Now that our environmental performance goals have matured, we’ve had an opportunity to evaluate our successes, reflect on what we’ve learned, and target areas where we need to work harder

To ensure we continue to improve on our sustainability performance, we’ve set two new goals. Learn more:

Now that our environmental performance goals have matured, we’ve had an opportunity to evaluate our successes, reflect on what we’ve learned, and target areas where we need to work harder

Now that our environmental performance goals have matured, we’ve had an opportunity to evaluate our successes, reflect on what we’ve learned, and target areas where we need to work harder. Learn more about our two new sustainability goals.

View the latest Report on Sustainability

Suncor employee at Wapisiw Lookout helps achieve environmental performance goals

Goals and progress

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Seven years ago, we set an industry precedent by adopting a series of strategic environmental performance goals on water consumption, reclamation of disturbed lands, energy efficiency and air emissions. These goals, which had a baseline year of 2007, matured at the end of 2015.

We are excited to say that we met environmental performance goals on reducing water use and air emissions, increasing reclamation and came very close to meeting our goal on energy efficiency. To ensure we continue to improve on our sustainability performance, we’ve set two new goals: one focused on climate change and, for the first time, a social goal focused on strengthening our relationships with Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. We are working towards setting a new long-term goal to extend our commitment to water conservation.

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Environmental Performance Goal: Reduce fresh water consumption by 12% by 2015*

Results: we reduced our fresh water consumption by 27%

Fresh water is a key resource for our business and it is also of critical importance to our stakeholders, communities and employees. Our biggest draw on fresh water resources is our oil sands operations so we set an oil sands water strategy to reduce water use by using less water, recycling wastewater and returning clean water to the environment.

We are pleased to report that we exceeded our water goal. Our water consumption (the amount of fresh water withdrawn minus the amount of water returned to the environment) is 27% lower than our 2007 usage. The goal was to lower the water consumption by 12%. This was achieved while pursuing our growth strategy which saw our production significantly increase over the same time period.

A number of initiatives progressed during the lifetime of this environmental performance goal leading to reduced fresh water consumption including:

  • Starting in 2013, we began sending tailings water from base plant to Firebag as well as to other oil sands producers for in situ make up water
  • In 2014, the $190 million oil sands waste water treatment facility became operational recycling more than 22,550 litres of water per minute.

We are proud of this achievement but it’s important for us to continuously develop more effective and efficient uses and recycling initiatives across our operations, particularly with Fort Hills becoming operational in late 2017. We also see opportunities to focus our efforts on water management practices across our downstream businesses.

As we continue to advance our water management strategy, Suncor will share the lessons learned with our industry peers through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). Additionally, we will continue to collaborate with, and learn from, our industry peers. By doing so, we are confident we can help reduce the regional net effect of water use throughout the oil sands region and our downstream operations.

Find out more about our efforts to reduce fresh water consumption in our operations

Suncor water use reduction goal

* The base year for the planned improvements was 2007. The goals were established in 2009.

Read more about water

Environmental Performance Goal: Increase reclamation of disturbed land area by 100% by 2015*

Results: we increased reclamation of disturbed land by 176%

Wherever our developments disturb land we pursue progressive reclamation efforts, including reclaiming tailings ponds. Our largest land impacts are in our oil sands operations so our efforts focused there.

Land reclamation takes place once the disturbed land is no longer part of active operations. We targeted a 100% increase in land area reclaimed* by 2015 (as compared to 2007), but surpassed our target by reclaiming 3730 ha of oil sands in situ and mine disturbed lands or achieving a 176% increase relative to the 2007 baseline.

This was accomplished by developing and executing new technologies and more aggressive reclamation plans, including;

  • Focused reclamation of historical oil sands (in-situ) exploration footprint
  • In 2010, Suncor became the first oil sands company to reclaim a tailings pond supporting a mixed wood forest, a network of streams and a marsh wetland;
  • In 2013, Suncor became one of the first companies in the world to complete reconstruction of a fen peatland watershed.
  • From start of our oil sands mining operations to the end of 2015, Suncor had planted more than 7.9 million trees, shrubs and aquatic plants on our oil sands site – including 692,808 trees in the previous year alone.

