Canadian Natural Resources targets net zero oilsands emissions.
Canada’s largest oil and gas producer has set an ambitious target to reduce the amount of pollution from its oilsands operations to effectively zero in terms of carbon emissions.
Technology will be the key.
“It’s good to have a big target,” Steve Laut, Canadian Natural Resources’ (CNRL) executive vice-chairman, told CBC, insisting there was no specific timeframe in which to meet the goal. “It’s going to take some time and it won’t be easy, but there’s a lot of technology out there. It’s impressive.”
Laut acknowledged that oilsands were one of the most carbon-intensive oil operations in the world a decade ago. However, since then, he said the industry has worked hard to reduce its impact on the environment.
Since 2012, CNRL reports it has cut the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of oil it produces, company-wide, by 29%. Laut said that it has also reduced its methane emissions by 78% during the same period, a feat he called a “game-changing performance.”
A greener oil industry
One of the ways CNRL has reduced emissions is through three different carbon capture and storage projects. The company captures up to 2.7 million tons of greenhouse gases per year.
Nevertheless, while the industry is reducing its emissions intensity, the Pembina Institute expects total emissions to continue to climb in the short term as more oilsands projects are constructed and existing facilities are expanded.
Total oilsands emissions were about 77 million tons in 2018, a figure that could climb to 131 million tons if the proposed projects that have received regulatory approval are constructed.
If Canadian Natural Resources reaches net-zero emissions at some undetermined point in the future, that would only solve part of the problem. Of the total emissions produced from a barrel of oil, about 20% come from extracting the oil, refining it into gas and diesel, and the transportation of the product.
The remaining 80% of pollution is caused by private vehicles when the fuel is burned.