GHG emissions reduction program

Corporate Responsibility

GHG emissions reduction program

Being innovative is more than big step changes; it is also how we approach our day to day operations. Our programs focus on use of technology and continuous improvement in operational performance to improve both energy conservation and efficiency. Our GHG emission reduction initiatives include:

Natural Gas Conservation

  • Venting reductions. Over the last five years, we have invested more than $95 million to reduce natural gas venting in our primary heavy crude oil operations, conserving the equivalent of 18.4 million tonnes of CO2e. This volume of natural gas conserved is equal to removing 780,000 typical passenger vehicles from the road over the same period. We reduced venting in our heavy oil operations though efficient management of more than 1,000 compressors used for gas conservation, early tie-in of multi-well pads where solution gas pipelines are installed at the time of drilling (to conserve natural gas from initial production), continuous improvement in facility design and the dedication of our staff to improve processes during periods of low field activity.
  • Heat loss prevention. At our heavy oil operations, we also conserve heat through the use of a floating, polymer insulator product that prevents heat loss in the heavy oil storage tanks. This insulator decreases fuel consumption and therefore, GHG emissions, with a target to reduce CO2 emissions by over 27,000 tonnes CO2/year over a 10-year project life.
  • Hydroelectricity. The Septimus and Noel Natural Gas Processing Plants reduce emissions of CO2, methane and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by using hydroelectricity to drive the electric compressor motors. Septimus has avoided a total of 258,326 tonnes of CO2e since 2011 when it started operating, while Noel avoided 44,275 tonnes since we gained ownership of the plant in 2014. We also use solar power at many remote well sites.
  • Lower emissions. Several of our natural gas plants in British Columbia (BC) have REMVue units attached to their compressor engines. These units include a fuel management system that helps propel gas from well-sites to processing plants more efficiently (like modern fuel injection), lowering the emissions created in the process. BC’s provincial offset standards and carbon pricing are helping drive this innovative offset project. Adding this technology has increased engine efficiency by 15% on average, reaching as high as 30% at some sites.
  • Flaring reductions. In our offshore operations, we continue to focus on flaring reduction programs. We also run a fuel gas import project at our North Sea operations to reduce diesel consumption.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

Canadian Natural is a global leader in carbon capture and sequestration. Our projects make Canadian Natural the third largest owner in the oil and natural gas sector of CCS capacity in the world, and the fourth largest of all industries in the world, based on data from the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. Our projects will capture 1.6 million tonnes a year of CO2 by 2018 — same as removing 330,000 vehicles from the road annually.

CCS projects, combined with initiatives like the COSIA NRG Carbon XPRIZE, are an important step in the pathway to a lower carbon energy future. Canadian Natural’s CCS projects include:

  • CO2 sequestration in 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. Read our Managing tailings section for more information on how our CO2 capture technologies are enhancing our tailings management.
  • Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project. The Quest CCS facility is part of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) of which Canadian Natural has a 70% ownership interest. Canadian Natural operates the AOSP upstream mining assets, and Shell operates the Scotford Upgrader and the Quest CCS facility, a fully integrated CCS project. In its first two years of operations, Quest capture technology and storage capability have exceeded its target of capturing two million tonnes of CO2. Watch this video on how CCS works.
  • Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). At our Hays gas plant in Taber (southeast Alberta), we capture 22,000 tonnes of produced CO2 per year for use in our nearby Enchant EOR operations to increase the amount of crude oil that can be extracted from the field. This process allows access to an additional two million barrels of oil that would otherwise have been left in the reservoir. We are also a 50% partner in the North West Redwater Sturgeon Refinery, being constructed outside of Edmonton. This refinery is expected to capture 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 annually for EOR in the region.
  • Carbon conversion. Through our partnership with Inter Pipeline Ltd., we are capturing the off-gas produced at Horizon’s upgrader, reducing GHG and SO2 emissions. Click here for more information on this project.

Heat integration

Our Horizon oil sands and our Primrose/Wolf Lake (PAW) thermal in situ operations incorporate cogeneration plants for heat integration — the recovery and reuse of waste heat. Through this process, we simultaneously produce electricity and heat from a single fuel source as an efficient way to meet steam and electricity demands. By recycling the waste heat for reuse, we help reduce GHG emissions because our energy consumption is lower than it would be if we produced electricity and heat energy separately.

In 2016, we expanded the heat integration facilities at Horizon. Our power and steam generation plant provides steam and power to our Upgrading and Bitumen Production areas, as well as hot recycled water that is used to extract bitumen from the mined ore. The heat integration facilities transfer the process heat from upgrading units in order to heat up recycled water. This process reduces the natural gas we need to use, achieving significant operational cost savings while also lowering GHGs.

Horizon power and steam generation plant duplicates the existing power and steam generation capacity needed to support our production.

Innovation applied in methane emissions reductions

Canadian Natural is working on multiple fronts to reduce our emissions at a company level while working with industry and providing advice to governments on evolving policy and regulations.

Reducing methane emissions is one of the most cost-effective ways to decrease GHG emissions. In 2016, we established a cross-functional Methane Steering Committee (MSC) to coordinate methane reduction projects, as well as policy and regulatory development. We are piloting a technology that converts low intermittent volumes of methane to CO2 at our solution gas conservation projects in our heavy oil operations (CO2 emissions have a smaller environmental impact than methane emissions). The MSC is reviewing other initiatives that, although smaller, can be replicated across our operations and lead to larger incremental improvements.

Our continuous improvement processes also lead to better monitoring, detection, inspection and maintenance activities to better manage GHG emissions, including fugitive emissions (unintended releases of gases from pressurized process equipment that generally occur through valves, pipe connections, mechanical seals, or related equipment). By understanding fugitive methane emission sources, we can improve operational efficiencies, reduce emissions and support the development of best practices.

We collaborate with industry groups, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and government agencies to best understand fugitive emissions from our operations. To support the development of best practices, we are collaborating with industry through a joint initiative between the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC) and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to test new technology that accelerates leak detection and repairs, quickly and cost-effectively. Read more about industry collaborations to reduce GHG emissions.