Read more about our oil sands reclamation efforts

While Suncor continues to be focused on accelerating reclamation pace, biodiversity conservation also remained top of mind. We also worked with Aboriginal communities to incorporate culturally-significant plants and species into our reclamation plans.

As Suncor strives to be a trusted steward of natural resources, we continue working to conserve biodiversity and to accelerate the rate at which we reclaim lands disturbed by our operations.

Read more about our biodiversity plans here

Suncor land reclaimation goal

* The base year for the planned improvements was 2007. The goals were established in 2009.

Environmental Performance Goal: Improve energy efficiency by 10% by 2015*

Results: we improved our energy efficiency by 9%

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

We set an ambitious goal of achieving a 10% improvement in energy efficiency by 2015. This target required each of our business units to reduce their energy intensity by approximately 10% as compared to their energy intensity in the 2007 baseline year.

Since that time, our growth strategy has introduced additional in situ projects with higher energy intensities relative to the rest of our business. The energy intensity of our operations varies significantly according to asset mix, extraction technology and product portfolio. The 2009 merger with Petro-Canada also introduced a broader base of assets, including offshore production, into our portfolio. Offshore production has relatively low energy intensity at peak production but our assets have seen an increase in energy intensity as our wells mature and reach depletion which requires more energy for extraction.

These changes added to the challenge in achieving the energy efficiency goal. To reflect this reality, we developed a complementary longer-term energy intensity goal during the course of our environmental performance goal. The 2015 energy efficiency environmental performance goal refers to operating our existing assets as efficiently as possible. The longer-term energy intensity goal reflects a desire to reduce the inherent amount of energy needed to produce our resources, regardless of the type of resource being developed. What we learned from both these short and long-term efficiency goals will be applied to our new GHG goal.

As shown in the graph below, we came within 1% of achieving our 2015 energy efficiency target reaching an overall company-wide energy intensity of 5.06 GJ/m3 against our 2015 target of 5.01 GJ/m3. The progress made in reducing the energy intensity of each business unit is reflected in the historical data trends where we have been able to reduce our company-wide energy intensity close to 2011 levels despite adding a significant amount of higher intensity oil sands and in situ operations since then.

A number of initiatives progressed during the lifetime of this environmental performance goal leading to improved energy efficiencies including:

  • Our in situ assets, Firebag and MacKay River, have continually shown decreases in energy intensity since 2012, which was the beginning of Firebag’s expansion phases 3 and 4. As these operations have matured, Firebag has been able to realize lower steam-to-oil levels as a result of optimized reservoir strategies and strong infill well performance.
  • Greening the electricity grid with power generated by our cogeneration facilities (a highly efficient technology used to generate electricity from what would otherwise be waste heat). We use this power for our own operations and sell excess electricity to the grid, lowering provincial emissions.
  • Increased reliability and utilization in our oil sands operations over the last three years.
  • Implementation of Suncor’s Energy Management System (EMS) at our refineries, lubricants and oil sands facilities have resulted in energy savings between 2% and 3% energy savings. The energy management teams formed to support the EMS work also help identify and execute cost-effective energy efficiency project opportunities, resulting in an additional energy savings in the range of 3% to 5%.

The progress made over the last seven years is significant, despite being within 1% of achieving the goal, and has now become an interim step for delivering measurable progress toward our ultimate goal of reducing our overall company-wide energy intensity.

Read more about our future sustainability goals and our new GHG goal here

Please note: The energy intensity metrics used to support this environmental performance goal are different from those found in the Performance Indicators section of this report due to the production definitions used. The environmental performance goal process is based on business unit performance; therefore, the production numbers reflect the net performance within each business unit. The performance indicators are corporate-wide net metrics; therefore, the performance indicator net production numbers are lower than the sum of individual business unit production used in the environmental performance goals due to intra-business unit.

Suncor energy efficiency goal

* The base year for the planned improvements was 2007. The goals were established in 2009.

Environmental Performance Goal: Reduce air emissions by 10% by 2015*

Results: We reduced our air emissions by 36%

We are committed to maintaining and improving air quality near our operations and preserving healthy ecosystems through investments in technology and promoting continuous improvement of our operations.

