Protecting Air Quality

Corporate Responsibility

Protecting Air Quality

Canadian Natural’s integrated emissions reduction strategies comply with requirements for GHG emissions as well as air pollutants such as sulphur oxides (SOx) and oxides of nitrogen (NOX).

Air quality programs are an essential part of our environmental work plan and are operated within regulatory standards and guidelines. We measure our air emissions by conducting specific monitoring at our larger facilities and by participating in regional airshed monitoring.

For Canadian Natural's SO2 and NOX emissions, please refer to the Performance section of our 2019 Stewardship Report to Stakeholders.

Monitoring Air Quality

To ensure clean air, our air quality programs focus on reducing emissions, improving performance, and monitoring and tracking air quality. We measure our air emissions by conducting specific monitoring at our larger facilities and by participating in regional airshed monitoring programs.

Site specific, real-time data collection allows us to minimize SO2 emissions at Horizon and Primrose/Wolf Lake operations through a Continuous Emissions Monitoring System (CEMS). Alberta’s CEMS Code establishes requirements for the installation, operation, maintenance and certification of CEMS to ensure effective measurement, recording and standardized reporting of specified emissions and other parameters. The latest evaluation confirmed that Horizon’s CEMS program is industry leading.

Regionally, airshed monitoring programs assess the ambient air quality by also collecting real-time data and reporting their findings publicly. Alberta’s ambient air quality objectives and guidelines are developed under the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA).

Working with stakeholders to monitor air quality

We work with stakeholders near our operations to ensure the air quality is of a high standard. Substantial efforts are underway to monitor air quality near industrial sources, in local communities and downwind of oil sands industrial activities. Air quality in the oil sands region is monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year across the region. Canadian Natural is an active participant in the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA), a collaboration of communities, environmental groups, industry, government and Indigenous stakeholders. WBEA manages programs that include air, land and human exposure monitoring, and operates the most extensive ambient air network in Alberta. Real-time ambient air quality data reports are available on its website at

Oil sands emissions effects are decreasing

The WBEA has been monitoring forest health in the region for the past 20 years, documenting effects of oil sands air and dust emissions on forest sites in 1996. The study looked at Jackpine tree health, soil chemistry and vegetation species composition, and found that emissions impacts have decreased from 1996 to 2017.

The study shows that continuous improvement in our operations combined with the highest regulatory standards for sulphur recovery and air quality, has resulted in substantial improvements in the oil sands region for emissions and air quality. SO2 concentration measurements show that between 2015 and 2017 hotspots decreased to below 1.5 ppb from 2.5 ppb between 2000 and 2005. NOx emissions increased from 2000 to 2008 (peak concentrations of 4.5 ppb) but have since shown a steady decline in peak concentrations to 3 ppb and area impacted. In addition, the area affected is generally within 20 km of the oil sands operations, not as widespread as some past models where emissions were predicted as far out as 50 km. The study area has been reduced over half. For reference, the World Health Organization’s guideline for the annual average concentration of NOx is 21.2 ppb.

For more information, read our Environmental Planning and Monitoring section.