14 Methane Regulations

Methane (CH4) is a colourless, odourless gas that burns readily with oxygen (Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia, 2021).  It is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that makes up 13% of Canada’s greenhouse gas inventory (Canada, 2022).

Greenhouse gases are usually compared in potency to carbon dioxide over a reference period of time and often discussed as a multiplier of CO2. This reference is called the global warming potential (GWP). Methane has GWP of 28 times the base of CO2 over a 100 year time frame according to the IPCC’s fifth assessment report (AR5).  In the second assessment report (SAR) methane had a GWP of 1 and then in the fourth assessment report it was listed as a GWP of 25 (GHGprotocol, n.d.).

The international assessment reports reflected research that progressively increased the GWP of methane.  This increase highlights a couple of important concepts:

  • The actual GWP was subject to some scientific uncertainty, but with time the GWP rating has steadily increased, while the uncertainty has decreased.
  • When using GWP in greenhouse gas inventories it is important to consider which GWP value is being used.  A good practice is to cite the reference report that the GWP was obtained from.
  • Methane is an essential GHG to consider in inventory reduction

With an understanding of the importance of anthropogenic methane emissions in climate science, it is appropriate, to consider Canadian regulatory actions and the associated regulations for methane reduction. As noted in Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), methane reduction appears as an issue in many of the provincial commitments which is also driven by international agreements (UNFCCU, 2021).

As is common to the greenhouse gas and climate change concerns, is that it is an international issue, a national issue and a provincial issue.  With the issue being defined by scientific work, the effort to reduce emissions starts globally, but often the areana that reductions must be made is the provincial one because of their constitutional authorities.

Global Methane Initiative (GMI)

The Global Methane Initiative (GMI) is an international collaborative effort, started in  2004, to encourage countries to reduce the amount of methane they produce.  Their goal is to encourage sharing of best practices and technological progress across three sectors of industry; oil and gas, biogas, and coal mines (GMI, n.d.)

The Canadian federal department of Environment Canada and Climate Change has a representative on the oil and gas subcommittee (GMI, n.d.).  The GMI website shows a forecast of Canada’s methane emissions to be growing over the next thirty years given current trends (GMI, n.d.).

While they encourage methane reductions and highlight cases where there have not been reductions, they are neither regulator nor regulation.

See their web site: https://www.globalmethane.org/about/index.aspx

Global Methane Pledge

The Global Methane Pledge was established by the United Sates and the EU as part of the IPCC COP26 to further stimulate the commitment of  countries to reducing methane emissions (The White House, 2021).  The pledge aims to reduce global methane emissions 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030.  Canada has made the pledge (Global Methane Pledge, n.d.). The pledge does not appear to be legally binding, but given the proponents of this initiative there is some peer pressure to perform.


When we consider the international pressures to implement methane reductions, NASA is an interesting agency.  It is a United States agency and has no regulatory authorities including over international jurisdictions.  They are influential in building awareness and subsequent regulations.  NASA launched EMIT, which is  a satellite to measure earth surface mineral dust (NASA, 2022).  The satellite can register the spectral signature of methane emissions.  Its sensors can highlight concentrated sources of methane emissions, which it calls super emitters (NASA, 2022).  With this publicly available data, peer pressure will be exerted on methane emitters.


Canada’s regulatory system records that in 2005, methane was declared toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection and Enhancement,1999 (CEPA, 1999) act under item 65.  It was added to CEPA, 1999’s Schedule 1 (Canada, 2015).   With the declaration of methane being considered toxic under CEPA, 1999, further controls can be envisioned.

Canadian Commitments

In 2016, Canada published the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change which contained commitments to reduce methane emissions (Canada, 2022).  In 2016, Canada and the United States pledged together to bilaterally work on reducing methane emissions.  Their agreement at the time was to achieve 40 to 45% reductions of 2012 levels by 2025 (Gardener, 2016).

The federal government has committed to work with the provinces and territories to reduce methane emissions including promulgating regulations. The first sector to be actively regulated is the oil and gas sector.

Reduction in the Release of Methane and Certain Volatile Organic Compounds (Upstream Oil and Gas Sector) SOR/2018-66

This federal regulation to reduce methane emissions is written under the authority of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and establishes legal expectations for methane reduction from both the onshore and offshore oil and gas industry for methane emissions.  In terms of enforcement, this regulation is replaced for certain provinces where the federal government and provincial government have agreed an equivalent regulation exists in the province.

How Do the Commitments Become Provincial Law?

It is now up to Canada and the provinces to cooperatively work together to regulate methane for Canada to meet its international obligations.  Will they be able to cooperate? With the  oil and gas sector being the first to be regulated, we will look at the three largest anthropogenic producers of methane provinces looking at on land oil and gas producers.


Saskatchewan has developed a Methane Action Plan which commits to reduce methane emissions 40 to 45% of 2015 emission levels in terms of CO2eq.  The action plan declares support for the federal target of 30% reductions. However, the terms of the commitment differ between the federal commitment and the Saskatchewan commitment, which makes the direct comparison of the pledges to be challenging.

Saskatchewan’s principal regulation for achieving this is The Oil and Gas Emissions Management Regulations, RRS c O-2 Reg 7 (Saskatchewan, n.d.).

Saskatchewan has an equivalency agreement in place with the federal government.  This equivalency agreement allows the Saskatchewan oil and gas industry to follow Saskatchewan rules (Canada, 2020).


It is helpful to examine Alberta’s commitment to methane reduction with Canada’s largest oil and gas industry.  According to Alberta’s website, they reference the AR4 GWP of 25.  Alberta’s commitment is 45% of oil and gas methane emissions from 2014 levels by 2025 (Alberta, n.d.).  Once again, the targets set are different from the federal target with respect to baselines.  The differences makes it harder to calculate the impact of methane reduction commitments.

Alberta has enacted the Methane Emission Reduction Regulation, Alta Reg 244/2018 which became effective January 1, 2020.  It mandates the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to control methane emission under two AER regulations, Directive 060 and Directive 017.

The Alberta government then has designated the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to develop the detailed plans for the oil and gas sector.  The AER lists their target as “45 per cent (relative to 2014 levels) by 2025” (Alberta Energy Regulator, 2022).

Alberta also has an equivalency agreement in place with the federal government.  This equivalency agreement allows the Alberta oil and gas industry to follow Alberta’s rules (Canada, 2020).

British Columbia

British Colombia (BC) has set methane targets of 45% reduction of 2014 levels by 2025. While the baseline is different than the federal levels, by calculation it is a similar goal.  As part of British Colombia’s commitment, the BC Oil and Gas Commission has issued regulations for controlling and reducing methane emissions over the next ten years  in 2019 (Fugitive Emissions Management Guideline version 1.0) to be reviewed in 2022 (BCOGC, 2022).

With their regulations in place,  British Columba has an equivalency agreement in place with the federal Government.  This equivalency agreement allows the BC industry to follow just BC’s rules (Government of Canada, n.d.).

Does the Canadian pledge align between the NDC and provincial regulations?

The author’s opinion is that the commitments to date will probably not meet Canada’s external commitments.  There are some issues with pledges. In Alberta, the methane reduction regulation was written well before the NDC was written or the methane pledge in 2021 (Cusp network, n.d.). The Alberta base year is specified under the NDC as 2014, and the target dates are different.  With the Alberta regulation authored prior to the commitment, this differential is not surprising.

In Canada’s NDC filed with the UNFCCC, the overall methane pledge is not discussed, and the only other provinces mentioning methane include Ontario (landfills), Manitoba (landfills) and Saskatchewan.

To make comparisons, we would need to convert the base years back to tonnes of methane emissions and the yearly bases.  Something only a researcher would find joy in.

Section Conclusion

The methane goals set by Canada, to be more than aspirational targets, need specific measures to reduce emissions.  Canada established the initial rules with BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan developing equivalent regulations.  Not all reviewers believe the current regulations have the needed rigour (Gorski et al, 2019) so time will tell if Canada can meet the methane targets.

