Learn more about Suncor's annual accounting of our GHG emissions

Learn more about Suncor's annual accounting of our GHG emissions

Learn more about Suncor's annual accounting of our GHG emissions

Learn more about Suncor's annual accounting of our GHG emissions

View the latest Report on Sustainability

Suncor employees at the Nikanotee Fen, an environmental reclamation initiative

2015 GHG performance

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Our Report on Sustainability provides an annual accounting of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, both in terms of absolute emissions and emissions intensity. The latter is calculated by using full-year net production and the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) volumes emitted from Suncor-operated facilities.


Production numbers in our 2015 Annual Report are for upstream volumes only, and include our net share of production from non-operated assets as well as operated assets. This differs from production numbers used in our Report on Sustainability to calculate intensity metrics, which includes 100% of the production at Suncor-operated facilities upstream only, and also includes downstream throughput volumes of saleable refined products from our Suncor-operated refineries and lubricants plant. For the purposes of our Report on Sustainability, net corporate production in 2015 was approximately 48.2 million cubic metres (m3), compared to 45.4 million m3 in 2014. The increase in 2015 production reflects increased production from our in situ and oil sands facilities, as 2015 saw an increase in Firebag’s nameplate capacity to 203,000 barrels per day (bbls/d) due to debottlenecking activities, and realizing upgrader utilization of over 90%.

Please note: the sum of the individual facilities production volumes will not equal the reported net corporate production. Inter- and intra-business-unit product transfers (hydrocarbon streams that pass through more than one facility) are removed from the corporate and business unit totals to give the net production. This is done to prevent double-counting of hydrocarbon streams sent for further processing within the company.

  • Individual facility intensities are calculated based on net facility production not including internally produced fuels and consumed volumes.
  • Business unit intensities are calculated using business unit net production. Business unit net production is based on the sum of net facility production from individual facilities within the same business unit minus intra-business-unit intermediate product transfers.
  • Corporate GHG intensity is calculated based on the sum of business unit net production minus inter business unit product transfers.

As reported in our 2015 Annual Report, total upstream production averaged 577,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) through the course of 2015, compared to 534,900 boe/d in 2014. Oil sands production (excluding Syncrude) averaged 433,600 barrels per day (bbls/d) in 2015, compared to 390,900 bbls/d in 2014.

Read the 2015 Annual Report 

Our oil sands base business delivered another record-setting year in 2015, resulting in a 10.5% increase in annual production at oil sands base operations and record synthetic crude oil (SCO) production. These results were achieved primarily due to reliable operations across all oil sands assets, more specifically an upgrader utilization of 91%.

In 2015 the nameplate capacity for Firebag was increased from 180,000 bbls/d to 203,000 bbls/d as a result of cost-effective debottlenecking activities and record Firebag production.  A record low steam-to-oil ratio (SOR) of 2.6 was achieved at Firebag in 2015 primarily due to optimized reservoir management strategies and strong infill well performance.

Overall absolute emissions and emissions intensity

Absolute full-year GHG emissions in 2015 totaled 20.5 million tonnes, compared to 20.5 million tonnes in 2014. GHG emissions remained flat in 2015 as compared to 2014, while production increased by 7%. As a result, using internationally accepted Global Reporting Initiative protocols, our 2015 corporate GHG emissions intensity decreased by 6% as our current operations realized energy efficiency opportunities, record setting production (in oil sands facilities) and increased reliability. 

Using internationally accepted Global Reporting Initiative protocols, our 2015 corporate GHG emissions intensity decreased by 6% as our current operations realized energy efficiency opportunities, record setting production (in oil sands facilities) and increased reliability.  

Upstream intensity decreases were realized primarily at our Firebag in situ facility and oil sands base operations due to increased Firebag production and sustained low SOR as well as increased upgrader utilization.

Downstream, intensity decreases were largely due to improved performance at our Sarnia, Montreal and Commerce City refineries as well as the Mississauga Lubricants plant. This performance was slightly offset by an intensity increase at our Edmonton refinery due to planned maintenance activities in 2015.

Read about the emission factors that went into calculating our 2015 GHG performance

Please note: All numbers included are for large operated facilities and properties only and represent 100% of the direct and indirect emissions at these facilities. Data is not broken down by working interest and does not include non-operated facilities.

GHG emissions (absolute and intensity)

Suncor-wide absolute GHG emissions & GHG emissions intensity

Overall energy use and energy intensity

GHG emissions are closely linked to energy use with approximately 90% of direct GHG emissions being related to the consumption of energy for operations.

Suncor is committed to energy management and continuously improving GHG emissions reductions as part of everyday operational excellence.

