Report on Sustainability 2019

GHG performance and mitigating emissions

2018 GHG performance

In early 2018, Suncor started producing at Fort Hills and production volumes ramped up steadily throughout the year. This addition to our oil sands portfolio resulted in absolute full-year GHG emissions of 22 million tonnes of CO2e. While the total emissions increased approximately 11% year-over-year, the lower GHG emissions intensity associated with the paraffinic froth treatment (PFT) extraction process at Fort Hills helped to reduce corporate emissions intensity by 2% to 0.389 tonnes of CO2e per cubic metre of oil equivalent production. We expect the GHG intensity at Fort Hills to decline further, as the facility operates at steady state design capacity.

The GHG performance1 in our other upstream oil sands operations was slightly higher than their three-year average. These variations are attributed to a combination of factors such as a larger than usual turnaround event which disproportionately affected production in 2018 and to a lesser extent some modifications to emission calculation methodologies2.

The emissions intensity of our downstream refining and supply facilities was slightly lower in 2018, driven by efficiency improvements following major maintenance at the Edmonton refinery and improved refinery utilization rates in Montreal and Commerce City.

Suncor’s GHG goal is designed to encourage business choices that reduce Suncor’s emissions and the emissions in the global energy system. To support tracking our goal progress, Suncor developed a methodology that includes both direct emissions reductions from our operated assets and indirect reductions from the use of our products. The data in the GHG performance section reflects our direct operations emissions. For more information on the goal methodology, please see the Integrating our GHG performance goal section of this report.

Suncor-wide absolute GHG emissions chart

* The GHG benefit of biofuels is that the carbon emitted during end-use combustion came from plants that recently captured CO2 from the atmosphere. Its combustion is considered to be net neutral with regard to carbon emissions.

** For additional information about this chart and its data please refer to the performance data notes (#3, 4 and 5).

Suncor-wide absolute GHG emissions chart

* Converting corn into fuel is more energy intensive than turning hydrocarbons into fuel. We are evaluating optimization work at our St. Clair facility to develop lower carbon intensity ethanol. The GHG benefit of biofuels is that the carbon emitted during end-use combustion came from plants that recently captured CO2 from the atmosphere. Its combustion is considered to be net neutral with regard to carbon emissions.

** For additional information about this chart and its data please refer to the performance data notes (#3, 4 and 5).

Suncor energy use and energy intensity

GHG emissions are closely linked to energy use, with approximately 90% of direct GHG emissions and nearly all indirect emissions accounted for by consumption of energy for operations.

Suncor is committed to continuously improving energy management and reducing GHG emissions as part of everyday operational excellence. Similar to the GHG trends, energy use increased in 2018 with the addition of Fort Hills but total intensity remained relatively flat.

Suncor-wide absolute GHG emissions chart
Suncor-wide absolute GHG emissions chart
* For additional information about these charts and their data, please refer to the performance data notes (#6 – notes on energy consumption).

Performance highlights

Oil sands Base plant mining

Our oil sands Base plant upgrader underwent a major maintenance turnaround event in 2018, resulting in lower bitumen production and lower energy efficiency. Due to this event, absolute emissions from our operations were 7% lower at 7.9 million tonnes of CO2e but emissions intensity increased by 2% to 0.461 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of oil equivalent over the 2015-2017 average. The higher intensity was partially offset by projects which improved heat integration and energy efficiency.

Fort Hills mining

Fort Hills saw first oil in January 2018 and successfully ramped up to full operating capacity by the fourth quarter of 2018, with 94% average plant utilization. This new facility added more than 2.1 million tonnes of CO2e to our overall GHG emissions. However, the less energy and carbon-intensive extraction process used at Fort Hills removes heavy hydrocarbon molecules in the extraction process. As a result, the 2018 GHG intensity of production was 0.262 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of oil equivalent, and the full cycle (well-to-wheels) emissions intensity was similar to the average refined barrel in the U.S.3 Fort Hills emissions intensity is expected to drop further with a full-year of steady state operations.

In situ

The absolute emissions at our steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operations increased 16% year over year to about 6.3 million tonnes of CO2e. Following a 2017 turnaround season, our In Situ facilities had higher production volumes as well as increased cogenerated power production for export and thus higher overall emissions.

Suncor’s In Situ facility intensity was just 2% higher at 0.406 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of oil equivalent than the 2015-2017 average. The intensity increase was due to a higher steam-oil-ratio at Firebag in 2018.

Exploration and production

On the East Coast of Canada, Terra Nova emissions decreased 2% to 0.6 million tonnes CO2e in 2018. While the 2018 emissions intensity decreased 5% to 0.340 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of oil equivalent, it is above the 2015-2017 average due to natural production declines. Terra Nova is the only East Coast Canada asset that Suncor operates. Other international and offshore production interests are joint ventures and not within our direct operational control.

Refining and supply

Suncor’s Refining and Supply assets saw improved utilization rates in 2018 with the exception of the Edmonton refinery, which had a major turnaround event that impacted its GHG intensity. This was partially offset by plant improvements, including a new process catalyst.

Total GHG emissions at our downstream facilities fell 2% to 5.1 million tonnes of CO2e. Emissions intensity held steady at 0.183 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of oil equivalent which is approximately 5% below the 2015-2017 average intensity.

Renewables and biofuels

Suncor is currently a partner in four operational wind power facilities with a generating capacity of 111 megawatts (MW), enough to power about 52,000 Canadian homes. Performance data is reported for operated wind farms only and is not adjusted to reflect ownership share. In 2018, our Adelaide wind farm in Ontario, a Suncor and Aamjiwnaang First Nation joint-venture, produced more than 100,850 MWh.

We’ve been blending ethanol in our retail fuels since 1992 and Suncor’s St. Clair ethanol plant is the single largest ethanol production facility in Canada. There were no notable changes in plant performance in 2018. Absolute emissions were 0.162 million tonnes CO2 and emissions intensity was 0.656 tonnes CO2e per m3 oil equivalent.


1 All GHG performance values reflect Suncor-operated facilities 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.

2 In 2018, Suncor revised its absolute GHG calculation methodology to align with the GHG Protocol. We also modified the emissions intensity calculation to reflect oil production emissions net of exported electrical power emissions. This was implemented retroactively to 2013 and also in the forecast to 2023. The result is that overall emissions intensity is more comparable to other crude oil production intensities and does not inflate the values due to cogeneration power emissions.

3 IHS Energy Special Report: Comparing GHG Intensity of the Oil Sands and the Average US Crude Oil. May 2014.

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