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Suncor Sustainability Report: Sets Four Environmental Goals for 2015

Suncor Energy Inc. has set four environmental goals for water use, reclamation, energy efficiency and air emissions, according to the company’s 2010 Report on Sustainability report (PDF).

These targets include reducing fresh water consumption 12 percent by 2015, increasing reclamation of disturbed land area 100 percent by 2015, improving energy efficiency 10 percent by 2015, and cutting air emissions 10 percent by 2015.

The company notes that all of the proposed reductions are absolute with the exception of energy efficiency which is intensity-based.

The company has made progress in its water management in 2009. Although oil sands mining represents Suncor’s biggest draw on freshwater resources, its gross fresh water withdrawal from the Athabasca River has declined by 27.5 percent since 2004, which the company attributes to increased reuse and recycling, in particular, improved mine tailings operations.

In 2009, Suncor reduced its withdrawal from the Athabasca River by 11 percent from 2008, primarily through the installation of a new cooling tower for “once-through” cooling water that allows the company to more effectively re-circulate and reuse the river water.

In 2009, Suncor’s oil sands mining operation consumed 2.27 cubic meters of river water to produce one cubic meter of oil, a 47 percent reduction in water consumption intensity since 2003.

In the area of reclamation, as of the end of 2009, the company had reclaimed approximately 1,182 hectares, or about 6.9 percent of the total land disturbance to date. The company says with the introduction of its TRO (Tailings Reduction Operations) process, which helps transform fluid tailings ponds into solid landscapes, it expects to see more land available for reclamation more quickly.

As a result of the Suncor and Petro-Canada merger in 2009, the total amount of air emissions reported has increased overall due to the combining of company assets.

However, reduced flaring and sulphur processing at the company’s Sarnia refinery helped mitigate the amount of overall increase in SO2 emissions from the expanded refining and marketing asset group, according to the report. In addition, increased stability at its oils sands mining operation in 2009 helped decrease sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions from oil sands.

The company reports a 53 percent decrease in mineable oil sands greenhouse gas emission intensity from 1990 levels.

In 2009, the GHG emissions intensity at Suncor’s oil sands mining operation was 6 percent less than in 2008, while Suncor’s legacy in-situ Firebag operations recorded a 2.4 percent decline. Suncor says the intensity decreases were mainly due to improved reliability and productivity.

The emissions intensity at Petro-Canada’s legacy MacKay River in-situ plant also dropped by 8.6 percent in 2009, for similar reasons.

Suncor also is developing renewable energy sources. As an example, in 2009, the company’s four Canadian wind farms generated a capacity of 147 megawatts.

The company also operates one of Canada’s largest ethanol production facilities, which delivers about 200 million liters of ethanol annually. In 2009, Suncor launched a $120 million expansion of the St. Clair ethanol plant that will double its annual capacity. When that expansion is complete in 2011, its estimated that Suncor’s combined renewable energy portfolio will avoid nearly 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Suncor is a member of Network for Business Sustainability’s Leadership Council.

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