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Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The oil sands industry as a whole accounts for 1/630th of global greenhouse gas emissions.

As a producer of upgraded, high quality, light low-sulphur crude oil, we use more energy in our process than if we only produced a bitumen product. This then translates into higher greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). However, by focusing on improving our energy efficiency throughout our operation, we can achieve measurable reductions in our GHGs per barrel.

In 2012, Syncrude’s GHGs totalled 10.7 million tonnes, or about 0.101 tonnes of CO2e per barrel. The oil sands industry as a whole accounts for 7.8% of Canada’s GHGs and 1/630th of global emissions.

Global GHG Emissions (%)

70% to 80% of GHG emissions from a barrel of oil comes from consumption

Oil sands emissions comparison

An independent study by IHS CERA estimates the well-to-wheels life-cycle GHG emissions of crude oil from the oil sands are in the same range as those of the other crude oil products refined in the United States. The studies found that direct greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands are similar to other heavy oils and about six percent higher than emissions from the U.S. crude supply average. About 20 to 30 percent of GHG emissions from a barrel of oil are created during the production, refining and transportation to market of the product while 70 to 80 percent comes from consumption.

Crude Oil Well-to-Wheels Life-Cycle GHG Emissions

Source: IHS CERA

*Assumes 55 percent of exports to the United States are dilbit blends and 45 percent are SCO (source: NEB 2009 oil sands exports).
**Steam injection is used for projection.
***Assumes SOR of 3.35.
12 percent loss of volume upgrading bitumen to SCO.
All SAGD crude production cases assume an SOR of 3.
All oil sands cases marked "Dilbit" assume that the diluent is consumed in the refinery, with no recycle of diluents back to Alberta, and only 70 percent of the barrel is from oil sands


As an integrated mining and bitumen upgrading operation, Syncrude's greenhouse gas emissions profile most closely correlates to Mining SCO on the above chart.

Alberta was the first jurisdiction in North America to implement intensity targets for Large Final Emitters of carbon dioxide

Alberta GHG regulation

The Alberta Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, established in 2007, set aggressive intensity targets for Large Final Emitters of carbon dioxide. In fact, Alberta was the first jurisdiction in North America to implement such regulation. It requires a reduction in per barrel emissions of greenhouse gases by 12 percent from the average of per barrel emissions between 2003 and 2005. If we do not meet this target in any reporting year, we must purchase offset credits or pay into a government fund dedicated to the research and development of emissions reduction technology. Both these options are assessed at $15 per tonne of CO2 that is in excess of reduction targets.

Syncrude did not meet the reduction target for 2012 and purchased $14 million in Government of Alberta Technology Fund Units.