Sustainability at Suncor

Upgrading and refining technologies

Suncor’s upgrading and refining operations provide an important link between our Canadian resource base and the energy market.

Suncor processes crude oil into high-quality refined products consumers require. We continue to look for opportunities to minimize the environmental impact that results from the extraction and production of oil, and manufacturing and distribution of fuels.

Partial upgrading technology

Suncor currently uses two upgrading processes:

  • coking/thermal cracking: which heats bitumen to the point where it cracks into a vapour stream and a byproduct called ‘coke’
  • hydrotreating: where hydrogen is added to remove sulphur and blended for shipments to refineries

Both processes require significant energy.

Reducing the temperature and pressure in our processes could decrease emissions at production and refining.

We are advancing technology development to partially upgrade bitumen, which would increase value by decreasing the cost to upgrade and reducing the amount of diluent required to transport this new bitumen product, and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity from extraction to the end user. The technology when realized could also integrate with existing Suncor infrastructure.

We are progressing research at the Western Research Institute in Laramie, Wyo., where we are using the pilot facility for our partial upgrading development work in 2020 and 2021.

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