Climate Change

Performance Overview

  • Energy intensity averaged 1.28 million BTUs per barrel
  • Greenhouse gas emissions intensity averaged 0.101 tonnes CO2e per barrel
  • Paid $14 million to Alberta Government Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund

Our Position

The global need for energy is growing and all sources, including conventional oil, oil from oil sands and renewable energy forms, will be needed. As a contributor to this energy mix, Syncrude recognizes public concerns related to the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) stemming from oil sands development and believes every sector of our economy needs to do its part to help Canada realize its objectives in reducing our carbon footprint.

Our focus on energy efficiency and conservation will minimize the growth of GHGs that stem from production of synthetic crude oil at our operations. We will achieve this through operational reliability, as well as continued investment in research to develop incremental and breakthrough technologies that reduce our GHG emissions per barrel.

Energy Efficiency Stewardship

Syncrude has a long history of energy conservation. For example, our operations incorporate extensive cogeneration processes in order to recover waste heat for reuse. We also developed oil sands hydrotransport and low energy extraction in the 1990s. These processes enabled us to move away from the energy-intensive draglines and bucketwheel reclaimer system, and reduce extraction water temperatures by around 50 percent.

These types of step-change advancements not only improve our energy efficiency, while correlating directly to lower greenhouse gas emissions, they also provide significant benefit to the bottom line. As we continue to pursue the next generation of oil sands technologies and reliability improvements, energy efficiency remains a key factor when evaluating capital and maintenance projects.

As part of our adoption of ExxonMobil processes, Syncrude is currently implementing new operations management systems – the Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) and the Global Reliability System (GRS) – to improve reliability and environmental performance. Regarding specific energy efficiency projects, our current focus is on improved monitoring of Key Energy Variables (KEVs), which typically are instrument tags or process parameters that panel operators and contact engineers can use to identify energy conservation opportunities. Additional initiatives include optimizing furnace operations, reducing flaring and repairing steam leaks. Our 2013 energy use target is 1.29 million BTUs per barrel.

Energy management is a component of variable incentive compensation for executive and senior leaders. It is also incorporated into our Impact 21 program in which employees are financially rewarded for achieving goals in operational performance areas. For further information, see discussion on Management Systems.

Syncrude generates its own electricity and is a net exporter to the Alberta grid. In fact, we exported around 42,000 MWh in 2012. 

Energy Conservation - Energy Intensity

Energy use target for 2012 was 1.24 million BTUs. As we continue to pursue the next generation of oil sands technologies and reliability improvements, energy efficiency remains a key factor when evaluating capital and maintenance projects.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
GHGs - millions of tonnes (as per Environment Canada quantification guidelines)1,4
11.775 11.666 12.721 12.873 12.366
GHGs - millions of tonnes (as per Specified Gas Emitters Regulation)2,3,4
10.404 10.007 11.091 11.236 10.667
GHGs - tonnes CO2e per barrel produced2,3,4
0.095 0.097 0.102 0.106 0.101
  1. As reported to Environment Canada. Emission calculations for the purpose of provincial and federal regulatory reporting will differ, as certain sources of emissions are excluded.
  2. CO2 equivalent emissions reported include all Syncrude sources (net of industrial process, biomass, and waste and wastewater emissions) as reported to the Government of Alberta under the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER).
  3. Syncrude’s GHG emission estimates were verified by Conestoga-Rovers & Associates to satisfy the ‘Third party Review’ required by the SGER.
  4. Syncrude is a large producer of electricity and is a net exporter to the Alberta grid. Syncrude exported 42,028 Megawatt hours of electricity in 2012. Emissions from electrical power generation are included in the Syncrude total and are part of the intensity calculated on a per-barrel produced basis.

Energy Conservation

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Total energy consumption (billion BTUs)
131,028 131,858 136,623 136,647 133,926
Energy intensity (million BTUs per barrel)
1.22 1.27 1.26 1.27 1.28
Energy intensity improvement (% as compared to year prior)
6.3 -3.5 0.3 -0.9 -0.4
Energy intensity improvement (% as compared to 1990)
9.0 7.0 7.2 6.6 6.3
Energy return ratio (million BTUs of SCO product per million BTUs of energy consumed)
4.6 4.4 4.4 4.4 4.4

Alberta Carbon Tax and Off-Set System

The Alberta Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, established in 2007, set aggressive intensity targets for Large Final Emitters of carbon dioxide. It requires Syncrude to reduce per barrel emissions of greenhouse gases by 12 percent from the average of per barrel emissions between 2003 and 2005. If Syncrude does not meet this target in any reporting year, we must purchase offset credits or pay into a government fund dedicated to the development of emissions reduction technology. Both these options are assessed at $15 per tonne of CO2 that is in excess of reduction targets.

Syncrude did not meet the reduction target for 2012. We offset the remainder by purchasing $14 million Government of Alberta Technology Fund Units. Our emissions data was independently verified by Conestoga-Rovers & Associates and met requirements under the regulation as well as ISO 14064-1 and ISO 14064-3.

Monitoring Development of Federal Regulations

To date, the Canadian government has pursued a sector-by-sector approach to climate change regulation, beginning with the electricity and transportation sectors. To date, no broad climate change legislation has been introduced that focuses on the oil sands sector.

Syncrude believes every sector of our economy will need to do its part to help reduce our nation's carbon footprint, and the oil sands industry should neither receive preferential or detrimental treatment in any legislation. The evolution of climate change policy in Canada and North America is actively monitored by our Joint Venture participants, and developments are reported through the Syncrude Management Committee.

Creating and Sharing Best Practices

Toward sustained progress in energy conservation and reduced GHG emissions, Syncrude draws on the experience and expertise of others through its participation in the following external groups:

  • Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation (CIPEC). This collaboration between government and business is aimed at improving the energy efficiency of industries across the country. Syncrude is one of two oil sands industry members.
  • Mining Association of Canada, Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM). Syncrude reports its progress on energy and greenhouse gas emissions management annually. Results are externally verified once every three years.
  • Integrated CO2 Network (ICO2N). Representing a cross-section of western Canada's industrial COemitters, this industry association provides input to government policy about carbon capture and storage (CCS) and advocates for CCS as a part of Canada's climate change plans. The group is also helping shape a regulatory framework for CCS.