Suncor continues its commitment to manage the air quality near our operations. Our key focus areas for air emissions management include:
- air quality monitoring
- sulphur dioxide (SO2)
- nitrogen oxides (NOx)
- volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Overall, total reported emissions to air in 2012 decreased by almost 8.7% compared to 2011 levels. This was primarily due to a significant reduction in key emissions from our Refining & Marketing business unit.
Emissions were also reduced as a result of:
- an extended turnaround at the Suncor-operated Terra Nova floating production ,storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel. The turnaround included regular maintenance and upgrades
- improved performance from our Oil Sands and Exploration & Production business units
Over the 2012 reporting year, several historic initiatives have helped reduce emissions on a site-by-site basis.
- The Montreal refinery was able to decrease air emissions through the optimization of their stack sampling procedure at a key source on site. Less flaring and better reliability at our other refineries also resulted in significantly lower total air emissions
- A concentrated effort by Suncor to reduce emergency flaring and the number of plant upsets at our Oil Sands mining facility. This resulted in a reduction of air emissions from flaring events
Air quality monitoring
As a member of the Alberta-based Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA), Suncor supports a regional, multi-stakeholder approach to managing air quality.
Suncor also supports the:
These community-based organizations monitor and report air quality around the clock.
Suncor is a founding member of the Alberta Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA), an Alberta-based, multi-stakeholder policy forum that makes recommendations for managing air quality issues. CASA is comprised of representatives from industry, government and non-profit organizations.
In February 2012, the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta launched the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring. The plan, which will continue to be phased in over the next two years, will build upon the existing capacity and contribute to an improved understanding of the long-term cumulative effects of oil sands development.
By the time the three-year plan is fully implemented in 2015:
- the number of sampling sites will be higher and over a larger area
- the number and types of parameters being sampled will increase
- the frequency of sampling will increase
- the methodologies for monitoring both air and water will be improved
- an integrated, open data management program will be created
The monitoring program will undergo an external expert peer review after the third year of implementation and at five-year intervals thereafter. The data from the monitoring program and the methodology used to produce it will be made public on an ongoing basis.
Suncor strongly supports the measures outlined in the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan and is working with governments, industry peers and other stakeholders to ensure these additional monitoring measures are implemented effectively and efficiently as we pursue the shared goal of minimizing the impact of oil sands development on regional air quality.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions directly affect air quality.
Overall, Suncor-wide absolute SO2 emissions and emissions intensity decreased in 2012. Absolute SO2 emissions decreased by almost 13.3% compared to 2011, and emissions intensity decreased by 13.7%.
The decrease in SO2 emissions in 2012 was primarily due to less flaring and better reliability at our refineries.
Reductions in our SO2 emissions were offset slightly by a small increase in emissions from our In Situ business. This increase in SO2 emissions was primarily due to the addition of new wells at our MacKay River facility. These new wells are still in the preliminary steaming stage and therefore have not yet reached their optimal production capacity. That said, the total SO2 emissions intensity from In Situ decreased due to our Sulphur Recovery Unit (SRU) which was installed at Firebag in 2011. The performance of this unit resulted in an offset to the slight increase in emissions from MacKay River.
Nitrogen oxides (NOX)
Nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions also directly affect air quality.
Suncor-wide absolute NOX emissions and emissions intensity decreased in 2012. Absolute NOX emissions decreased by almost 5.3% compared to 2011, and emissions intensity decreased by 5.8%.
NOX emissions decreased from facility shut-ins due to economics in our Exploration & Production business unit. The decrease in NOX emissions can also be attributed to an extended maintenance and upgrades turnaround at the Terra Nova FPSO.
While absolute NOX emissions at the Terra Nova FPSO decreased by 38.7%, NOX emissions intensity increased. This is due to a decrease in production from the facility of more than 50% in 2012.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can directly, as well as indirectly, affect air quality though synergistic interactions with other substances in the natural environment.
Overall, total VOC emissions decreased/increased by approximately 7.9% from 2011 to 2012.
The decrease in VOC emissions was primarily due to the extended Terra Nova FPSO turnaround.
Slight increases in VOC emissions from all the other Suncor business were primarily due to increased production.