Greenhouse gas intensity decreasing at Suncor, CNRL: report

The Suncor Refinery in Edmonton is seen on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Greenhouse gas emissions intensity of Canada’s two largest oil and gas producers continues to trend in the right direction: downward, according to sustainability reports highlighted by energy publication JWN.

JWN Energy said Suncor Energy and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. released 2018 sustainability reports Thursday and both reported “reductions in GHG emissions intensity on a corporate basis, or including all of their operated facilities worldwide.”

Both Suncor and CNRL are doing more with less, which is impressing University of Calgary associate professor Trevor Tombe. He’s encouraged at the continued innovation that injects steam to loosen up the product so it can be extracted.

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“That’s part of why innovations like what we are seeing are so valuable for them,” he said.

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“They don’t just spend less money generating steam, they avoid paying a carbon tax that they otherwise would have.”

Tombe adds there’s an incentive there to stay on that track because these companies pay a carbon tax, the industrial-commercial one that the Jason Kenney government supports in principle. Tombe said the better they innovate, more can be done under the 100-million-tonne-per-year cap on production emissions that’s in place.

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“The sector is currently at 70 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. So if we’re going to continue to increase the amount of oil that Alberta produces — and there’s every indication that we will increase the amount oil that Alberta produces — we’re going to need to lower the emissions intensity per barrel in order to stay under that cap,” Tombe said.

He credits the carbon tax for that.

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“They face a carbon tax,” Tombe said.

“Oilsands producers in Alberta face a $30-per-tonne tax on emissions, so they are, more than most of us, incorporating the environment costs of their decisions into their operations.”

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Tombe is reluctant to predict what future intensity readings will be because he isn’t able to predict what technology will be incorporated and what it can accomplish.

According to JWN Energy, Suncor reported its “absolute GHG emissions” rose by about 11 per cent in 2018, while CNRL did not report an absolute figure.

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