In 2009, we established a very challenging goal to reduce our absolute air emissions (nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds) by 10% while growing our oil sands mining and in situ assets. This target required each of our business areas to focus on reducing air emissions through improved reliability of our operations and equipment upgrades while maintaining our growth strategy. An increase in production typically means higher air emissions, making absolute reductions more difficult with growth plans.

We are pleased to report that we achieved an overall reduction of total air emissions of 36% compared to our baseline from 2007.

Through a number of operational improvements during the lifetime of our environmental performance goal, we were successful at exceeding our target and significantly reducing air emissions at most of our facilities including the following initiatives:

  • Installation of the hydrocarbon blanket gas and recovery system on Terra Nova resulted in a 95% reduction in volatie organic compounds (VOCs) and an overall 70% reduction in total air emissions
  • Our refineries saw a 26% overall reduction in air emissions including significant reductions in nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and VOC reductions at our Montreal and Commerce City refineries
  • Nearly 50% reductions of SO2 emissions at our oil sands Base Plant due to improved reliability, decreased flaring, and completion of the Millennium Naptha Unit hydro treated make-up diluent project
Suncor air emissions goal

* The base year for the planned improvements was 2007. The goals were established in 2009.

Learn more about air

Our new sustainability goals

Energy is fundamental to every aspect of our lives; we use it to move, to grow food, to heat, to manufacture, to illuminate. But along with energy creation comes the real and serious threat of climate change, the impacts on our environment, global economy, and local communities. These require pragmatic and practical approaches and the need for innovation and ingenuity beyond anything we know today.

Suncor’s new sustainability goals respond to these needs and acknowledge that we need to continue to evolve and manage our business for the long term by continually improving our environmental, social and economic performance. They focus on strengthening our relationships with the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity, and conserving water.

The goals, which have a baseline year of 2014, provide us with guide posts to drive performance improvement far beyond our current capabilities so we can contribute as constructively as possible to the world we all share.

2016 is a planning year for our businesses to develop plans to progress the goals in their areas. We will begin reporting on our progress towards achieving these goals in our 2017 Report on Sustainability.

Strengthening our relationships with the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada

We know Aboriginal Peoples want to play a larger role in how energy is developed – right from the project concept through to reclaiming the land back to its original state. Our long-term social goal (to 2025 and beyond) recognizes this, and focuses on strengthening our relationships with Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. It reflects our commitment to change the way we think and act, and outlines four areas where we can work together to advance greater involvement:

  • Strengthening relationships between Aboriginal Peoples and all Canadians, starting within Suncor.
  • Partnering with Aboriginal youth to develop their leadership potential through meaningful connections within and outside of Suncor.
  • Significantly improving our Aboriginal workforce development at Suncor through focused efforts on hiring, retention and advancement of Aboriginal employees across our business.
  • And, increasing revenues to Aboriginal businesses and communities through mutually beneficial marketing arrangements and procurements of materials and services.

Reducing our GHG intensity

We share in the global challenge to tackle climate change head on by reducing emissions, while providing energy the world needs. We will work to harness technology and innovation to set us on a transformational pathway to a low carbon energy system. We will measure our progress by reducing the total emission intensity of the production of our oil and petroleum products by 30% by 2030, through focused efforts in these areas:

  • Continue to drive energy efficiency at all of our facilities, and switching to lower-carbon fuels, such as natural gas.
  • Develop and pilot technology to fundamentally change how we extract bitumen and optimize downstream processing.
  • Participate in greening the electricity grid towards a lower-carbon future by investing in cogeneration at our facilities and renewable energy. Our goal will also drive us to seek and evaluate new business opportunities in the evolving future energy system.

Suncor’s vision to create energy for a better world demands that we play our part in tackling this challenge. As a contributor to climate change, we must go beyond today’s capabilities and technologies, so we can make a real difference for our future.

Looking ahead: Water conservation

Responsible energy development means balancing our environmental impact with our growth strategy. Based on what we learned from our 2015 water goal and building on the success of our water management strategy, we will be developing a new long term water goal. This goal will reflect our water requirements with the need to maintain a clean, safe and plentiful supply of this important natural resource for current and future generations.