There are some who want to see a world without fossil fuels. We recognize that the issue is not the fuel but the associated emissions – which is a critically important distinction – and most experts acknowledge that oil and gas will still be a significant part of the global energy mix by 2050.  

The key is reducing the emissions associated with the production and use of that oil and gas. Our focus is on what we can do to reduce emissions associated with production – it’s what we have control over, the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero initiative is our answer – it is  how our industry can continue to responsibly meet the world’s future energy needs, be a crucial help to Canada in meeting its Paris Agreement targets, and help address climate change. Caring for the earth is, after all, one of the key elements of Suncor’s Purpose.

Canada’s oil sands production is responsible for a lot of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Indeed, we collectively emit fully 10% of Canada’s total. The Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero initiative, is an alliance between Canada’s six  largest oil sands producers – normally all competitors – representing 95% of all oil sands production. The participating companies include: Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus Energy, ConocoPhillips Canada, Imperial, MEG Energy and Suncor Energy. Together we have set a goal to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2050, (down from approximately 68 megatonnes that we emit annually now). 

“As a significant source of Canada's GHG emissions, the oil sands are a big part of the GHG challenge – we therefore must also be a big part of the solution," says Martha Hall Findlay, Chief Sustainability Officer and our representative on the Pathways Steering Committee. "That’s why we’re working together on innovative approaches to achieve our shared vision of net zero emissions.” Martha sees the target as ambitious but achievable because of the willingness of industry to work with each other as well as all levels of governments and other key groups.

“Canada has made significant progress in several areas, such as carbon pricing, reducing methane emissions and phasing out coal for electricity,” Martha says. “Industry has been making real progress as well. At Suncor, we have worked for years on reducing emissions. We are active in renewable fuels, increasing energy efficiency, fuel switching and have also announced plans to partner with ATCO on a potential clean hydrogen project, but getting to net zero emissions by 2050 in the oil sands requires unprecedented collaboration among the otherwise competing oil sands operators, and with both the federal and Alberta governments, to meet this net zero challenge.”

The Oil Sands Pathways vision includes a variety of emissions-reducing processes and technologies, over the course of three phases – from now to 2030; 2031 to 2040 and then to 2050. The foundational project will be a major carbon capture, use and storage project – including capture of CO2 from (at the start) eight oil sands sites, transport, and then sequestration in the Cold Lake area. This CCUS project will build on Canadian leadership in CCUS technology (see: Boundary Dam, Quest).

Watch for continuing coverage of Suncor’s work  and updates on the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero progress in future stories, and on the Oil Sands Pathways website.