Greenhouse Gas Emissions Management
Focusing on continuous improvement and innovative solutions is allowing for a number of key achievements in our environmental performance. Over the last four years, we have reduced GHG emissions intensity by 16 per cent in our NA E&P operations and by 19 per cent at Horizon. At CNRI, our GHG emissions intensity decreased by 13 per cent compared to 2014. Our continuous improvement processes lead to better monitoring, detection, inspection and maintenance activities to better manage GHG emissions, which results in more effective and efficient operations that reduce our overall carbon footprint.
Canadian Natural’s strategy for managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is based on the principles of improving energy conservation and efficiency; reducing emission intensity; developing and adopting innovative technology and supporting associated research and development. We use a multi-disciplinary risk management process which considers climate change risks and opportunities as part of our evaluation of business risk and opportunities.
Internally, we pursue an integrated emissions reduction strategy to ensure compliance with existing and future emissions reduction requirements. Through the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), we work with Canadian governments as they develop and implement new GHG emissions laws and regulations.
We continue to pursue several GHG emission reduction initiatives such as:
- Natural gas conservation;
- Compressor optimization to improve fuel gas efficiency;
- CO2 capture and sequestration in oil sands tailings;
- CO2 capture and storage in association with enhanced oil recovery (EOR);
- Cogeneration/heat integration; and
- Sharing best practices through industry collaboration.
Natural Gas Conservation
Canadian Natural continues to implement flaring, venting, fuel and solution gas conservation programs. At our NA E&P Operations, we have decreased GHG emissions intensity through reductions in venting associated with natural gas conservation in our heavy crude oil operations. In 2015, we completed 593 natural gas conservation projects that resulted in a total reduction of 3.3 million tonnes/year of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e).
Over the last five years, we have invested more than $102 million in our heavy crude oil and thermal in situ operations to conserve the equivalent of 18.5 million tonnes of CO2e.This volume of natural gas conserved is equal to removing 696,000 typical passenger vehicles off the road over this time period.
We have implemented optimization programs and monitor the performance of our natural gas compressor fleet to improve fuel gas efficiency. In our offshore operations we continue to focus on flaring reduction programs.CNRI runs a fuel gas import project at our North Sea operations to reduce diesel consumption in addition to continued focus on our flare reduction program in both the North Sea and Offshore Africa operations. CNRI maintains full compliance with the UK Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS). In 2015, we conducted an extensive energy assessment and identified a number of energy saving opportunities that are currently being evaluated by the operations team.
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. In 2015, Septimus avoided 54,271 tonnes of CO2e (for a total of 183,576 tonnes since 2011 when it started operating), while Noel avoided 12,685 tonnes of CO2e in 2015 (for a total of 27,937 tonnes avoided since we gained ownership of the plant in 2014). We also use solar power at some remote well sites.
Several of our natural gas plants in British Columbia (B.C.) have REMVue units attached to their compressor engines to lower emissions. This innovative new technology includes 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. The REMVue units are added to gas-driven compressor engines to reduce fuel consumption and are currently being used to generate offsets. B.C’s provincial offset standards and carbon pricing are helping drive this innovative offset project. Adding this technology has increased engine efficiency by 15 percent on average, reaching as high as a 30 percent at some sites.
Increasing steam generation efficiency
Another example of applied innovation is the development of a new approach to enhance steam generation efficiency at our Primrose and Wolf Lake (PAW) facilities. This study uses electrolyte simulation software for real-time steam quality measurement. This method has the potential to boost steam quality by an average of one to two percent, which can translate to an additional 1,000 bbl/d of bitumen production from our operations. It can also improve water management and reduce GHG emissions. Advancing this work had a lot to do with existing research and data made accessible to us through COSIA, and illustrates how COSIA members can access useful research and build upon it, finding solutions that are the best match for their own operations. Our research and experience with the electrolyte based model, as a means of enhancing steam generation efficiency, will also be shared with our fellow COSIA members in the future.
Carbon Capture and Storage
Canadian Natural is breaking new ground with creative ways to reduce GHG emissions and minimize the tailings pond footprint at Horizon Oil Sands. We continue to implement measures that conserve energy and lower GHG emissions, while investing in longer-term technologies aimed at reducing emissions intensity and managing our tailings pond.
Through our partnership with Williams Energy Canada, we are capturing the off-gas produced at Horizon’s upgrader, reducing GHG and SO2 emissions. For more information on this project, read this story.
Horizon’s CO2 capture facility currently under construction is expected to be operational by end of 2016. In our Phase 3 expansion, CO2 capture technologies will be combined with enhancements to our tailings management, further reducing CO2 emissions, allowing more effective recycling of tailings pond water and minimizing the size of the pond. Read our Advancements in Technology section for more information on these technologies.
At our Enchant operations in southeast Alberta, we are capturing produced CO2 for use in our Enhanced Oil Recovery (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.
Our Horizon Oil Sands and our Primrose thermal in situ operations also incorporate cogeneration plants for heat integration — the recovery and reuse of waste heat to reduce GHG emissions. Through this process, we can 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.