Fox Creek’s Barb Ryan provides excellent summary of Canada’s new tarsands study insanity! Industry under-reporting VOC pollution by factor of 2 to 4.5. Is industry also under-reporting toxic frac pollution & drinking water contamination?

Comment by Fox Creek’s Barb Ryan to the study:

So, let me get this straight.

Industry is not /was not reporting properly, comprehensively, or accurately. (We already knew that)

AER, the best in the world, doesn’t notice or doesn’t care, doesn’t hold anyone to account. (We knew that too)

Government is complicit in the deal. (Well duh)

Science compiles the inaccurate, incomplete, data and determines it is inaccurate and incomplete and decrees that more data, and study, and money and fancy new innovation is required. Government is complicit in the deal.

And the media spins?

This bullshit will continue until there are more Albertans consciously, undeniably impacted and harmed than benefiting.

We, those willing to see (or unwilling “victims” – not sure that’s the right word), are still vastly outnumbered.

PO’d, as usual, in Fox Creek where the next – frac under the town because Chevron says it is perfectly safe if you just listen to the FACTS – is planned.

[Extensive sour gas in the area. Sour gas pipelines in the town. Fracs at Fox Creek have directly caused world-record frac quakes]


The Complete Study:

Differences between measured and reported volatile organic compound emissions from oil sands facilities in Alberta, Canada by Shao-Meng Lia, Amy Leitheada, Samar G. Moussaa, John Liggioa, Michael D. Morana, Daniel Wangb, Katherine Haydena, Andrea Darlingtona, Mark Gordonc, Ralf Staeblera, Paul A. Makara, Craig A. Strouda, Robert McLarend, Peter S. K. Liua, Jason O’Briena, Richard L. Mittermeiera, Junhua Zhanga, George Marsona, Stewart G. Cobera, Mengistu Woldee, and Jeremy J. B. Wentzella, Edited by Frank Wania, University of Toronto, accepted by Editorial Board Member David W. Schindler March 21, 2017 (received for review October 27, 2016), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1617862114


Large-scale oil production from oil sands deposits in Alberta, Canada has raised concerns about environmental impacts, such as the magnitude of air pollution emissions. This paper reports compound emission rates (E) for 69–89 nonbiogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for each of four surface mining facilities, determined with a top-down approach using aircraft measurements in the summer of 2013. The aggregate emission rate (aE) of the nonbiogenic VOCs ranged from 50 ± 14 to 70 ± 22 t/d depending on the facility.

In comparison, equivalent VOC emission rates reported to the Canadian National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) using accepted estimation methods were lower than the aE values by factors of 2.0 ± 0.6, 3.1 ± 1.1, 4.5 ± 1.5, and 4.1 ± 1.6 for the four facilities, indicating underestimation in the reported VOC emissions.

For 11 of the combined 93 VOC species reported by all four facilities, the reported emission rate and E were similar; but for the other 82 species, the reported emission rate was lower than E. The median ratio of E to that reported for all species by a facility ranged from 4.5 to 375 depending on the facility. Moreover, between 9 and 53 VOCs, for which there are existing reporting requirements to the NPRI, were not included in the facility emission reports. 

The comparisons between the emission reports and measurement-based emission rates indicate that improvements to VOC emission estimation methods would enhance the accuracy and completeness of emission estimates and their applicability to environmental impact assessments of oil sands developments. [Emphasis added]

Scientists invent more accurate way to measure oilsands pollution, Testing sees plane flown in a box-like pattern above the mines collecting air samples by The Canadian Press, Apr 24, 2017, CBC News

Scientists flew in a plane overtop the Alberta oilsands to test the air quality.

Federal government scientists say they have devised an accurate way to directly measure air pollutants from oilsands mines and suggest industry estimates for certain harmful emissions have been much too low.

The research, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on volatile organic compounds, or VOCs — carbon-based substances that can be damaging to the environment and human health.

Oilsands companies have indirect ways of calculating their mines’ estimated VOC emissions. Methods include extrapolating from other substances they measure from smokestacks or from emissions associated with a specific activity, said lead author Shao-Meng Li, a senior research scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Li and his team set out to compare those figures against direct readings they took from the air above the mines.

Their experiment took measurements from a plane flown at various altitudes in a box-like pattern above oilsands mines in northeastern Alberta. That created a virtual wall of sorts around developments as big as 275 square kilometres.

“Most of these instruments are very bulky, so they cannot be mounted on the outside,” said Li.

The interior of the aircraft looks like a cargo plane with a dozen or so seats for the scientists and racks of gadgets along the wall. Li said the air was brought into containers inside the cabin through special tubing and samples were taken back to the lab for analysis.

Measurements higher than reported figures

The amount of overall VOCs measured on the flights wound up being two to 4.5 times higher than figures companies reported to Environment Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory.

“It’s quite a powerful mechanism to make those kind of measurements,” said Stewart Cober, co-author of the paper and manager in Environment Canada’s Air Quality Research Division.

“It’s a mechanism we wouldn’t have been able to do 15 years ago because the technology didn’t exist.” [How fortunate for tarsands companies!]

The flights were made in the late summer of 2013. The team is planning another go-round in 2018 to see how the method works in different weather conditions.

Other uses

Cober said the technique has the potential to be applied to other oil and gas projects, such as hydraulic fracturing sites and in-situ oilsands developments, in which steam is used to extract bitumen from deep underground.

“What we’ve done is demonstrated that there is a way to make more accurate measurements,” he said.

Cober hopes the research means emissions can be estimated more accurately in the future, perhaps with industry players doing their own airborne readings. [Industry’s been caught with their pants down, and one of the govt researchers who exposed those downed pants wants to put the guilty in charge of gathering “more accurate” data? How insane and corrupt is that?]

“It is a game changer,” he said. “Certainly we’re very excited about it.” [Emphasis added]

Using an airplane to measure volatile organic compounds from oil sands surface mining facilities by Bob Yirka, April 25, 2017,

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Canada has found that using an airplane to carry emissions reading hardware over mining facilities offers a better way to measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being pumped into the atmosphere than methods currently in use. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes what they found when they used their flying emissions reading lab over a real oil sands surface mining facility and why they believe similar approaches should be used for other facilities around the world.

As difficult as it may be to believe, governmental agencies in the U.S. and Canada both rely on self-reporting by oil companies to determine if such companies are complying with federal regulations when making policy regarding reversing the impact of global warming. As the researchers note, such data is typically obtained by installing monitoring devices on smokestacks or other obvious sources of emissions—but they do not measure emissions from leaks and other operational areas—instead they use math, extrapolating data from other substance emissions to make estimates of VOC emissions. But as the researchers also note, to date, the means by which oil companies come up with their data has not been tested. In this new effort, the research team sought to do just that by installing air monitoring equipment on an airplane and then flying over a mining facility and taking air samples, testing them, and then comparing what they found with statistics given by the oil company. …


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