Canada's oil sands industry works to reduce air emissions associated with our development activities through project design, operational excellence, innovation and technology.
Canada, with 0.5 per cent of the world's population, produces less than 1.5 per cent of global CO2 equivalent emissions. Oil sands account for 10 per cent of Canada's GHG emissions and about 0.15 per cent of global GHG emissions.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada 2018 & World Resources Institute 2017
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are important in a global context. Other air emissions associated with oil sands development are important at the local level. These emissions include nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and fine particulate matter, which are primarily created through fuel combustion in facilities and vehicles.
Learn more about GHG emissions in Canada's oil sands.
Areas of focus
Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) is an alliance of oil sands producers focused on accelerating the pace of improvement in environmental performance in Canada's oil sands through collaborative action and innovation.
Through COSIA, oil sands companies are investigating ways to reduce energy use and associated GHG emissions through the development of innovative technologies for oil sands in situ and mining operations, including:
- improving energy efficiency in all aspects of oil sands operations, including the production of steam for in situ recovery of bitumen;
- recovering waste heat for reuse;
- design and operating best practices;
- measurement, monitoring, and verification;
- reducing flaring, venting, and fugitive emissions;
- CCS of CO2 from steam generators and other large oil sands facilities;
- producing alternative energy; and
- exploring regional opportunities to reduce GHG emissions with non-industry parties.
Air qualityAlberta has a comprehensive air quality management system that is used to address air issues and concerns. This comprehensive approach to managing air quality includes industrial approvals, ambient air monitoring, management frameworks and regional planning.
Alberta was the first North American jurisdiction to introduce a GHG emission reduction policy, which is currently one of the most rigorous in Canada. In 2015, the Government of Alberta introduced the Climate Leadership Plan, which focuses on:
- putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions
- ending pollution from coal-generated electricity by 2030
- developing more renewable energy
- capping oil sands emissions to 100 megatonnes per year
- reducing methane emissions by 45% by 2025
Air quality monitoring
Over the past 40 years, the Government of Alberta has been conducting environmental monitoring activities under the Environment Protection and Enhancement Act. As natural resource development activities have increased significantly in that time – particularly within the oil sands region in northern Alberta – the province has recognized the need to strengthen its monitoring, evaluation and reporting activities, especially in terms of understanding the cumulative effects and impact on the environment.
The Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) monitors the environment of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in north-eastern Alberta. WBEA operates in an area where the main industry is oil sands development and operates the most extensive ambient air network in Alberta with 17 air monitoring stations and 23 passive monitoring stations to date.