November 17, 2019

Suncor invests $1.4 billion in low-carbon power generation

In 2019 we announced plans to replace the coke-fired boilers at our Oil Sands Base Plant with two highly-efficient, natural gas-fired cogeneration units.
Cogeneration infographic

While we continue to invest in our energy future, we have had to extend the timeline of this project due to the current market conditions – a strong reminder that our investments in low-carbon innovations depend on the financial health of our business. Construction of the cogeneration project at Base Plant continues, and the facility is now expected to provide reliable steam generation and be commercially operational in the fourth quarter of 2024.

The cogeneration units will produce reliable steam for our operations and will also generate approximately 800 megawatts (MW) of low-carbon power. The combined benefit of reducing Suncor’s emissions associated with steam production, while displacing higher-carbon coal power on the electrical system today, has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the province of Alberta by 2.5 megatonnes per year.

“This is a great example of how Suncor deploys capital in projects that are economically robust, sustainability minded and technologically progressive,” says Mark Little, president and chief executive officer, Suncor. “This project provides baseload, low-carbon power equivalent to displacing 550,000 cars from the road, approximately 15% of vehicles currently in the province of Alberta.”

The project reduces GHG emissions in two ways:

  1. Changing the fuel source from petroleum coke, a by-product of oil sands, to low-carbon natural gas. This fuel switch will reduce air emissions, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
  2. Delivering approximately 800 MW of reliable, low-cost, baseload electricity to the Alberta power grid accounting for roughly 8% of Alberta’s current electricity demand. This project would cover/ account for 8% of Alberta’s current electricity demand and would potentially displace coal power generation which is a higher GHG intensity source of power.

Replacing the coke-fired boilers with the cogeneration units will also include retiring the Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) unit, currently used to reduce sulphur emissions associated with coke fuel. Decommissioning the FGD is expected to reduce the volume of water withdrawn from the Athabasca River by approximately 20%.

Suncor’s GHG emissions associated with steam production at Base Plant will be reduced by approximately 25%, contributing to both Alberta’s and Canada’s climate ambitions.

Understanding cogeneration

There are so many innovative technologies and processes that are being developed in different industries around the world - it’s hard to keep up! Here’s one that’s really changed the energy game.

Cogeneration is the lowest GHG-emitting form of electricity production using carbon. It produces all the steam we need and allows us to put our recycled water use. Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? We’ve started harnessing what cogeneration has to offer at some of our operations across Canada.