Blogs & Comment

Suncor sets lofty emissions reduction targets?

Suncor Energy published its corporate sustainability reportlast week, trumpeting improvements in absolute water use (a 22% reduction over the past six years) and land reclamation (more than 1,000 hectares reclaimed). It also included some interesting claims about CO2 emissions.
Suncor, which has been self-reporting its climate change initiatives for years, says it reduced greenhouse gas emissions intensity (a meaure of emissions per unit of production) at its oilsands operations by 45% since 1990. Sounds impressive, but this does not mean a reduction in absolute emissions, as the report itself clearly indicates: Suncor will release 26% more CO2 by 2011, for a total of about 14 million tonnes. But the company then predicts emissions will dropin both 2012 and 2013, precisely when it will be producing more oil.
The company produced 228,000 barrels of oil in 2008, spewing out 9 million tonnes of CO2 from its oilsands operations. By 2012, Suncor wants to more than double production to 550,000 barrels per day, a 141% increase. Its sustainability report predicts emissions from the oilsands will increase by only 23% during the same time period, and will actually fall by 3.5% between 2011 and 2012. (This is in contrast to last year’s reporton climate change, which shows emissions increasing beyond 2011.)
How is this possible? The company doesnt specifically address how it intends to abate absolute emissions while boosting production, and a spokesperson wasnt any more specific with me over the phone:

“The majority of the improvements that we project are going to come from improved performance efficiencies, and efficiency gains through our internal operational excellence initiatives that were doing. Then on top of that, Suncor is in the process of constructing a sulphur recovery unit. Its an $800-million investment up at our Firebag operation. So in addition to the efficiency gains we expect to achieve, we would also expect that we would realize some gains in our GHG reductions coming from that sulfur recovery unit.”

The construction of the recovery unit stems from a 2007 enforcement orderby Alberta Environment about hydrogen sulphide emissions (which produce that rotten egg smell) exceeding air quality guidelines, not so much to do with CO2. The spokesperson said carbon capture and storage was not a factor in the company’s CO2 projections, so Suncor must have one heck of an efficiency program underway.