GHG emissions reduction program

Corporate Responsibility

GHG emissions reduction program

Canadian Natural has a defined pathway to achieve long-term emissions reductions and improve efficiencies by developing and adopting technology. Emissions reductions are driven by a number of technologies and projects, lowering the carbon intensity of our production. Our plan includes:

Leadership in CO2 Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS)

We integrate state-of-the-art carbon reduction technologies in our projects, taking waste carbon dioxide (CO2) from our operations and using it as an input to improve performance and create value. A portion of the CO2 for these projects at Horizon, Scotford and North West Redwater (NWR) Sturgeon Refinery, is captured from hydrogen manufacturing plants, producing “blue hydrogen” &mdash hydrogen with reduced GHG emissions associated with the production process.

Our CCUS initiatives have the capacity to capture 2.7 million tonnes of CO2 annually, through CO2 addition to tailings, geological sequestration (Quest Project) and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) techniques.

  • CO2 addition to tailings.

    At Horizon, we continue to reduce GHG emissions intensity and invest in long-term technologies to recover CO2 from our hydrogen plant and add it to our tailings to enhance fine settling. For more information, visit our Managing tailings section.
  • Quest project.

    The Quest CCS facility is part of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) of which Canadian Natural owns a 70% interest. In the five years it has been operational, Quest has exceeded expectations with five million tonnes of CO2 permanently captured and safely stored — the same as the annual emissions from one million cars. Watch this video on how CCS works.
  • Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).

    We are a 50% partner in the North West Redwater (NWR) Sturgeon Refinery. NWR is part of a new system built to safely transport and permanently store CO2 in Alberta, and the first refinery in the world to integrate CCUS from the outset. CO2 captured from the refinery serves as an anchor supply to the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL) where it is used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). The system is designed to transport up to 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year, equal to the impact of capturing the CO2 from approximately 3.2 million cars.
  • At our Hays gas plant in Taber (southeast Alberta), we capture produced CO2 for use in our nearby Enchant EOR operations, which allows access to an additional two million barrels of crude oil that would otherwise have been left in the reservoir.
Canadian Natural is a major owner of carbon capture and storage technology

Carbon conversion and energy related products

Through our partnership with Inter Pipeline Ltd., we have been capturing the off-gas (natural gas liquids and olefins) produced at the Horizon upgrader, reducing GHG and SO2 emissions. The liquids extracted are transported via pipeline to Inter Pipeline’s Redwater facility. The remaining gas, now cleaner, is sent back to our upgrader, mixed with natural gas and then used as lower emissions fuel. This project has avoided more than 550,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions equivalent since 2016.

For more information on our carbon conversion and other technology development and execution projects, read our Technology and Innovation Case studies.

Methane emissions reductions

Venting reductions

Through solution gas conservation and pneumatic controller retrofit projects in our Alberta primary heavy oil operations, we are achieving significant methane emission reductions. Between 2018 and 2020 we conserved 535,000 tonnes of CO₂e, removing or replacing pneumatic devices with low-emitting ones. These projects put us on track to reduce venting and meet the Alberta government 45% reduction target in absolute methane emissions from 2014 levels by 2025.

Fugitive emissions

We continue to provide efficient leak detection and repair (LDAR) of fugitive emissions across our operations. By improving our understanding of fugitive methane emission sources, we can increase efficiencies, reduce emissions and support best practices. We collaborate with industry groups, the Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) and other partners to develop more accurate systems and technologies for quantifying fugitive emissions, accelerating leak detection and repair, and reducing venting, while supporting the development of best practices. We are also working with Emissions Reduction Alberta in a fugitive emissions monitoring campaign in the oil sands.

Read more about our methane emissions reduction projects on page 20 from our 2020 sustainability report.

Natural gas production as a lower emission intensity source

Canadian Natural’s natural gas assets are an important part of our balanced portfolio. Natural gas is a reliable and affordable energy source for power generation, with less than half the carbon footprint of coal. Our International operations, for example, supply natural gas to Côte d'Ivoire for electricity generation. Canada can help reduce net global emissions by supplying Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to global markets. Canadian LNG projects are projected to provide leading GHG performance and a preferred source of energy in a lower carbon emissions economy. These net global emission reductions are expected to receive recognition domestically and internationally as contributing towards Canada’s climate change commitments. Canada’s LNG exports could generate lower emissions compared to other facilities around the world.

Natural gas electricity also supports the development of renewable sources of energy. Together, all energy sources will contribute to the global energy mix needed to meet the world’s growing energy needs.

Our International operations supply natural gas to CDI for electricity generation. Natural gas produced at the Espoir and Baobab Fields is exported via subsea pipeline through the Adjue Terminal onshore and distributed to the Abidjan Power Station, representing about 23% of the country’s electricity demand.

Innovative practices to achieve operational efficiencies

Being innovative involves approaching day-to-day operational practices to find ways to increase productivity, achieve energy efficiencies and reduce GHG emissions. At our thermal operations, enhanced steam production helps recover more crude oil with less steam, reducing GHG emissions and energy costs. Projects that reduce steam-to-oil (SOR) ratio include solvent co-injection with steam into the reservoir and co-injection of produced gas (like methane) and steam to help maintain pressure and increase recovery. Co-injection helps reduce sulphur dioxide and CO2 emissions from steam generation.

To further reduce flaring, we run a fuel gas import project at our North Sea operations to reduce diesel consumption through improvements on gas compression.

Cogeneration power

In our oil sands mining and upgrading, and Primrose/Wolf Lake (PAW) thermal operations, we use natural gas for power through cogeneration. Cogeneration allows these facilities to simultaneously produce electricity and recover waste heat to meet the sites’ steam and electricity demands.

By using the waste heat to make steam, we help reduce emissions as our energy consumption is lower than it would be if we produced electricity and heat energy separately.

Renewable energy sources

As we advance innovation, oil and natural gas production provides a foundation to incorporate opportunities for lower carbon emission products, to support renewable energy, and to find new markets for our products.

At the Septimus and Noel natural gas processing plants in British Columbia, we use hydroelectricity to power the electric compressor motors. Septimus has avoided a total of 559,162 tonnes of CO2e since start-up in 2011, while Noel avoided 98,699 tonnes since we gained ownership of the plant in 2014.

Heavy minerals and rare earths, such as vanadium, nickel, zircon and titanium, are important elements as inputs for the renewables industry. We are looking at methods to recover these commodities from our bitumen and tailings streams. For example, we are working with Titanium Corporation to evaluate the potential deployment of their froth treatment tailings technology to recover bitumen, solvents, heavy minerals and rare earths, such as zircon and titanium, from the tailings stream.

Additionally, Canadian Natural is exploring opportunities in biodiesel, geothermal, solar and wind.

Collectively, our portfolio of technology projects will continue to drive GHG emissions reductions. Read about our innovative projects to reduce emissions in our 2020 sustainability report.

Horizon cogeneration plant produces power and steam to support our oil sands production.