Energy use is one of Suncor’s largest production inputs and, therefore, there is a natural business incentive to reduce overall energy use and emissions. Suncor’s focus on operational excellence and reliability, as well as the introduction of new technology, has reduced the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of our Oil Sands Base plant by approximately 60% since 1990.
2017 GHG performance
Absolute full-year GHG emissions† in 2017 totalled 19.9 million tonnes, which is in line with the three-year average from 2014 to 2016. In 2017, upstream oil sands facilities recovered from the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire and production volumes returned to 2015 levels. Oil sands performance contributed to a year-over-year improvement in our 2017 corporate GHG emission intensity of 0.410 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of oil equivalent production. This is approximately 2% lower than 2016 and 5% lower than the 2014-2016 average.
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 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. Our energy use and energy intensity graphs show year-over-year trends similar to the GHG emissions graphs.
Oil sands mining
Absolute emissions from our mining, extraction and upgrading operations returned to typical levels seen prior to the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire. Despite increased total emissions, the emissions intensity in 2017 improved by approximately 5.5% from the 2014-2016 average intensity. This reflects reliable operations and continued energy and GHG emissions reduction efforts.
Projects to optimize fuel gas distribution, heat integration, and heat exchanger maintenance were implemented in 2017. Collectively, these improved reliability, increased production and reduced emissions intensity.
Fort Hills mining
The Fort Hills mining project achieved first oil in early 2018 and is expected to reach 90% of nameplate capacity of 194,000 bbls/d of bitumen in Q4 2018. The less carbon intensive Paraffinic Froth Treatment process (PFT) used at Fort Hills removes heavy hydrocarbon molecules in the extraction process. This produces bitumen that doesn’t require upgrading prior to further refining and marketing. As a result, the GHG intensity of production is projected to be roughly half that of the existing Base plant and on par with the average crude refined in the U.S.§ The added production volumes are expected to add over 2.4 million tonnes of CO2e to our operated GHG emissions profile once it reaches full nameplate capacity.
The absolute emissions at our steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operations were relatively unchanged year-over-year at 5.4 million tonnes CO2e. Emissions intensity in 2017 improved to 0.436 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of oil equivalent production which is approximately 5% lower than the 2014-2016 three-year average of 0.46 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of oil equivalent. This improvement is due to improved facility reliability and sustained low steam-to-oil ratios (SORs), resulting from optimized reservoir management strategies and strong infill well performance.
Exploration and production
On the East Coast of Canada, Terra Nova emissions increased from 0.56 million tonnes CO2e in 2016 to 0.63 million tonnes CO2e in 2017. The intensity increased over the 2014-2016 average from 0.256 to 0.344 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of oil equivalent. These increases were due to reduced production and extended maintenance on the facility’s vapour recovery unit. 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.
Refining and marketing
In early 2017, Suncor closed the sale of its lubricants business, which reduced total GHG emissions at our downstream facilities to 5.186 million tonnes CO2e. Accounting for the sale, emissions were incrementally higher at our other facilities due to higher plant utilization rates which resulted in an emissions intensity improvement of 0.187 tonnes of CO2e per m3 of oil equivalent. This represents an approximate 7% improvement from the 2014-2016 average intensity.
Renewables and biofuels
Suncor closed the sale of our share of the Ripley wind farm in Ontario in mid-2017. Suncor is currently involved 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 2017, our Adelaide wind farm in Ontario produced more than 76,000 MW.
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 were 0.164 million tonnes CO2 and emissions intensity was 0.657 tonnes CO2e per m3 oil equivalent.
† 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.
§ IHS Energy Special Report: Comparing GHG Intensity of the Oil Sands and the Average US Crude Oil. May 2014