Suncor is committed to maintaining and improving air quality near our operations. Our key focus areas include the release of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which affect air quality, as well as the release of hydrogen sulphide concentrations that can produce strong odours.
Corporate-wide SO2 emissions intensity remained relatively steady in 2007 and 2008, though reliability issues hampered performance at our oil sands operations.
SO2 emissions in our natural gas division were down 56% from 2006 after we eliminated SO2 and CO2 emissions from our South Rosevear gas plant by injecting the gases underground at a nearby well site. Our Commerce City refinery continued to record significant reductions in SO2 emissions intensity due in part the installation of improved SO2 controls.
SO2 emissions intensity was up in our oil sands business because of operational issues. In 2007, our flue gas desulphurization system performed below expectations. Improvements were made and the system performed well in 2008.
But in 2008, we experienced reliability issues with the sulphur recovery units used in our upgrader, which caused us to flare increased amounts of sulphur compounds. This issue was addressed and, by the first quarter of 2009, SO2 emissions were below our internal targets and well below regulatory limits.
NOx emissions intensity at our natural gas and refining and marketing Canada operations continued to decline. Oil sands emissions intensity increased slightly compared to 2007.
In 2007, Suncor faced regulatory control orders due to excessive H2S emissions at both our oil sands base plant and Firebag in situ facility. In both instances, the emissions issues were related to air quality, not the health and safety of personnel at the site. Emissions were, and continued to be, within Alberta Occupational Health and Safety limits.
Suncor took extensive actions to address the environmental shortfalls at our oil sands operations and to bring our H2S emissions back into compliance. These measures are described in detail in the Operational Issues section of this report.
Air Quality Monitoring
Suncor supports a regional, multi-stakeholder approach to managing air quality through our membership in the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA). This community-based organization monitors and reports air quality in the oil sands region around the clock. In 2007, air quality was rated good—the best possible rating—98% of the time.
Suncor is also a founding member of the Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA), an Alberta-based, multi-stakeholder policy forum that brings together representatives from industry, government and non-profit organizations to develop recommendations for managing air quality issues. In 2008, CASA launched a public consultation process to help develop a renewed Clear Air Strategy for Alberta.