Climate change action plan - Suncor's 2013 Report on Sustainability

Climate change action - Suncor's 2013 Report on Sustainability

Climate change action plan - Suncor's 2013 Report on Sustainability

Climate change action plan - Suncor's 2013 Report on Sustainability

View the latest Report on Sustainability

Climate change action plan

Suncor recognized early on that climate change would be an important issue for our company and our stakeholders. That's why we introduced a seven-point action plan in 1997.

Guided by this plan, we have made substantial progress in reducing the overall carbon intensity of our operations (i.e., the amount of carbon emitted for each barrel or cubic metre of oil produced).

We've also made significant investments in renewable energy and in research on potential long-term technology solutions to deal with increases in absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with industry growth.

Read more about renewable energy

While much has changed over the years, our climate change strategy remains a reliable guide for an era when there is increased focus on the need for collaboration, investment in emissions-reducing technologies and constructive public policy development — all key elements of our original plan.

Read more about our public policy participation.

Below is a summary of actions Suncor continued to take in 2012 on our seven-point action plan to better manage our GHG emissions and constructively address the climate change challenge.

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1. Manage our own emissions

  • Both absolute emissions and emissions intensity increased in 2012, mainly due to significant new production from the ramp up of Firebag 3 and the commissioning of Firebag 4. When an in situ plant is commissioned, steaming occurs for a time period before full oil production rates are reached. As a result, initial emissions intensity can be quite high. As production ramps up, it is expected that intensity should decline. See 2012 GHG Performance
  • Going forward, we believe our most effective near-term opportunity for reducing our GHG emissions and emissions intensity is through improved energy efficiency and plant reliability. We also continue to invest in longer term technologies that hold the potential of significantly reducing emissions intensity and ultimately bending the curve on absolute emissions growth.
  • In 2012 Suncor continued to implement a comprehensive Energy Management System (EMS) across our operations, a process we expect to complete by the end of 2014. We expect EMS to help us reach our target of a corporate-wide 10% improvement in energy efficiency by 2015 (as compared to 2007). The system includes a set of tools, metrics and accountabilities to track energy use and find improvement opportunities.
  • In 2012, Suncor and Jacobs Consultancy released a report, A Greenhouse Gas Reduction Roadmap for Oil Sands, which they prepared for the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC). Using Suncor’s in situ, mining, extraction and upgrading facilities as a basis for evaluation, the report identified, assessed and quantified potential energy efficiency and GHG reduction opportunities. The magnitude and cost effectiveness of greenhouse gas mitigation alternatives were compared, and a roadmap developed to assess the greenhouse gas footprint of other similar facilities and identify future technology opportunities (See Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The Path Forward).

2. Develop renewable sources of energy

  • Suncor continued to pursue its ‘parallel path’ for energy development — building today's oil sands, offshore oil and natural gas resources while also bringing along new sources of energy for tomorrow. Suncor operates Canada’s largest ethanol production plant, and we are currently involved in six wind farm operations. Subject to regulatory approval, we have two additional wind power projects expected to commence in 2015. It is estimated that the total renewable energy portfolio in which Suncor invests currently displaces about one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year — the equivalent of the tailpipe emissions of about 225,000 cars. Read more about renewable energy
  • To support the efforts of the oil and gas industry in the renewables sector, Suncor participated in a Pembina Institute study with a group of leading companies in 2012 to review the history of renewables activity, share experiences, extract opportunities, identify barriers and enablers, and draw some conclusions for how to move this area forward if and where appropriate.

3. Invest in environmental and economic research

  • Suncor continued to play a leading role in 2012 in developing long-term alternative bitumen extraction technologies that could result in significantly reducing the GHG emissions intensity of oil sands production. Suncor also continued to work through organizations like the Integrated CO2 Network (ICO2N), Carbon Management Canada (CMC) and the CO2 Capture Project (CCP) to achieve further carbon intensity reductions and advance potential long-term climate change solutions, including carbon capture and storage (CCS). Among other initiatives, Suncor is leading a collaborative research and development project that could improve the prospects for implementing CCS at in situ extraction sites. See technology development for further details.
  • In 2012, Suncor co-founded Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), an alliance of 14 companies representing 90 per cent of oil sands production. COSIA is committed to collaborative action to accelerate improvements in environmental performance in four key areas, including greenhouse gases. COSIA will build on the work of the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative (OSLI) and other collaborative networks to share knowledge and expertise about new technologies and innovation. In terms of developing potential high-impact emissions-reducing solutions, COSIA is bringing together a broader range of ideas and resources and an increased capacity for implementing new approaches in a structured and disciplined way. Visit the COSIA website for details

