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

Suncor invests in new environmental technologies and pursues renewable energy development to be a leader in sustainable energy development.

2016 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 production and carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) volumes emitted from Suncor-operated facilities.


Production numbers in our 2016 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 include 100% of the upstream production at Suncor-operated facilities only, and also includes downstream throughput volumes of saleable refined products from our Suncor-operated refineries and lubricants plant (previously owned by Suncor, and sold in early 2017). For the purposes of our Report on Sustainability, net corporate production in 2016 was approximately 45 million cubic metres (m3), compared to 48.2 million m3, in 2015. The decrease in 2016 production is a result of the impact from the Fort McMurray wildfires, when our operations in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) were shut in during the second quarter, to ensure that process and personnel safety remained a top priority.

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 2016 Annual Report, total upstream production averaged 622,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) through the course of 2016, compared to 577,800 boe/d in 2015. Oil sands production (excluding Syncrude) averaged 374,800 barrels per day (bbls/d) in 2016, compared to 433,600 bbls/d in 2015.

Read the 2016 Annual Report 

Our oil sands operations were significantly impacted by the forest fires in the Fort McMurray region, with production being shut in during the second quarter, resulting in an approximately 18.8% decrease in annual production. The planned Upgrader 2 turnaround was also extended by more than one month as a result of the forest fire.

Despite the impacts of the fires at both facilities, in situ operations demonstrated strong reliability in 2016, maintained low steam-to-oil ratios (SORs), and set production records during both the first and fourth quarters, with 235,800 bpd and 238,400 bbls/d, respectively.

Suncor GHG absolute emissions and emissions intensity

Absolute full-year GHG emissions in 2016 totalled 18.7 million tonnes, compared to 20.5 million tonnes in 2015. This is due primarily to decreased production as a result of the forest fires and extended Upgrader 2 outage. Using internationally accepted Global Reporting Initiative protocols; our 2016 corporate GHG emissions intensity remained relatively flat at 0.42 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of production.

Upstream intensity remained the same in 2016 as compared to 2015, despite the impacts of the Fort McMurray forest fire. Downstream intensity also remained relatively stable, observed across all the refineries (Sarnia, Montreal and Commerce City) as well as the Mississauga lubricants plant.

Read about the emission factors that went into calculating our 2016 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.

Suncor-wide absolute GHG emissions & GHG emissions intensity

Suncor energy use and energy intensity

GHG emissions are closely linked to energy use, with approximately 90% of direct GHG emissions and nearly all Scope 2 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 came to within 1% of our environmental performance goal for energy efficiency that we established seven years prior, to achieve a 10% improvement in energy efficiency by the end of 2015.

Our energy use and energy intensity graphs show similar year-over-year trends to the GHG emissions and GHG emissions intensity graphs shown above. In 2016, oil sands energy intensity was slightly lower than 2015 from lower energy use and reduced production due to Fort McMurray Fires.  Renewables energy intensity was slightly higher than 2015 primarily due to less wind production in our portfolio. The energy intensity of renewables business is based on energy input for ethanol production with wind energy production deducted from that total energy input.

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 mining, extraction and upgrading operations decreased by 17.8% in 2016 as compared to 2015 (7.1 million tonnes CO2e in 2016 versus 8.7 million tonnes CO2e in 2015). Emissions intensity increased by 1.2% over the same period. This is due primarily to decreased production as a result of the forest fires and extended Upgrader 2 turnaround.

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 nameplate capacity of 194,000 bbls/d of bitumen. We expect this to add over 2.4 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.

In Situ

The overall absolute emissions at our in situ operations decreased in 2016 compared to 2015, from 5.6 million tonnes CO2e to 5.4 million tonnes CO2e. The decrease was due primarily to operations being shut in as a result of the forest fires.

As a result of the extended plant outage at MacKay River, additional steam was required to re-heat and re-pressurize the reservoir during start-up, which resulted in a 12% higher emissions intensity in 2016 compared to 2015.  At Firebag, despite the impacts of the forest fire event, emissions intensity slightly decreased (1%) compared to 2015. The decrease is mainly due to sustained low SORs, 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 increased by 2%, from 0.55 million tonnes CO2e in 2015 to 0.56 million tonnes CO2e in 2016. 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 remained relatively flat, from 0.020 million tonnes CO2e in 2015 to 0.021 million tonnes CO2e in 2016.

2015 was the first full year to report on only northeast British Columbia (B.C.) operations, as Suncor completed the sale of our Wilson Creek natural gas plant and field in Alberta late 2014. Reported numbers for NAO reflect assets owned in 2016. 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 and 2016.

North America Onshore absolute GHG emissions/intensity

Refining & Marketing

In 2016, GHG emissions at our downstream facilities remained constant compared to 2015, with 5.4 million tonnes CO2e emitted each year.  Emissions intensity also remained constant, at 0.20 thousand tonnes CO2e per m3 of production. This performance is a result of continued strong refinery utilization.


St. Clair ethanol plant

We’ve been blending ethanol in our retail fuels since 1992. We opened the St. Clair ethanol plant in Mooretown, Ontario 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 were relatively stable year over year. 

Wind power

Suncor and our partners are involved in five operational wind power facilities with a generating capacity totaling 187 megawatts (MW), enough to power about 65,000 Canadian homes. Performance data is reported 100% for operated wind farms only and is not adjusted to reflect ownership share. In 2016, our wind farms emitted 50 metric tonnes CO2e and produced more than 100,000 MWh.

Suncor environment air emissions

2016 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, 2015 and 2016 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 – 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 more than 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 2016 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 2016 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: