We are committed to maintain and improve air quality near our operations and to preserve healthy ecosystems through investments in technology and promoting continuous improvement in our operations.
Overall, in 2016, total Suncor wide air emissions decreased by 3% compared to 2015. The decrease in emissions can be largely attributed to the overall decrease in production at our upstream operations due to the forest fires in Fort McMurray, offset by operational upsets in refining and marketing business.
Further information on our performance is below:
Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
In 2016, company-wide absolute SO2 emissions and emissions intensity increased by 14% and 24%, respectively, as compared to 2015.
In 2016, SO2 emissions increased from our downstream operations mainly from emergency and upset flaring at Denver and Sarnia refineries and a small increase in sulphur content at Montreal Refinery and at the lubricants facility Suncor previously owned.
There was also an increase in the SO2 emissions from our upstream oil sands operations primarily attributed to the multiple upgrader start-ups and shutdowns stemming from the forest fires in 2016 and other planned and unplanned outages on site.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
In 2016, company-wide absolute NOx emissions and emissions intensity decreased by 10.6% and 5%, respectively, as compared to 2015.
Absolute NOx emissions from our Base plant and in situ facilities decreased by 15% and 4%, respectively, mainly due to the operations being shut in as a result of the 2016 forest fires. While the year over year NOx emission intensity at our Base Plant increased due to the decrease in the production, the NOx emission intensity remained relatively flat at our in situ facilities, as shown in the chart below.
Overall NOx emissions from our downstream operations remained unchanged in 2016 compared to 2015.
Absolute NOx emissions and the NOx emissions intensity from our Terra Nova facility increased slightly by 7% and 1.2%, respectively, in 2016 compared to 2015. This is mainly due to increase in the production on site for 2016.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Overall, company-wide absolute VOC emissions decreased by 8% and VOC emission intensity remained relatively flat in 2016 when compared to 2015.
Absolute VOC emissions from both our Base Plant and in situ facilities decreased by 8% and 6%, respectively, in 2016 when compared to 2015. While there was an increase in VOC emission intensity from the Base Plant by 15% in 2016 mainly due to the decrease in production following the forest fires, the VOC emission intensity at our in situ facilities remained relatively flat between 2016 and 2015 levels.
The overall downstream VOC emissions were relatively flat in 2016 compared to 2015. The increase in VOC emissions at our Sarnia refinery and Denver refinery were offset by decreases in emissions at our Edmonton Refinery, Lubricants facility and at the terminals.
VOC emissions from our Terra Nova facility also considerably decreased as the hydrocarbon blanket gas was 100% efficient in 2016 versus 85% in 2015.
What is odour?
Odour is defined as a quality of something that is perceived by human’s sense of smell. Odours are subjective and different individuals will identify and sense an odour at varying concentrations. Odours are monitored as part of regulatory and stakeholder requirements at our operations.
Odour monitoring in the Wood Buffalo region
Suncor engages regularly with community stakeholders, government and other external agencies on odours to discuss best practices and management strategies.
Suncor is currently engaged with government, industry and external stakeholders to develop an improved odour management system. This process was a result of Suncor’s proactive management of community concerns related to odours. In early 2014 Suncor organized meetings between industry and community members to have an initial discussion about their concerns, and a follow up meeting was held in early 2015 at which time Alberta Health was engaged to address concerns about health impacts from the community. These meetings demonstrated a need for further work regarding odours in the community, for which Suncor remains engaged.
Suncor is pro-actively researching and testing new methods and technologies to monitor fugitive emissions. In 2014, we tested a new fugitive emissions monitoring technology (Open Path-Fourier Transform Infrared (OP-FTIR) remote sensing) to improve the accuracy of our estimation. R&D and field validation of new measurement technologies will continue with other industry members, government, and academia over the next few years.
Air quality monitoring
We are a member of the Alberta-based Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA), which monitors air quality throughout the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and home to the oil sands industry 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. WBEA provides ambient air quality data and a real-time air quality index (updated hourly) that are available to the public.
We also support air monitoring through the following multi-stakeholder airsheds/organizations which monitor and report air quality around the clock, and ensure timely availability of air quality monitoring results to the public and government agencies, as required.
We strongly support the ambient air monitoring by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) through their newly formed Environmental Monitoring and Science Division (EMSD). AEP air monitoring provides open and transparent access to credible and relevant scientific data and information on the condition of Alberta’s environment to policymakers, regulators, planners, researchers, communities, stakeholder groups, industries and the general public.
- We collaborate with the Service de l’environnement de la ville de Montréal by providing ambient air quality monitoring data for reporting and analysis.
We also continuously work with federal and provincial 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 our operations on the regional air quality.