4. Use domestic and international offsets

  • Our operating wind farms continued to generate GHG offset credits.
    • In Alberta, offset credits accrue to Suncor based on the Wind-Powered Electricity Systems Offset Protocol in the Offset Credit System. In other jurisdictions where Suncor operates, the credits or environmental attributes accrue to the Crown utilities that purchase power. The offset credits generated at our Alberta wind farms were used by Suncor's oil sands facilities to help comply with the Alberta Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER). Read more about our wind farms
  • Suncor continues to be involved in a number of initiatives on emissions trading. Suncor has invested in the Greenhouse Gas Credits Aggregation Pool (GG-CAP) created by NatSource to provide buyers with high-quality GHG emission reductions that can be applied against their GHG emissions liabilities. Similar to a mutual fund, the pool aggregates individual buyers’ demand and mitigates risk by acquiring a portfolio of instruments. Learn more about NatSource. Suncor also made a 10-year commitment to the Rio Bravo Carbon Sequestration Project in Belize. The project involves the conservation and sustainable management of more than 51,000 acres of forest in northwest Belize. It is estimated that the project will sequester significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) over 40 years by preventing deforestation and instituting sustainable forest management.

    In 2011, part of this project was certified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) as a United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project. The balance, in which Suncor has an interest, suffered hurricane damage in 2010 and likely will not be certified until an assessment can be made of the long-term impacts. The project is providing valuable learning to the forestry community, offset developers and policy-makers on issues such as permanence and leakage, and demonstrates how saving forests is part of the solution to climate change.

  • Suncor is also an active member of the Industry Provincial Offsets Group, which is dedicated to the design of a domestic offset system that ensures environmental integrity first and foremost, but also has the necessary flexibility for business solutions that leverage actions across the entire Canadian economy.

5. Collaborate on policy development

Suncor continued to consult with provincial, state and federal governments on energy and climate change policy.

When it comes to climate change regulations, Suncor continues to press for:

  • clarity and certainty — our investors want to know what the rules are, and be assured of their longevity, given that our major projects require significant capital up front and are operational for decades
  • fairness (nationally and internationally) so no one industry or region is unfairly targeted or punished
  • flexibility in compliance mechanisms, so that companies can take the action that is the most cost-effective and appropriate considering the specifics of their operation
  • harmonization that occurs across jurisdictions to avoid overlap and inefficiencies, particularly across the integrated North American energy market

Suncor views GHG emissions trading and other carbon pricing mechanisms as useful tools. But we also believe that, to be effective, climate change policy must encourage the development and deployment of new technologies that will transform how we produce and use energy. Cap-and-trade or carbon pricing policies alone will not accomplish this; there needs to be a willingness to direct industry and public funds toward innovation as well. Read more about public policy participation

6. Educate employees and the public

Energy literacy is a necessary foundation for truly innovative and practical solutions to providing energy. Suncor continues to work with leading organizations to promote energy literacy.

  • In 2012, Suncor continued to sponsor Pollution Probe’s efforts to advance energy literacy and a systems-based approach to thinking about energy. Suncor also continued to sponsor Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow (QUEST), an organization that seeks to foster an integrated, community-based approach to resolving energy and environmental challenges.
  • Suncor is supporting an initiative by The Pembina Institute, to build and launch a powerful web-based education platform to motivate and enable young people to be more fully engaged in learning about and being active citizens in energy issues and solutions. Read more about the COOL 2.0 program.
  • Our employees continued to take individual accountability for reducing waste and improving energy efficiency as part of our employee engagement initiative. This initiative extends from lunchtime sessions on energy conservation to recognizing employees for energy efficiency and GHG reduction projects through the Suncor President's Operational Excellence Awards.

Read more about community investment

7. Measure and report our progress

  • In March 2013, Suncor filed its fourth annual GHG compliance report for our Alberta operations with the Alberta government in compliance with the Specific Gas Emitters Regulations (SGER). We are also in compliance with the European Union Emission Trading System (EU ETS); Suncor continues to annually report to Environment Canada for all our facilities in Canada that emit over 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), as well as to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for our Denver facility, and to the provincial jurisdictions of Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia in compliance with their reporting requirements. We also continue to report our overall progress on managing GHG emissions to all stakeholders through our Report on Sustainability and the Carbon Disclosure Project. Learn more about EU ETS
  • For business planning purposes, Suncor models the emissions associated with all of our future production, including growth projects, in order to assess our risks and identify opportunities associated with existing and anticipated carbon regulatory regimes. Our base case future carbon price assumption takes into account the best information we have from carbon markets and developing public policy. Our base scenario includes a carbon price that starts at $15 per tonne and rises to about $50 per tonne. Our base case assumes that by 2025, the carbon price applies to an increasing percentage of our emissions.