In 2015, we continued to work towards our environmental performance goal for energy efficiency that we established seven years ago to achieve a 10% improvement in energy efficiency by the end of 2015. Each of our business units worked to improve their energy efficiency over the course of 2015. Some of the highlights from this past year included:

  • Increased reliability and utilization of our oil sands base plant operations
  • Increase in Firebag’s nameplate capacity due to facility debottlenecking and sustained low steam oil ratio from infill well performance and optimized reservoir management
  • Operational improvements and implementation of various energy efficiency projects at our refineries

Further details on our performance can be found below;

The following energy use and energy intensity graphs show similar year over year trends to the GHG emissions and GHG emissions intensity graphs shown above. One of the key differences, however, is how energy generated as electrical power is treated.

Power generated by our cogeneration facilities (a highly efficient technology used to generate electricity from what would otherwise be waste heat) and wind farms is sold to provincial grids in the regions where facilities are located. This power is converted to an equivalent amount of energy and is deducted from our total energy use since it is sold as a product. Associated GHG emissions reductions are not currently deducted from our total GHG footprint. However, by producing this less GHG intensive electricity and selling to the grid, we are offsetting other forms of power generations (such as coal-fired) and reducing overall provincial GHG emissions associated with power generation.

Please note: All numbers included are for operated facilities and properties only. They represent 100% of the direct and indirect energy use at these facilities. Data is not broken down by working interest and does not include non-operated facilities.

Performance highlights

What follows are highlights and explanations describing the most noteworthy emissions variances at some of our operations. Where emissions were relatively flat or stable, no commentary is offered.

Emissions totals and variances for all operated facilities are available in the performance data section of this report

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Oil Sands

Absolute emissions from our mine and upgrading operations increased slightly by 1.7% in 2015 as compared to 2014 due primarily to increased production, but were slightly offset by lower fugitive emissions measurements.

Emissions intensity decreased by 8% over the same period. The decrease can largely be attributed to improved reliability as well as higher upgrader throughput related to increased supply from Firebag.

Oil Sands GHG emissions absolute and intensity

Oil sands absolute GHG emissions/intensity

Fort Hills

Sanctioned in 2013, the Fort Hills mining project is expected to have a production capacity of 180,000 bbls/day of bitumen. We expect this to add over 3 million tonnes of CO2e to our operated GHG emission profile once it reaches full nameplate capacity. First oil from the project is expected in the fourth quarter of 2017 and 90% of its planned capacity is expected to be reached within 12 months thereafter.

To determine how a change to Alberta’s current greenhouse gas regulation could impact this project, we applied our shadow carbon price. That means, in addition to using the existing penalty of $15/tonne CO2e on 12% of emissions, we also explored various regulatory scenarios. Expected impacts range from $0.10 to $0.50 / bbl for our modeled scenarios, based on our internal shadow carbon price and various levels of stringency / coverage

The impact of higher carbon penalties is just one of many risks that are evaluated as part of project economics.

In Situ

The overall absolute emissions at our in situ operations were relatively flat in 2015 compared to 2014.  The reason emissions remained flat was due primarily to an increase in Firebag’s production which was achieved with a record low SOR.  As a result, this increase in production only slightly increased overall in situ emissions.  In addition, MacKay River’s emissions decreased slightly due to a change in methodology for scope 2 indirect emissions to align with regulatory reporting for scope 1 direct emissions. Emission intensity for in situ in 2015 decreased substantially (10%) mainly due to sustained low SORs at Firebag resulting from optimized reservoir management strategies and strong infill well performance.

In Situ absolute GHG emissions/intensity

Exploration & Production

East Coast Canada

Terra Nova emissions decreased by 15% over 2014 and production in 2015 was 22% lower than in 2014. Production from Terra Nova decreased in 2015 due primarily to higher unplanned maintenance activity in 2015 compared to 2014 as well as natural production declines as the asset matures. 

Currently, Terra Nova is the only East Coast Canada asset Suncor operates. Other international and offshore production interests are joint ventures and not within our direct operational control. These joint venture operations are not included in this report.

East Coast GHG

North American Onshore

North America Onshore (NAO) emissions decreased by 53% in 2015 and production decreased by 15% as 2015 was the first full year to report on only Northeast British Columbia operations. Suncor completed the sale of our Wilson Creek natural gas plant and field in Alberta late in 2014.

Reported numbers for NAO reflect assets owned in 2015.  In previous years where NAO experienced divestments, the emissions of divested assets have been included up to their date of sale. Therefore, in 2014 Wilson Creek emissions are included up to its date of sale in late 2014 while emissions from the remaining B.C. operations are included for all of 2015.

North America Onshore absolute GHG emissions/intensity

Refining and Marketing

In 2015, GHG emissions and emissions intensity at our downstream facilities decreased primarily due to strong refinery utilization. Compared to 2014, emissions experienced a slight decrease of 0.5% and emission intensity decreased by 2.2%.


St. Clair ethanol plant

We’ve been blending ethanol in our retail fuels since 1992. We opened the St. Clair ethanol plant in Mooretown, Ont. in 2006. In 2011 we doubled the plant’s production capacity to 400 million litres of corn-based ethanol annually. It is the single largest ethanol production plant in Canada.

Absolute emissions and emissions intensity from the St. Clair ethanol plant slightly increased from 2014 to 2015 with increases of 2.5% and 1.2% respectively. 

