We will responsibly manage our operations and implement new processes and technologies to help maintain the region’s good air quality.
Flaring 80% less
than previous three-year average.
26 odour incidents attributed to
Participating in efforts
to improve air quality and reduce odours in the region.
We are committed to protecting air quality in the region by staying within the emissions limits of our operating license. If we are aware of a plant upset that could cause odours or temporarily elevate emissions from our operation, our protocol is to inform local stakeholder communities of the situation and our efforts to resolve the issue.
Emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) have decreased significantly over the last few years due to the successful operation of the $1.6 billion emissions reduction units. This trend continued in 2016, with the plant shutdown in May and June during the regional wildfire also a contributing factor. Increased reliability and stable operations throughout the rest of the year after restart contributed to lower emissions per barrel.
Flaring was significantly less in 2016 with an 80 per cent reduction from the previous three-year average.
The installation of higher-tier engines in medium-duty support equipment has contributed to declining emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) over the last number of years. Emissions in 2016 were again lower compared to previous years, partially due to the plant shutdown in May and June.
Our primary goals with respect to minimizing NOX emissions are to move the maximum volume of material while consuming the least amount of fuel, and to have engines that continue to reduce emissions per litre of fuel consumed. This is achieved through operational best practices as well as capital turnover and the purchase of new haul trucks when equipment reaches end-of-life. We also focus on fuel quality, engine selection, operating and maintenance practices, mine plan efficiency and knowledge sharing activities.
To reduce VOCs and fugitive emissions, we conduct annual inspections on our operating units to identify leaks and ensure timely repair. As well, in 2014, the Government of Alberta set out standard procedures for quantifying fugitive emissions from mine faces and tailings ponds, and encouraged these procedures to also be used in sampling for other air quality indicators, such as VOCs. As a result, the accuracy of emissions measurement has improved and studies are underway to identify potential reduction strategies.
Regional air quality is monitored independently by the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA). Headquartered in Fort McMurray, this multi-stakeholder association operates the most integrated and intensive air and terrestrial monitoring program in any one area in Canada, with 21 air monitoring stations, 32 passive monitoring stations and five portable stations throughout the region.
The association is comprised of 40 members representing Aboriginal communities, government, industry operators and environmental non-government organizations. A senior Syncrude manager is the current president of its governance committee.
WBEA informs Syncrude immediately of any ambient air exceedences recorded at their stations located near our operations. This triggers a site-wide investigation into possible sources that may be contributing to elevated readings. If one is identified, procedures are implemented to minimize air quality impacts, which can include reducing production rates. A follow-up report is typically submitted to the Alberta Energy Regulator within seven days.
In 2016, WBEA registered 130 exceedences at its air monitoring stations, of which 12 indicated Syncrude operations may have been a source, based on meteorological conditions and plant performance. Approximately one-fifth of total exceedences were related to the May wildfire.
WBEA also coordinates regional terrestrial and forest health monitoring. This has included coordinating a berry monitoring project with Elders of the Fort McKay First Nation. Further information, overviews of projects and study results can be found on the WBEA website.
In the event of an operational upset or scheduled maintenance that could cause odours or affect air quality, we will notify impacted communities. As well, local stakeholders can report odour concerns through the 24-hour Alberta Energy and Environmental Response hotline at 1-800-222-6514. Government authorities then notify local industrial operators of the complaint and require them to assess their operations for possible sources of odours and take remediating action. In 2016, there were 26 odour complaints in the region attributed to Syncrude’s operation.
In response to ongoing local stakeholder concerns, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and Alberta Department of Health worked with the local community of Fort McKay and industry to study odours in the region. A 2016 report outlined 17 recommendations, including:
Syncrude is working with all parties to address the recommendations.
|Ozone-depleting substances (kg CFC11 equivalent per year)||1,332||0||0||0||0|
|Sulphur dioxide (thousand tonnes per year)||72.97||63.13||25.43||27.95||22.46|
|Sulphur dioxide emission intensity (kg per m3 production)||4.34||4.02||1.67||1.91||1.41|
|Sulphur dioxide emission intensity (tonnes per thousand barrels production)||0.68||0.63||0.27||0.30||0.22|
|Nitrogen oxides (thousand tonnes per year)||27.67||26.11||26.73||24.39||20.81|
|Nitrogen oxides emission intensity (kg per m3 production)||1.66||1.67||1.78||1.67||1.31|
|Nitrogen oxides emission intensity (tonnes per thousand barrels production)||0.26||0.27||0.28||0.27||0.21|
|Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)1 (thousand tonnes per year)||12.46||31.85||33.15||22.94||12.77|
|Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)1 (kg per m3 production)||0.74||2.03||2.18||1.57||0.80|
|Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)1 (tonnes per thousand barrels production)||0.12||0.32||0.35||0.25||0.13|
|PM - Total particulate matter (tonnes per year)||13,929||14,052||18,067||17,805||20,974|
|PM10 - Particulate matter <= 10 microns (tonnes per year)||4,868||5,124||6,633||5,649||6,507|
|PM2.5 - Particulate matter <= 2.5 microns (tonnes per year)||972||1,096||1,391||924||1,022|
|Sour gas diverting (tonnes per day SO2)||0.70||0.70||1.11||0.05||1.11|
|Flaring (emergency and non-emergency) (million standard m3)||136.40||120.80||222.79||1,411.69||248.17|
|Flaring Intensity (emergency and non-emergency) (m3 per m3 production)||8.12||7.69||14.66||96.593||15.59|
|Diverter stack usage (hours per year)||90.79||97.70||268.70||20.79||207.60||<292|
|Sour gas flaring (tonnes per day SO2)||3.90||7.40||8.23||21.19||3.76||<5|
|Main stack sulphur dioxide (hours greater than 16.4 tonnes per hour)||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|Main stack sulphur dioxide (90-day rolling average >245 tonnes)||0.00||0||0||0||0||0|
|Main stack nitrogen oxides (# hours > 1.5 tonnes per hour)||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Main stack opacity (# hours > 40%)||4||0||656||5||8||<5|
|Ambient air exceedences H2S hourly (#)||14||1||11||23||11||0|
|Ambient air exceedences H2S 24-hour period (#)||1||0||1||3||1||0|
|Ambient air exceedences SO2 hourly (#)||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ambient air exceedences SO2 24-hour period (#)||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Odour incidents (# attributed to Syncrude)||3||6||3||7||26||0|