How Canadian refineries are reducing GHG emissions

May 08, 2015   | Categories: Environment, Refineries
Did you know that most petroleum-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from fuel combustion, and not the production of fuel? In fact, refining accounts for only 2.5 percent of Canada’s total GHG emissions, and about 12 percent of emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Refiners have worked hard to reduce emissions, particularly in the last 15 years, said Michael Kandravy, Suncor Energy Products Partnership director of fuels quality and regulatory affairs.

Here’s how they’re doing it:

By working hard to find efficiencies and improve processes

“There are fewer refineries in Canada today relative to 10 to 15 years ago,” said Kandravy. “However, output today is similar to total output 15 years ago.”

Refineries achieved this increased efficiency through projects such as equipment upgrades and process improvements, generally referred to as debottlenecking, he said.

An “energy management mindset” has also helped. That means operating equipment efficiently and using sound maintenance practices, said Kandravy. Just in the past 10 years, refinery GHG emissions have decreased 16 percent.

Just as there are no short-term solutions for large-scale GHG reductions, there are no single solutions that apply to all facilities, said Kandravy.

“We do keep abreast of developments in “game changing” technologies such as carbon capture and storage.”

Through dedication to reduced energy use

There is no double-lane, super-fast highway to emission reduction, but finding ways to cut down on energy use during the refining process can deliver significant results.

“Refineries continually seek reductions to GHG emissions via energy efficiency,” said Kandravy.

“These types of projects usually take at least 3 to 5 years from conception to start-up,” he added. “A general rule of thumb is that every one percent reduction in energy use will achieve a one percent reduction in GHG emissions.”

According to Statistics Canada numbers, energy fuel consumption in the refining sector has dropped by 14 percent since 2009.

Refiners have achieved these performance improvements even though they have had to increase the intensity of their operations to produce cleaner fuels. And refineries will need to use more energy to achieve fuel lower sulphur levels in the future, but there will be a big payoff on the fuel combustion side.

“Less air pollution from vehicles requires more processing and energy use in refineries,” said Kandravy. “Many stakeholders agree that overall this is a good trade-off for the environment.”

In addition, lower sulphur levels in fuels will enable the implementation of clean car technologies that will contribute to doubling the fuel efficiency of light-duty vehicles by 2025 compared to 2008 models.

Canada’s refiners recognize the importance of reducing GHG emissions to face the complex challenge of climate change. They are committed to continuously building on their track record by improving the efficiency of refineries, decreasing energy use and producing cleaner fuels.
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