Wind power

Suncor and our partners are involved in six operational wind power facilities with a generating capacity totaling 287 megawatts (MW), enough to power about 110,000 Canadian homes. Performance data is reported 100% for operated wind farms only and is not adjusted to reflect ownership share.

In Q4 2015, Suncor commenced operations at our Cedar Point wind power facility located in southwestern Ontario. In 2015 Suncor entered into an asset swap agreement with TransAlta Corporation to exchange our 20 MW Kent Breeze facility in Ontario and our share of the 88 MW Wintering Hills facility in Alberta for TransAlta’s Poplar Creek co-generation facilities along with some key transmission and distribution infrastructure. Information reported in this year’s Report on Sustainability is included for Wintering Hills and Kent Breeze up to the date of their sale and for the full year of production from Adelaide. In 2015, our wind farms emitted less than 400 metric tonnes CO2e and produced over 310,000 MWh. For reference, an equivalent size natural gas power plant producing a comparable amount of electricity would emit over 116,000 tonnes CO2e annually. That’s almost 300 times more emissions than our wind farms.

Suncor environment air emissions

2015 Emissions factors

Measuring GHG emissions is complex, and it’s important we do so in a transparent, consistent, verifiable and regulatory-compliant manner. Emissions factors, which allow us to estimate GHG emissions from a unit of available activity data (i.e., quantity of fuel consumed, quantity of product produced), help us achieve this.

Metric for reporting GHG emissions

The metric for reporting GHG emissions that is used in the Report on Sustainability is metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).  This unit, which is commonly used for reporting GHGs, represents volumes of gases that have been studied to have an impact on the global atmosphere. CO2e means that individual GHGs have been multiplied by their assessed global warming potential (GWP) compared to carbon dioxide (CO2). This report uses the 100-year GWPs issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fourth assessment report, which aligns to several jurisdictions of GHG reporting including Environment Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is consistent with our 2014 and 2015 Reports on Sustainability; however sustainability reports prior to 2014 used the IPCC’s third assessment report.

The major impacts of using the GWPs issued by the IPCC’s fourth assessment report are that emissions from methane increase slightly due to an increase in the GWP factor from 21 to 25. Emissions from nitrous oxides (N2O) decrease slightly with that factor decreasing from 310 to 298. Other GHGs have also had their GWPs adjusted but have little to no material impact on our total GHG emissions.

Measuring potential emission sources

As an integrated energy company spanning multiple jurisdictions, sectors and operations, we use several different externally developed and publicly accepted emission factor protocols to develop facility-specific emission calculation methodologies. We select the appropriate protocol for the site-specific fuel type and composition, emission source, facility or jurisdiction being considered. As required by regulators and verified by external auditors, we use internationally accepted GHG protocols and methodologies in determining our overall emissions profile.

In addition to using fuel-specific emission factors, some GHG emissions are calculated using process — or equipment-specific consumption rates in units such as ‘run-hours’ and not fuel volumes. Many of our sites have complicated processes that require specific emission factors and methodologies to accurately calculate their emissions.

Primarily, our sites use protocols and methodologies that are required by their operating jurisdiction. However, if no prescribed methodology is required, it may be necessary to use a combination of standardized methodologies at a single facility due to site and sector-specific details that may not be completely covered by a single standard or regulation. On occasion, more accurate emission factors — either measured, calculated from compositional data, or manufacturer-supplied — may be available for specific equipment. These are used whenever and wherever appropriate to ensure we gather the best quality data and use the most accurate measures.

Specific emission factors are calculated from actual measured data rather than applying generic estimated default factors as frequently as possible. In other cases, such as when calculating indirect emissions from externally purchased electric power, we use factors primarily where prescribed by regulation, secondarily from site-specific factors if available and finally, from published emission factors for remaining emission sources.

Due to the unique nature of each site, we have over 1,400 standard emission factors in our Environmental Information Management System that are applied at different sites. This number does not include thousands of additional factors that are calculated daily for different fuels and sites based on fuel composition analysis. These factors give us real-time gas composition and resulting carbon content.

The role of regulation in GHG reporting

Many jurisdictions have, or are in the process of developing, prescriptive regulations that specify which factors can be used. For example, the EPA and regulators in Western Climate Initiative jurisdictions such as Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia all required operators to use specified factors for the 2015 reporting year.

Alberta requires large emitting facilities to use the methodology and emission factors used in their site-specific and government-approved Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER) baseline, and changes cannot be made without restating and re-verifying the baseline and previous year’s emissions. Each of our sites that report through the SGER successfully generated positive (approved) verifications for the 2015 reporting year at a reasonable level of assurance.

Standard practices and methodologies

External agencies have developed industry-accepted standard methodologies that operators can choose to use in the absence of prescribed methods. The standard practices and methodologies we follow are widely accepted, well researched and documented so that the numbers produced are verifiable by governments and third parties, and are consistently applied from year to year.

A partial list of these standard methodologies and guidance documents includes: