GHG Emissions

Canada’s oil sands industry continues to reduce GHG emissions intensity. Oil sands account for 10 per cent of Canada's GHG emissions.

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is an important global issue. Specifically for the oil and gas industry, our challenge is to reduce GHG emissions while the demand for energy – and the amount of energy the world is consuming – is growing. Work is in progress on a variety of new technologies to lower GHG emissions and capture and store CO2.


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Oil sands and GHGs

Canada, with 0.5 per cent of the world's population, produces about two per cent of global CO2 emissions. Oil sands account for 10 per cent of Canada's GHG emissions and about 0.15 per cent of global GHG emissions.

Global Emissions and Canada's Emissions

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada 2018 & World Resources Institute 2017

Wells to wheels

Life cycle analysis, sometimes called wells-to wheels, estimates the amount of GHG emissions associated with the entire life of a product. For petroleum fuels, this includes crude oil production, transport, refining, refined product transport and ultimately combusting the fuel in a vehicle. When GHG emissions are viewed on a wells-to-wheels basis, emissions released during the combustion of fuel (such as gasoline or diesel) make up 70 to 80 per cent of total emissions.

In oil sands mining, energy is required to transport the sands, break it down into smaller pieces and to heat the water used to separate the oil from the sand. Energy is also required to generate the steam that gets injected in drilling recovery methods. Other energy-intensive processes include producing the hydrogen needed to upgrade heavy crude. All these steps release GHGs into the atmosphere. The majority of GHG emissions are released at the end-user stage when consumers use oil for heat, electricity, fuel and other important products.

Climate policy

Canada is a world leader in climate policy. Action on climate change can be achieved through the creation of emissions-reducing innovation and technology, and effective government policy across Canada. Alberta’s provincial climate policy will build on the province’s oil and natural gas industry’s ongoing commitment to environmental performance and emissions reductions.

Alberta’s climate approach includes the following:

  • An oil sands specific output-based allocation approach will replace the current approach. A $30/tonne carbon price will be applied to oil sands facilities based on results already achieved by high performing facilities.
  • A legislated emissions limit on the oil sands of a maximum of 100Mt in any year. This limit will help drive technological progress and ensures Alberta’s operators have the necessary time to develop and implement new technology.

Learn more about Alberta's Climate Plan.

Companies have invested more than $1.4 billion collectively into developing new technologies to improve environmental performance through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. Read more about oil sands commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.