Suncor Good?

While I congratulate Suncor for taking some initiative to be a better corporate citizen, it seems hard to believe that they can be considered an example of good given the extent of their business in the Canadian Tar Sands.  Just some facts:

Canada’s Tar Sands by the Numbers: Costs in Global Warming Pollution

Amount of greenhouse gas pollution emitted by producing a barrel of oil from tar sands compared to conventional oil: 3 to 1 (source [pdf])

Tons of greenhouse gas pollution per year from tar sands production in Canada: 29,500,000
Percentage of Canada’s annual greenhouse gas emissions: 5
Approximate number of cars it would take to emit the same amount of this pollution: 5 million (source)

Approximate amount of natural gas used to produce one barrel of oil from tar sands (in cubic feet): between 700 and 1,200 (source)

Approximate amount of water used to produce a barrel of tar sand oil (in gallons): between 105 and 168 (source)

Tar sands oil production forecast for 2015 (in barrels per day): 2.2 million (source)

What I find troubling is the amount of water and natural gas they use for their extraction practice.   I have travelled through most of Alberta and there are lakes that are drying up near Fort Mac.  I would be interested to know what Suncor has done to improve their extraction processes.



Posted in climate change, corporate sustainability, ecological footprint, energy, government policy, pollution
3 comments on “Suncor Good?
  1. cmgrenier says:

    That is a good point and a very concerning one for all Canadian oil producers. In fact in a recent study conducted at the University of Ottawa, “if Suncor had to pay for damages caused by their greenhouse gas emissions, profits would plummet by approximately 27 per cent per barrel.”

    However, as pointed out in the article Suncor is very aware of these environmental consequences and is actively working towards finding solutions. They are currently piloting alternative extraction methods such as sequestration techniques, which would according to this same study reduce the negative environmental impacts and social costs associated with fossil fuel exploitation.

    That being said, Suncor is only piloting this technique. And indeed in 2003, with their exploitation in Alberta’s oil sands, Suncor was ranked number 2 Alberta’s biggest polluter (just behind Syncrude) and still in 2007 figured amongst Canada’s top polluter.

    So is Suncor polluting, yes, however, as we recognized in their industry they are fully committed to making a difference which is something that must be encouraged. As we mentioned in our presentation, it is essential that these big companies take actions to improve the situation.

    Suncor’s vision is to become a sustainable energy company, Suncor is pursuing an aggressive ‘parallel path’ approach to energy development – providing the energy that consumers need today, while taking action to support the diversification of energy sources over the longer term.
    On that note Suncor is a participant to the Pilot Emissions Removals, Reductions and Learning Initiatives of Environment Canada.

  2. empetersson says:

    …and they also lost some $50M last year – so the basic corporate ethos of making money was missed too!

  3. jeremy says:

    As I commented at the time, corporate sustainability is a relative term. If a business is *truly* sustainable, it will have an ecological footprint of zero, and may actually be a *restorative* company. I’m not sure, therefore, that Suncor falls into the “good” in our “good, bad, and ugly” categorisation.

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