Calgary

Seismic lines from oil and gas exploration an uncounted greenhouse gas source: study

University researchers say seismic lines used in energy exploration increase emissions of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.

Could raise estimates of land use emissions by 7 per cent

An old seismic line cuts through northern Alberta. (Cenovus)

University researchers say seismic lines used in energy exploration increase emissions of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.

In a paper released today, Greg McDermid of the University of Calgary says seismic lines release enough methane to increase estimates of emissions caused by land use by at least seven per cent.

McDermid says methane is released when machinery cutting such lines through peatlands compacts the soil and removes vegetation.

That raises the water table, causing an increase in methane — a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more potent that carbon dioxide.

McDermid says his research also found far more seismic lines than previously thought.

Using high-resolution satellite photos, he and his colleagues discovered at least 345,000 kilometres of the lines and trails over Alberta peatlands — almost twice as many as in other public datasets.

McDermid says many energy companies are working hard on the problem but there's a lot of work to do.

And he says researchers have just started understanding how to restore seismic lines on the landscape.

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