Study shows oil sands emissions are comparable to other North America crudes

Canada’s oil and natural gas industry demonstrates transparency and performance with its report on emissions.

In a new report, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) explores an important piece of the Canadian natural gas and oil industry’s environment, social and governance (ESG) performance. Canada’s Natural Gas and Oil Emissions: Ongoing Reductions, Demonstrable Improvement illustrates the industry’s proven record of lowering emissions-intensity and describes pathways to a lower-carbon future through innovation and new technology.

Supplying affordable, reliable and cleaner energy to a growing global population continues to be the goal of Canada’s upstream energy industry. Advancing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction is critical to realizing the vision for Canada to be a global supplier of choice with lower-carbon natural gas and oil.

Ben Brunnen, CAPP’s vice-president oil sands, fiscal and economic policy, comments, “Canada’s natural gas and oil industry has a track record of being highly transparent compared to other producing and exporting nations. This report raises the bar even higher, as the first time Canada’s upstream energy industry has voluntarily reported the collective emissions performance of our industry.”

The industry already has a broad portfolio of innovative solutions to deliver emissions reductions – technological advances that are not just aspirational, but are making a difference now and continue to be developed to improve performance in the future. Current technologies highlighted in the report include:

  • Methane reduction – the industry is working to reduce methane emissions to meet Canada’s goal of a 45-per-cent reduction from 2012 levels by 2025. Among the world’s top 10 petroleum exporters, Canada alone has a methane reduction target. In addition to replacing older equipment at well sites and other facilities, the industry is testing new methane detection technologies including sensors on drones and trucks.
  • Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) – facilities such as the Quest CCUS project at the Scotford refinery near Edmonton are already capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) for safe storage underground or use in other industrial processes, keeping millions of tonnes of CO2 out of the air.
  • Cogeneration – upstream producers can use waste heat to generate electricity. In the oil sands, excess electricity not used for plant operations is sold to Alberta’s power grid. Cogeneration supplies about 34 per cent of the province’s electricity.
  • Paraffinic froth treatment (PFT) – is a proven technology that is substantially reducing overall oil sands emissions, allowing operators to extract carbon from produced oil and bringing full life cycle emissions in line with the average U S. production emissions.

The result of current and emerging technologies: ongoing, demonstrable emissions reduction across the industry, from natural gas production in B.C. to the Alberta oil sands to offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.

Among the report’s important findings:

  • A study led by Stanford University, the University of Calgary and the University of Toronto in collaboration with Alberta Innovates and published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, concluded that when Alberta-specific data is used in credible third-party emissions analyses, upstream GHG intensity from oil sands production is up to 35 per cent lower than previously published, making them comparable to other crudes. The study also demonstrated that current use of paraffinic froth treatment (PFT) technology in oil sands mining operations is producing crude with emission intensities lower than the global average.
  • From 2011 to 2019, as natural gas production in B.C. doubled and condensate and natural gas liquids production in Alberta significantly increased, emissions intensity decreased by 33 per cent.
  • As a result of Canada’s strict flaring practices, this country ranks among the lowest-emission natural gas producers globally.
  • While production from oil sands in situ facilities grew by 66 per cent from 2013 to 2019, Scope 1 and 2 (direct and indirect) emissions intensity dropped by eight per cent.
  • From 2013 to 2019, oil sands mining production increased 59 per cent as emissions intensity decreased by 14 per cent.
  • Canada’s offshore industry produces some of the world’s lowest emission oil.

Brunnen says, “The data shows that Canada is a good performer when it comes to emissions intensity – and we’re getting better. Key to our future will be the ability of our industry to quickly advance new technologies and put Canada in the best position possible to keep reducing GHG intensity and be a global supplier of choice.”

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