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Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The oil sands account for 9.8 per cent of Canada's GHG emissions and about 0.16 per cent of global GHG 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 or heavy oil product. This then translates into higher greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) for our operation. However, by focusing on improving reliability and energy efficiency throughout our operation, we can achieve measurable reductions in our GHGs per barrel.

An executive-led steering committee oversees Syncrude’s climate change strategy and coordinates all projects and initiatives related to GHG emissions reductions. Our focus is on both reliability improvement as well as the development and implementation of new technologies or processes into our operation.

Over the last three years, GHG emissions from Syncrude have remained relatively flat at around 11 million tonnes, or 0.11 tonnes CO2-equivalent per barrel, as reported to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

For a complete GHG performance overview, please visit our Sustainability Report.

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

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

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).