Climate Change

Recognizing that addressing climate change is important to the future of our industry and country, we aim to minimize GHGs through improvements in energy efficiency, process reliability, and reduced flaring and venting.

Our Performance

Climate Change Graphic 3

Energy intensity

better than target at 8.15 gigajoules per barrel.

Greenhouse gas emissions intensity remains

0.11 tonnes per barrel.

Climate Change Graphic 1
Climate Change Graphic 2

Executive-led steering committee established

to guide ongoing corporate climate change strategy.

Our Approach

As a large producer of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada, Syncrude recognizes that addressing climate change is important to the future of our industry and country. In this respect, we believe every sector has a role to play. In our own operations, we aim to minimize GHGs through improvements in energy efficiency, process reliability, and reduced flaring and venting. We also contribute toward studies on improving quantification methods and engage on this issue through industry associations as well as directly with provincial and federal governments.

In 2016, an executive-led steering committee was established to oversee Syncrude’s climate change strategy and coordinate all projects and initiatives related to GHG emissions reductions. This committee will direct a comprehensive review of opportunities for greater energy efficiency and emissions mitigation and/or reduction. The focus will be on both reliability improvement as well as the development and implementation of new technologies or processes into our operation.

As a member of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), Syncrude participates in the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) program and reports annually on our energy and GHG emissions management system. An external review occurs every three years. The third-party review for 2016 verified our management and reporting processes as being very strong and rated Syncrude with Level AAA. Targets for the last three out of four years were not met, resulting in a Level A rating for performance.

Full Cycle GHG Emissions Oil Sands and U.S. Refined Crudes

Full Cycle GHG Emissions Oil Sands and U.S. Refined Crudes

Oil sands crude has similar CO2 emissions to other heavy oils. Synthetic crude oil from mining operations such as Syncrude are nine per cent more intensive than the average U.S. barrel refined in the United States on a well-to-wheels basis. Source: IHS Energy.

GHG Management and Energy Efficiency Performance

Greenhouse gas emissions from Syncrude in 2016 remained relatively flat at 11.22 million tonnes, or 0.11 tonnes CO2-equivalent per barrel. We consumed approximately 8.15 gigajoules of energy per barrel, which was about seven per cent more efficient than our target of 8.78 gigajoules.

Energy conservation is core to our business. In fact, extensive cogeneration processes are incorporated throughout our operation in order to recover waste heat for reuse. As a result, we do not use all the energy we produce and export excess electricity, included in our total GHG emissions calculation, to the Alberta grid. We exported approximately 93,000 Megawatt hours of electricity in 2016, enough to power 13,000 Alberta households for a year.

Increased energy efficiency correlates directly to lower GHG emissions, and it also improves financial outcomes. As we continue to pursue the next generation of oil sands technologies and reliability improvements, energy efficiency remains a key factor when evaluating capital and maintenance projects. In fact, when evaluating capital spending, projects that have significant energy efficiency advantages are considered at lower hurdle rates than other investments.

Syncrude has fully adapted and implemented two ExxonMobil-developed operations management systems – the Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) and the Global Reliability System (GRS) – to improve safety, reliability and environmental performance at our operations. In addition, we are implementing aspects of ExxonMobil’s Global Energy Management System (GEMS), which will help to identify energy-saving opportunities throughout the operation. Current plans are focused on improving steam management, naphtha and bitumen recovery, fuel management, heat transfer and energy real-time optimization.

Energy Efficiency

energy intensity (million BTUs per barrel)

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

GHGs (tonnes CO2e per barrel produced)

Note: As reported to Environment and Climate Change Canada. Emission calculations for the purpose of provincial and federal regulatory reporting will differ, as certain sources of emissions are excluded.

Meeting Provincial Carbon Regulations

Alberta is one of the few jurisdictions in North America that has a price on carbon and a regulated carbon offset market. Between 2007 and 2016, the Alberta Specified Gas Emitters Regulation set intensity targets for Large Final Emitters of carbon dioxide. It required operations such as Syncrude to reduce per barrel emissions of GHGs by 12 per cent from the average of per barrel emissions between 2003 and 2005. In any reporting year Syncrude did not meet this target, either the purchase of offset credits or payment into the Alberta Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund (now Emissions Reduction Alberta), which invests in research and technology development, was required at an assessed cost of $15 per tonne of CO2. Syncrude did not meet the target for 2016 and contributed $9.3 million into the Fund.

The Government of Alberta introduced changes to the regulation starting in 2017 which will see a shift to an output-based allocation (OBA) approach under which oil sands GHG emissions will be limited to an annual maximum of 100 megatonnes by 2030. A price of $30 per tonne on carbon will be applied based on results compared to a performance benchmark of high performing facilities.

Development of the OBA system is in progress through the Alberta Climate Change Office (ACCO) and Syncrude is participating in consultations through the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

Alberta Carbon Payments

Note: Includes fund credit purchases paid to the Government of Alberta under the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER).

Collaborative Research Solutions

Through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), we are collaborating on research to assess how water, energy and carbon are stored and travel within a reclaimed landscape as compared to natural undisturbed areas. This includes support of the Hydrology, Ecology and Disturbance (HEAD) program, a multi-year and multi-university research program focused on the role of climate on the landscape. Other COSIA partners are investigating the use of satellite technology to provide more accurate and frequent measurements of fugitive GHG emissions from tailings ponds and mine faces. Learnings will be shared with all COSIA members.

Engagement and Consultation

In addition to our involvement in discussions regarding the development of Alberta’s output-based allocation system on carbon pricing, we also provided input into Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan and participated in the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) Climate Change Task Force. This task force led the development of MAC’s Principles for Climate Change Policy Design, which supports establishing a broad-based carbon price that is applicable to all sectors of the economy.

Syncrude, through MAC, also joined over 60 business and civil society leaders in outlining specific actions Canada could adopt towards meeting the country’s climate change commitments and encouraging clean growth. An open letter, issued prior to the First Ministers meeting in December, called for putting a rising price on carbon and using the revenues to advance climate and competitiveness goals, setting world class standards for energy efficiency, making a major investment in clean infrastructure, and accelerating clean innovation across the economy.

Energy Use & Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Energy Use

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Total energy consumption (million GJ1) 141.3 138.4 139.2 137.0 129.8
Energy intensity (GJ per cubic metre produced) 8.49 8.71 9.22 9.14 8.15
Energy intensity reduction (% as compared to 1990) 6.3 4.8 1.0 1.6 8.8
EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested)2 4.4 4.3 4.0 4.1 4.6

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
GHGs3,6 (million tonnes) 12.37 12.46 11.90 11.47 11.22
GHGs4,5,6 (million tonnes) 10.67 10.91 10.37 9.97 9.49
GHGs4,5,6 (tonnes CO2e per barrel produced) 0.10 0.11 0.11 0.11 0.11
GHGs4,5,6 (tonnes CO2e per cubic metre produced) 0.63 0.69 0.68 0.68 0.60
Alberta Carbon Payments7 ($ million) 14.36 26.73 19.90 19.73 9.30

1 Total energy consumption includes natural gas, internally produced fuels, and purchased/sold energy such as electricity and diesel. It is not adjusted for inventory increases or decreases.
2 Ratio of million BTUs of crude oil product per million BTUs of energy consumed.
3 As reported to Environment Canada. Emission calculations for the purpose of provincial and federal regulatory reporting will differ, as certain sources of emissions are excluded.
4 CO2-equivalent emissions reported include all Syncrude sources (net of industrial process, biomass, and waste and wastewater emissions) as reported to the Government of Alberta under the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER).
5 Syncrude’s GHG emission estimates were verified by Conestoga-Rovers & Associates to satisfy the ‘Third party Review’ required by the SGER.
6 Syncrude is a large producer of electricity and is a net exporter to the Alberta grid. Syncrude exported 93,000 Megawatt hours of electricity in 2016. Emissions from electrical power generation are included in the Syncrude total and are part of the intensity calculated on a per-barrel produced basis.
7 Includes fund credit purchases paid to the Government of Alberta under the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER).