Global demand for less carbon-intense energy sources is dramatically increasing, and renewable power development is at the forefront of the transition towards a lower-carbon future.
Suncor is committed to developing and supplying energy options that meet the needs of both today and tomorrow. We share in the global challenge to tackle climate change head on by reducing emissions, while providing the energy that the world needs. Suncor has an ambitious goal to reduce carbon intensity by 30% by 2030 and investment in renewable energy is part of the solution.
We recognized the value of renewable energy 15 years ago, when we commissioned our first project in Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. Since then, our investments have been focused on wind power and biofuels, but we continue to evaluate opportunities in other renewable technologies, including solar.
As a large electricity generator in Alberta and an industry player keenly focused on reducing its carbon footprint, Suncor is eager to work with policymakers, industry partners and other stakeholders to increase investment in renewable power development. Wind power, solar power and biofuels are some of the future’s energy sources – and we want to be among the providers of multiple energy solutions.
Why we invest in wind power
Before many of our industry peers began investing in renewable energy, Suncor was developing and producing wind power across many jurisdictions in Canada. Over the last 15 years, we have developed eight wind power projects with a gross-generating capacity totaling 395 MW.
Wind is economically competitive today and both wind and solar are expected to grow as advances in technology are anticipated to continue to increase generator performance and decrease the cost of equipment. Wind and solar power are safe, reliable and emissions-free energy sources.
We are committed to the health and safety of everyone near our operations, including landowners, neighbours and employees. Developing wind power projects aligns with Suncor’s values on social responsibility and community investment.
Social responsibility: Wind energy generates clean electricity, new jobs and economic development opportunities in communities across the country. We develop our projects in a socially responsible way taking great care to meet or exceed all regulations and address concerns from stakeholders in the areas we operate. Our project design philosophy aims to:
- minimize visual impact
- reduce turbine density
- maximize setbacks wherever practical
Community investment: We directly invest in helping to build sustainable communities in each of the locations where Suncor’s wind farms operate through sponsorships, charitable donations and having our employees volunteer in the community. For example, in 2016, the SunBridge Wind Power Project sponsored the barbeque at the Hit and Run Slo-Pitch Tournament and members of Suncor’s renewable energy team volunteered to support this community initiative.
As Suncor develops new renewable energy projects, we enjoy meeting with the local community members in the proposed project areas to talk about Suncor, renewable energy and the community needs and concerns. We recognize that support for our projects, and for wind energy development in general, is not unanimous; however, we endeavor to work in an open, respectful and transparent way, engaging with communities early to alleviate and resolve issues wherever possible and reach mutually acceptable solutions.
* Suncor sold its 50% interest in the Cedar Point wind facility with an effective date of January 1, 2017.
Biofuels and our investment in ethanol
We also operate Canada’s largest ethanol facility, near Sarnia, Ont. The St. Clair ethanol facility has a production capacity of 400 million litres per year.
Virtually all the ethanol produced at the St. Clair plant is blended into Petro-Canada gasoline.
In 2014 Suncor made an investment in a biodiesel technology commercialization company. Along with this investment, we are participating in our first commercial-scale biodiesel plant in Nebraska.
Our investment in ethanol
We have been blending ethanol in our retail fuels since 1992. The St. Clair ethanol plant opened in Mooretown, Ont., in 2006 and we doubled the plant’s production capacity to 400 million litres of corn-based ethanol annually in 2011.
The ethanol produced at the St. Clair plant is blended into our Petro-Canada branded gasoline, providing a lower environmental impact than, non-ethanolized gasoline and ensuring we meet government-mandated blending standards.
In Canada, the Federal Renewable Fuel Regulations requires an average of 5% renewable ethanol content in gasoline across Canada.
Some provinces have their own mandates for biofuel blending requirements, which means we need to purchase product from third parties to complement our supply from our St. Clair ethanol plant in Ontario.
There is growing evidence that biofuels, such as ethanol, are proven energy sources with demonstrable benefits.
The Conference Board of Canada concluded in a report titled Ethanol’s Potential Contribution to Canada’s Transportation Sector that:
- ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) relative to gasoline by between 40% and 62% depending on agricultural and production practices
- improved farming techniques have significantly increased the average bushels of corn produced per acre, positively impacting water and fertilizer efficiency
- today’s corn production is also more energy efficient
Although 10% ethanol-blended gasoline contains about 3% less energy than pure gasoline, it is an oxygenated fuel that has the ability to improve combustion efficiency in many vehicles. For most vehicles, this increased efficiency helps to offset the slightly lower energy content in the ethanol-blended gasoline.
Life cycle assessments
We believe it is appropriate to look at the full life cycle of ethanol production when discussing environmental benefits.
Before building our ethanol plant, we asked the Alberta-based Pembina Institute to conduct two life cycle assessments, which looked at all of the energy inputs from the corn field to the gas pump. Once the first phase of our facility was operational, we asked Pembina to revisit the study to ensure both the latest scientific methodology, along with actual operating data, was used.
Visit the Pembina Institute website to learn more
From its assessment, which was independently verified by the U.S. government’s Argonne National Laboratory, Pembina estimated that overall CO2 emissions could be reduced by up to 300,000 tonnes per year by blending all of the ethanol from the original St. Clair plant into gasoline. With the expansion of the plant, that environmental benefit has doubled to 600,000 tonnes per year. St. Clair’s ethanol provides about a 60% reduction in GHG emissions compared to gasoline. These estimates were more recently reconfirmed by internal calculations.
Alternative land uses and crops
Much of the agricultural land used to produce ethanol today was previously used to grow tobacco. With the demand for tobacco on the decline, corn ethanol is providing a sustainable alternative crop for farmers.
The type of corn used as feedstock at the St. Clair plant has traditionally been used to feed livestock. Once the sugars and starches are extracted from the corn to make ethanol, the remaining elements are used to make premium cattle feed, which is then sold back to local livestock operators.
In sum, many parties benefit:
- farmers have an alternative crop to market
- livestock producers still get the feed they need for their cattle
- we are able to produce a fuel additive that boosts combustion efficiency and reduces the environmental impact of transportation fuels
We believe the biofuels industry is here to stay and we are committed to best-in-class production practices at our St. Clair plant.