But with climate change, the question is do we have time?

Learning Questions

  1. Why is it important to reduce methane emissions?
  2. Why would the different jurisdictions use different baselines?
  3. Do you think a pledge has the same weight as a treaty?
  4. What could be done to improve the actionability of methane reduction?


Alberta Energy Regulator. (2022). Methane Performance. Retrieved from https://www.aer.ca/protecting-what-matters/holding-industry-accountable/industry-performance/methane-performance#:~:text=To%20learn%20more%20about%20these,a%202014%20baseline%20by%202025.

BCOGC. (2022). Methane reduction. Retrieved from https://www.bcogc.ca/how-we-regulate/safeguard-the-environment/methane-reduction/

BCOGC (2019). Fugitive Emissions Management Guideline. Retrieved from https://www.bcogc.ca/files/documents/femp-guidance-july-release-v10-2019.pdf

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2022, September 9). Methane. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/science/methane

Canada. (2020). Canada-Alberta equivalency agreement respecting the release of methane from the oil and gas sector. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/agreements/equivalency/canada-alberta-methane-oil-gas.html

Canada. (2020). Canada-British Columbia equivalency agreement respecting the release of methane from the oil and gas sector. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/agreements/equivalency/canada-british-columbia-methane-oil-gas.html

Canada. (2020). Canada-Saskatchewan equivalency agreement respecting the release of methane from the oil and gas sector. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/agreements/equivalency/canada-saskatchewan-methane-oil-gas.html

Canada. (2022). Review of Canada’s methane regulations for the upstream oil and gas sector. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/review-methane-regulations-upstream-oil-gas-sector.html

Canada. (2022). Pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/pan-canadian-framework.html

Canada (2015), Toxic substances list: methane, Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/management-toxic-substances/list-canadian-environmental-protection-act/methane.html

CUSP Network. (2021). Canada’s nationally determined contribution under the Paris agreement. retrieved from https://cuspnetwork.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Canada’s_Enhanced_NDC_Submission_EN.pdf

GHGPROTOCOL, (n.d.) Global Warming Potential Values,   Retrieved from https://www.ghgprotocol.org/sites/default/files/ghgp/Global-Warming-Potential-Values%20%28Feb%2016%202016%29_1.pdf

Gardner T. (2016)  U.S., Canada Sign Pact to Fight Climate Change. Reuters.  Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/u-s-canada-sign-pact-to-fight-climate-change/

Gorski J., Green T., Yawanarajah S., Banks J.. (2022). Reducing methane emissions from Canada’s oil and gas sector. Pembina Institute. Retrieved from https://www.pembina.org/pub/reducing-methane-emissions-canadas-oil-and-gas-sector

Global Methane Pledge. (n.d.). Home page. Retrieved from https://www.globalmethanepledge.org/

Methane Emission Reduction Regulation, Alta Reg 244/2018

NASA. (2022). EMIT. Retrieved from https://earth.jpl.nasa.gov/emit/

Reduction in the Release of Methane and Certain Volatile Organic Compounds (Upstream Oil and Gas Sector) SOR/2018-66

Saskatchewan. (n.d.).  Methane Action Plan | A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.saskatchewan.ca/business/environmental-protection-and-sustainability/a-made-in-saskatchewan-climate-change-strategy/methane-action-plan

The Oil and Gas Emissions Management Regulations, RRS c O-2 Reg 7

UNFCCU. (2021) Canada’s 2021 nationally determined contribution under the Paris agreement . Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/NDC/2022-06/Canada%27s%20Enhanced%20NDC%20Submission1_FINAL%20EN.pdf

The White House (2021), Joint US-EU Press Release on the Global Methane Pledge, Retrieved from  https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/09/18/joint-us-eu-press-release-on-the-global-methane-pledge/#:~:text=The%20United%20States%20and%20European,26)%20in%20November%20in%20Glasgow.


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Regulations and the Environment Copyright © 2023 by Tim Taylor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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