In some respects, average homeowners are not that much different from operators of big oil sands developments - both go to great lengths to make their spaces safe and functional.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto
Homeowners and oil sands operators alike are also strongly motivated to have sites that are as energy efficient as possible. For homeowners, the prize for energy efficiency is affordable heating and power bills. Not to mention the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve helped, in some small way, address climate change challenges. For oil sands operators, an energy efficient mining or in situ site can mean both improved climate change performance and profitability.
It’s no secret that the oil sands industry remains under intense scrutiny over its mounting contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While industry currently accounts for about 6.5 per cent of all Canadian GHG emissions, it is also the single fastest growing source of emissions due to expanding production.
Whether it’s a bungalow or massive oil sands mine site, the path to improving energy performance is generally similar and involves several small measures which, when combined together, can have a meaningful impact.
For homeowners, new appliances, modern furnaces, thermostat scheduling and beefed up insulation are a few things that can dial up an abode’s energy efficiency. (For a full list of ideas, check out this federal government webpage.)
When it comes to bolstering the energy efficiency of oil sands development complexes, small things count too. But the specific actions required aren’t as obvious as new weather-stripping, replacing the furnace filter or keeping the fridge door closed.
GHG reduction roadmap
That’s why Suncor, with funding from the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC), turned to external experts Jacobs Consultancy to review its operations and provide recommendations on improving GHG performance.
Jacobs completed its study using Suncor’s in situ, mining, extraction and upgrading facilities as a basis for evaluation. The results provide a how-to for improving Suncor’s energy efficiency and reducing GHG emissions.
So, what did we learn from the study?
Integrating extraction facilities with low-grade waste heat, which requires an extraction plant located near an upgrader or refinery, can reduce GHG emissions of an extraction facility by a whopping 30 to 50 per cent. Most existing oil sands facilities have some degree of heat integration, and Suncor's extraction plants make substantial use of heat integration with its adjacent bitumen upgraders.
The report also found that a variety of other operational and capital projects could improve energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions. Our in situ operations were identified as the area with the greatest opportunities for improving energy efficiency.
Longer-term technology developments for improving energy efficiency, it concluded, offered significant potential. The report also found there were no short-term solutions that deliver the large-scale GHG emission reductions we all want.
Small measures add up
Whether you’re dealing with a multi-billion dollar oil sands development complex or your own personal dwelling, incremental energy efficiency improvements are possible and achievable by putting in place a series of small measures over time.
The Walrus Talks Energy
Tune in to the OSQAR blog on Tuesday, October 1 at 4 p.m. MT/ 6 p.m. ET to watch our online broadcast of The Walrus Talks Energy speaker series.