EDMONTON—An organization in Alberta is challenging the provincial government’s ownership of coalbed methane (CBM), a natural gas found in coal seams.
The United Landowners of Alberta (ULA) says the gas is a renewable resource produced by subsurface microorganisms in real time, and as such does not fall within the province’s ownership of mines and minerals.
“Coalbed methane has been renamed by the landowners of the province to RBG: renewable biogenic gas. The reason why is that it’s made in real time every day as we speak,” says ULA spokesperson Don Bester.
“We’re saying it’s the same as wind energy which is not in control of the province. Same thing with solar energy, you cannot claim ownership, you’re not granted those rights under the Constitution of Canada,” says Bester.
ULA is an umbrella organization for a number of surface rights groups in Alberta. The group held its first public information meeting earlier this month in Taber through which it also hoped to attract more members
A news release by the organization says that their argument regarding the source of the gas is supported by “scientific evidence and proven Technical Research.”
CBM development has attracted more attention with recent increases in natural gas prices as well as advancements in technology. In Alberta, the resource is found most commonly in central and southern regions of the province.
According to a study by the Alberta Geological Survey, the coalbed resource in Alberta could hold about 500 trillion cubic feet of gas; however, there is not enough information to estimate how much of it is recoverable.
Jason Chance, a spokesperson for Alberta Energy, says the province treats CBM as natural gas, and therefore the mineral rights are owned by the province on behalf of all Albertans.
“The benefits of energy development belong to all Albertans and that includes the jobs, the economic development, and the royalties which are invested into provincial programs on behalf of all Albertans,” Chance says.
Chance dismisses ULA’s claim that CBM is a renewable resource like wind and solar energy.
“[CBM] takes hundreds and thousands of years to be produced and our position is whether that natural gas is recurring in conventional pools or in coal seams, it is not a renewable resource such as wind or solar energy,” he says.
“If you extend it as logic, you could suggest that all oil and gas is renewable because over an extended period of time that might be true,” he says.
He also explains that CBM is an emerging source of energy and will become an “expanding contributor” to Alberta’s natural gas industry, making it an important resource for the people of the province.
ULA plans to take the provincial government to court to argue that the development of CBM should be under the control of landowners. .
“We’re taking the provincial government to court, that they have illegally taken ownership of coalbed methane, when it is a renewable resource,” says Bester.
“We’ve got lawyers to start doing the class action lawsuit.”
Additional reporting by Diana Hubert.