Imperial’s Kearl oil sands mine. Photo courtesy Imperial.
In the News

Study highlights ongoing improvements in oil sands emissions

Technology and innovation are crucial to ongoing emissions reductions — and the industry is on the right path.

A study funded by Alberta Innovates and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), released in December 2020, confirms that innovation and advanced technologies are continuing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity in the oil sands.

According to study findings, upstream GHG emissions intensity for oil sands production is 14 to 35 per cent lower than a study published in 2018. The study also found two emerging technologies, Modified Steam And Gas Push (eMSAGP) and Solvent-Assisted SAGD (SA-SAGD) are capable of further reducing emissions intensity by 14 and 19 per cent respectively.

“This new study shows that innovation has enabled reductions of GHG emissions in oil sands production, and emerging technologies provide the potential for even greater results,” said Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates.

These findings further confirm previous independent studies that had already indicated a downward trend in emissions intensity.

The 2020 analysis was conducted by experts from Stanford University, the University of Calgary and the University of Toronto, who engaged with stakeholders throughout the study to facilitate the transparency and strength of study results. Companies participating in the study provided unprecedented access and assistance in interpreting both public and confidential operating data.

“Given current climate targets and ambition to reduce GHG emissions globally, there is an increasing need to transparently demonstrate baseline GHG emissions and reductions achieved over time,” said researcher Joule Bergerson, a chemical and petroleum engineering professor at the U of C and one of the report’s authors. She added that more accurate emissions models will help governments make better, more informed climate policy decisions.