The fossil fuel industry dominates Canada’s top 100 emitters

This is the second story in a series that looks at federal emissions data for Canada’s 100 heaviest emitters. The first story analyzes the provinces and includes a map of where these facilities are.

If Canada wants to make a significant dent in its industrial carbon emissions, the data makes clear that the name of the game is fossil fuels.

Of the 100 heaviest emitters in Canada, the oil and gas industry is at the top in both raw emissions production and the number of installations based on 2019 data, the most recent available.

At Fort McMurray, Alta., Syncrude, a joint venture between Suncor Energy, Imperial Oil, Sinopec Oil Sands Partnership, and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, is the largest emitter on the list, responsible for just over 12,000 kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent. greenhouse gases (GHGs), or about six percent of the total of the top 100.

In 2019, the Alberta Energy Regulator gave Syncrude the green light for its $ 3.3 billion expansion plan to add two new mining sites. Suncor is the controlling shareholder of Syncrude, having increased its ownership stake from 12 percent to nearly 60 percent since 2016.

Ottawa’s industrial classification system for tracking emissions divides the oil and gas industry into several subcategories, including refineries, pipelines, mined oil sands extraction, on-site oil sands extraction, and off-site oil and gas extraction. oil sands.

Mining refers to taking ore from the ground and separating the bitumen in a processing plant, while on-site involves injecting steam underground to bring the oil to the surface. Mining creates tailings ponds, in situ it does not, and because in situ it implies less visible immediate damage to the landscape, it was previously touted by the industry as more environmentally friendly. On-site growth is also where the industry expects it to change more and more in the coming decades, but on-site emissions are generally higher due to the amount of power required, changing claims that it is a cleaner option.

There are 22 facilities involved in the extraction of fossil fuels, 13 refineries, and four pipelines on the top 100 list (although TransCanada’s pipeline network is represented three times with facilities in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario). Together, this oil and gas constellation spewed 94.7 megatons (MT) of GHG into the atmosphere in 2019, representing approximately 48% of total emissions from the top 100 sites.

These emissions come from the facilities’ Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which refer to emissions from their own operations, rather than taking into account Scope 3 emissions from the moment the product is finally burned, such as exhaust pipe of a vehicle. If Ottawa can adopt a robust clean fuel standard, it would go a long way toward addressing those Scope 3 emissions.

Oil and gas emissions are also likely to be underestimated, due to how Canada estimates emissions compared to internationally recommended methods. TO Study 2019 estimated 30% more greenhouse gas emissions overall than industry reported.

Of the reported emissions, oil and gas extraction was responsible for 71.1 MT of GHG, refineries pumped 16.9 MT, and pipelines registered 6.6 MT in the top 100 list.

Analysis: If Canada wants to make a significant dent in its industrial carbon emissions, the data makes it clear that the name of the game is fossil fuels. #cdnpoli

Irving Oil’s refinery in Saint John, NB, was the highest emitting refinery on the list. It is also the largest in the country, with a refining capacity of 320,000 barrels per day to produce a range of products such as gasoline, marine fuel, furnace oil and others. TC Energy’s TransCanada pipeline and Enbridge’s natural gas transmission line through British Columbia also made the top 100.

Many refineries could convert to cleaner fuels, such as the Come by Chance refinery in Newfoundland and Labrador (ranked 37th in the top 100), which this year announced new owners. with plans convert the refinery to produce biofuels. But the transition to a new business model is not on the cards of all large issuers.

In the table below, you can view the emissions data for the top 100 sites by industry ranking and ordered by province.

Clean Energy Canada’s policy director Sarah Petrevan said there is no credible path to net zero by 2050 that will allow oil and gas production to still exist, which means it must be reduced over time. But other heavy industries, such as cement or steel manufacturing, are the foundation on which the economy is built, making the industries critical beyond 2050, he said.

A significant way to curb emissions in these sectors is to increase the availability of cleanly generated electricity. Heavy industry uses an enormous amount of energy, and if the only available source of energy is a power grid that relies on fossil fuels, that will continue to be a problem for any decarbonization effort.

“Clean electricity, in the future, becomes a source of fuel for those industrial processes,” Petrevan said.

Of the 100 highest emitting sites, 26 of them are coal, oil or gas power plants that together emitted approximately 58.4 MT of GHGs, or about 30 percent of the total emissions on the list.

Ten of those power plants are in Alberta, including the Genesee Thermal Generating Station, a 1,300 megawatt (MW) coal plant owned by Edmonton-based energy giant Capital Power, the nation’s most polluting, responsible for 8,800 kilotonnes of GHG. To put 1,300 MW in context, that’s bigger than British Columbia’s Site C dam, which is planned to generate 1,100 MW.

Seven of the power plants are in Saskatchewan, five in Nova Scotia, two in Ontario, and New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador have one.

Because electrical grids in Canada are not always connected, it is not always possible to flow low-carbon energy from one area to another to displace fossil fuels. Also, even when connected, the transmission capacity is not always sufficient. That implies that significant expansion is needed to fully decarbonize.

Petroleum is also used as a feedstock in the manufacture of petrochemicals, such as at NOVA Chemicals’ Joffre and Corunna sites, which are on the top 100 list. Joffre is just east of Red Deer, Alta., While Corunna is in the Sarnia area of ​​Ontario. Those sites produce billions of pounds of plastic a year. Dow Chemical’s Fort Saskatchewan facility is also listed. Those three petrochemical sites were the only ones to make it into the top 100 and together they were responsible for approximately 5.5 MT in 2019.

Other heavy industries are also represented on the list. Ten cement plants spit out 8.9 MT of greenhouse gases, five steel mills added another (14.2 MT) and four aluminum plants contributed (3.3 MT). Two iron mines extracted approximately 1.8 MT.

These heavy industries are critical to building the kinds of infrastructure and communities that people depend on as climate breakdown worsens. They are also among the most difficult to decarbonize. Efforts are underway, but it will be more difficult to reduce emissions in these industries compared to other sectors on the list.

“It is difficult to reduce emissions in cement and steel, because… the chemical reaction in the manufacture of cement and steel releases CO2,” said Isabelle Turcotte of the Pembina Institute.

“So for me, that’s a circular economy story, because we have to consume differently and we have to think of our cities and buildings in a way where we emit less.”

Manufacturers of chemical fertilizers are also on the list. There were five facilities classified as “chemical fertilizer manufacturing” (except potash) that were responsible for 3.9 MT, and two potash mining facilities responsible for 1.3 MT.

Teck Resources’ Fording River operations in Elkford, BC, were the only bituminous coal mining site in the top 100 in 2019. It produces metallurgical coal (separate from the thermal coal used for electricity generation) that is used in manufacturing of steel. Its emissions were 689 KT (0.69 MT) and have been rising.

– Nora Legrand data visualization

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