised in petition 317 and on Environment Canada’s proposed path forward and position. It is anticipated that Phase 1 of this review will be completed in 2014.
Phase 2: NPRI Reporting for Other Oil and Gas Facilities and Activities
The second phase of the review will be a broader review of reporting from the oil and gas sector with a primary focus on extraction activities. This phase will build on Phase 1 and examine NPRI reporting requirements and aspects and issues from the list in Section 2 that remain. This broader review is anticipated to begin in 2014 and be completed in 2015. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Brief review of threats to Canada’s groundwater from the oil and gas industry’s methane migration and hydraulic fracturing by Ernst Environmental Services (EES), June 16, 2013
Excerpt, Chapter 45:
February 8, 2013, a final report by Canada’s Environment Commissioner, Mr. Scott Vaughan, was tabled in Parliament. The report includes a bracing chapter on hydraulic fracturing, critical highlights include:
On average, fracturing a shale gas well requires 11 million litres of water. The chemicals make up between 0.5 percent and 2 percent of the fluid, or between 55,000 and 220,000 litres of chemicals per well. …
Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), Health Canada and
Environment Canada share the mandate for assessing whether substances used in Canada are
toxic to human health or the environment. According to CEPA 1999, a substance is toxic if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that
(a) have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or
its biological diversity,
(b) constitute or may constitute a danger to the environment on which life depends, or
(c) constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health.
CEPA 1999 requires Environment Canada and Health Canada to develop control measures for substances determined to be toxic or capable of becoming toxic. Environment Canada also maintains the National Pollutant Release Inventory, which, as stated earlier, is a legislated, publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases, disposals, and transfers for recycling. In addition, under the Pest Control Products Act, Health Canada has the mandate to prevent unacceptable risks to people and the environment from the use of pest control products, such as biocides and antimicrobials. These chemicals are also used in fracturing fluid. …
We asked Environment Canada for an update on the status of its review of the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) that the Department said was under way in October 2011.
According to Environment Canada, the NPRI is a “major starting point for identifying and monitoring sources of pollution in Canada and in developing indicators for the quality of our air, land, and water. NPRI information also helps to determine if regulatory or other action is necessary to ensure pollution reductions, and if so, the form that action should take.”
The Minister of the Environment has discretion regarding industry reporting requirements.
Environment Canada told us that oil and gas exploration and drilling activities are exempt from reporting to the NPRI. According to Environment Canada, in order to consider whether changes to NPRI reporting requirements are warranted, the Department needs to know specifically what substances are used for hydraulic fracturing as well as their volumes and concentrations.
Environment Canada and Health Canada told us that while a partial list of substances that are likely to be used in hydraulic fracturing has been developed, a complete list of substances used in Canada is not known.
Environment Canada informed us that it has initiated internal discussions on the NPRI review, but that official stakeholder engagement and consultations have not been initiated. Both Environment Canada and Health Canada told us that they consider hydraulic fracturing to be an emerging global issue that they are beginning to investigate. Environment Canada told us that it expects to complete the review and determine whether changes are warranted by March 2014.
We asked Environment Canada and Health Canada what they have done to identify and assess the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing substances. They told us that, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), they are able to consider new nformation and, if appropriate, assess and manage identified risks to protect human health and the environment. The departments informed us that they are following a three-step approach for responding to emerging issues, such as hydraulic fracturing:
identifying the substances being used,
assessing risks to the environment or human health, and
establishing control measures to manage the risks posed by substances determined to be toxic or capable of becoming toxic.
Environment Canada and Health Canada indicated that they are currently gathering information to develop a path forward for hydraulic fracturing substances, which may or may not include proceeding with risk assessments and risk management.
The departments told us that they are considering a voluntary survey of companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing to gather information on the substances and how they are being used. …
The departments have developed a partial list of more than 800 substances known to be used or suspected to be used for hydraulic fracturing in the United States and parts of Canada. Officials told us that although the departments have not carried out risk assessments on the use of these substances for hydraulic fracturing, of the substances on the list had previously been assessed as toxic in other applications (for example, benzene in gasoline). …
However, the departments have not yet decided whether to carry out risk assessments of the substances when used for hydraulic fracturing.
The departments informed us that a risk assessment typically requires a minimum of 18 months per substance, assuming that sufficient data is available and the necessary methodologies exist.
Under CEPA 1999, Environment Canada and Health Canada are required to develop control measures for substances determined to be toxic or capable of becoming toxic.
Control measures, such as regulations and pollution prevention plans, are intended to reduce the risks associated with the use and release of toxic substances.
Environment Canada informed us that it takes about three years to establish control measures. … Environment Canada and Health Canada told us that they are still working toward gaining a better understanding of the substances contained in hydraulic fracturing fluid and the risks associated with the hydraulic fracturing process. [Emphasis added]
Alberta allowed about 171,000 oil and gas wells to be hydraulically fractured without this critical information and continues to do so….