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. Our plan includes:

  • carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and sequestration/storage and utilization;
  • carbon conversion and energy related products;
  • methane emissions reduction projects;
  • natural gas production as a lower emissions intensity energy source;
  • fuel and natural gas conservation; and
  • flaring and venting reduction projects.

CO2 Capture and Storage (CCS)

We are taking waste CO2 from our operations and using it as an input to improve performance and create value. Our CCS initiatives will capture 2.7 million tonnes of CO2 annually. Our projects include CO2 sequestration in tailings, geological sequestration (Quest Project) and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) techniques.

  • 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 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/Alberta Carbon Trunk Line. This is the first refinery in the world to integrate carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) from the outset. Gasification technology captures the CO2 produced during the refining process, creating high value, low CO2 products. The NWR is expected to capture and store 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 annually for use in EOR when fully online in 2019.
  • At our Hays gas plant in Taber (southeast Alberta), we capture 13,000 tonnes of produced CO2 per year for use in our nearby Enchant EOR operations. EOR 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

Technology is enabling innovative ways to capture valuable elements required for energy storage from our product stream. For example, we are working with Titanium Corporation to evaluate the potential deployment of their froth treatment tailings technology to recover bitumen, solvents and minerals, such as solvent, zircon and titanium, from the tailings stream.

Also, 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. In 2019, we avoided more than 128,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions through this project.

The Inter Pipeline Liquids Extraction Plant at Horizon

Leading in methane emissions reductions

In 2019, we achieved a 2.7 Mt CO2 equivalent reduction through solution gas conservation and pneumatic controller retrofit projects in our Alberta primary heavy oil operations, significantly reducing methane emissions.

Reducing venting

  • Natural gas conservation project that reduce venting in our primary heavy oil operations, we have conserved 14.7 million tonnes of CO2e since 2015 – the equivalent of removing 625,000 passenger vehicles from the road over the same period.
  • Pneumatic devices use pressurized natural gas to function and some will release small amounts of natural gas as part of their normal operation. Between 2018 and 2019, we conserved 400,000 tonnes of CO2e/year through removal or replacement of pneumatic devices.
  • We are also using vapour combustor technology to convert methane to CO2 at our heavy oil operations (when methane cannot be conserved), resulting in less CO2e emissions. Vapor combustors burn excess methane gas in an enclosed unit while keeping the equipment temperature cool. The lower temperature allows combustors to be installed near the wellhead, reducing surface disturbance.
Compressor unit at heavy oil operations

Fugitive emissions

We continue to provide efficient leak detection and repair (LDAR) of fugitive emissions across our operations. In 2019, we enhanced our Fugitive Emissions Management and Control program for natural gas, natural gas liquids and crude oil operations in North America in compliance with new regulatory requirements in effect at the beginning of 2020. Our program is managed and executed in-house, adding area operational knowledge to our processes to continue to improve fugitive emission detection and expedite repairs. We have also invested in leading Optical Gas Imaging cameras (and associated training) to complete comprehensive surveys at more than 4,000 locations across Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

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 to improve operational efficiencies, reduce emissions and support the development of best practices. We are also working with Emissions Reduction Alberta in a fugitive emissions monitoring campaign in the oil sands.

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. These net global emission reductions should 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.

Innovative practices to achieve operational efficiencies

Being innovative involves more than big step changes; it also involves the way we approach our day-to-day operational practices to increase productivity, achieve energy efficiencies and reduce GHG emissions. Technology and effective operations continue to reduce our emissions intensity.

  • Steam efficiencies reduce energy consumption.

    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.
  • Cogeneration power.

    In our Primrose/Wolf Lake (PAW) thermal in situ and oil sands mining and upgrading 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 for electricity.

    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 325,439 tonnes of CO2e since start-up in 2011, while Noel avoided 56,600 tonnes since we gained ownership of the plant in 2014.
  • Fuel efficiency.

    Several of our natural gas plants in BC have REMVue units attached to their compressor engines. These units include a fuel management system that tightly controls the mixture of air and fuel gas going into the engine (like modern fuel injection). This technology lowers emissions and increases engine efficiency by 15% on average. BC’s provincial offset standards and carbon pricing are helping drive this innovative offset project.
  • Flaring reductions.

    We also run a fuel gas import project at our North Sea operations to reduce diesel consumption through improvements on gas compression.

Collectively, our portfolio of technology projects will continue to drive GHG emissions reductions. Read about our innovative projects to reduce emissions in our Technology and Innovation Case Studies.

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