Developing Canada's oil sands is a carbon-intensive business. That means we must constantly look for better ways to manage and mitigate our GHG emissions. Here's a snapshot of Suncor's successes in 2008—and the challenges that remain as we move forward.
- Launched corporate-wide operational excellence initiatives. All of Suncor's business units were tasked with achieving safety, reliability and environmental performance improvements. By the first quarter of 2009, we saw more reliable production rates at our oil sands facilities that brought us closer to operational capacity. As our plant runs closer to peak efficiency, we expect to realize reductions in GHG emissions intensity.
- Invested in technology and innovation. Working with industry partners and governments, Suncor helped to promote and advance new emissions-reducing technologies, including carbon capture and storage.
- Maintained commitment to renewable energy. Despite reduced net earnings due to a sharp decline in commodity prices for our core oil sands products, Suncor maintained its commitment to developing renewable sources of energy, including wind power and biofuels, as an integral part of our current and future business plan.
- Met new regulatory obligations. In 2007, the Alberta government introduced mandatory caps for large GHG emitters—the first regulation of its kind in North America. Suncor has since complied with Alberta's reporting requirements through a combination of credits from our wind power projects and purchases of additional third-party offsets.
- Formed GHG strategy team. In 2009, Suncor established a team to review its current GHG strategy and align it with developing policy changes. This team will identify which solutions Suncor would implement first, as well as establish targets to meet the forthcoming climate change policy.
- Developed environmental excellence planning process. Suncor has integrated a business planning process that will be utilized to review and identify the best environmental projects that will help to meet our long-term goals. This resource planning tool will be utilized in the 2010 business plan.
- Dealing with absolute GHG emissions. As production grows, absolute emissions will continue to grow. This poses a serious challenge—one that is unlikely to be addressed through energy efficiency measures alone. Alberta's Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund, designed to promote emissions-reducing research and technology, will be part of the solution.
- The need for further public policy clarity. It remains difficult to assess many GHG reduction opportunities, and the required capital investments, until there is clarity in the climate change policies Canada and the United States intend to pursue. We also need to see greater harmonization across jurisdictions to avoid overlap and inefficiencies.
- The high cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The latest cost estimates for implementing CCS indicate it is not a cost-effective option for most oil sands operations at this time. Suncor will continue to work with industry and government to improve the commercial viability of this technology.
- Uncertainty over carbon life-cycle intensity assessments. Despite considerable study, there are not yet any definitive assessments comparing the carbon intensity of oil sands crude and conventional crude over the full “wells-to-wheels” life cycle. While we are encouraged by some findings that suggest the life cycle carbon intensity may not be that different, more study is required.