Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Burning fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas produce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide and ozone.

Fossil fuels are burned for electricity generation, industrial uses, transportation, as well as for the heat in our homes and commercial buildings.Other industries that emit GHGs in Canada include transportation, electricity, cement, chemicals, manufacturing, buildings, agriculture and waste management.

GHGs from human activities are a significant contributor to climate change. To read about human impacts to the climate, please refer to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Global challenge

Reducing GHG emissions is an important global issue. Specifically for the oil and natural 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. Global demand for energy is expected to increase 31 per cent by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.

The chart below shows that while Canadians make up only 0.5 per cent of the global population, Canada's share of global greenhouse gas emissions is about two per cent. Of that percentage, the largest portion of GHG emissions comes from the transportation sector.

Global GHG Emissions vs Canada's GHG Emissions

In December 2015, Canada participated in the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), in Paris, France. The Paris Agreement's main goal is to keep a global temperature rise "well below two degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels." 55 countries, which account for 55 per cent of global GHG emissions intend to ratify the agreement.

Read about the government of Canada's Action on Climate Change.

Life cycle GHG emissions from crude oil

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 well-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. (CERA Report, May 2014)

Oil sands and GHG

  • Overall, oil sands crude is around six per cent more GHG intensive than the U.S. crude supply average on a wells-to-wheels basis (CERA 2010).
  • The oil sands industry currently accounts for approximately 9.8 per cent of Canada's total GHG emissions and about 0.16 per cent of global GHG emissions. (Environment and Climate Change Canada 2017)
  • Total oil sands GHG emissions in 2014 were 68 megatonnes. (Environment and Climate Change Canada 2016)
Learn more about GHG in the oil sands

Natural gas and GHG

  • Natural gas is the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon with a wide variety of uses in our homes, businesses, industry and communities.
  • In 2013 Canada generated approximately 6,950 MW of electricity from coal-fired plants. For every 1,000 MW of coal-fired power generation converted to natural gas power generation, annual CO2 equivalent emissions are reduced by 4.4 million tonnes or just over one half of one per cent of Canada's total. (CAPP)
Learn more about GHG and natural gas

Members in action

CAPP member companies are actively working to reduce GHG emissions through project design, operational excellence, innovation and technology.

One way our members are reducing emissions through operational excellence is by the use of Waste Heat Recovery Units (WHRU). An example is Talisman's Bigstone Plant Waste Heat Recovery Unit, which was designed to transfer waste heat produced by gas turbine compressors and use it to heat liquids required to process gas. By transferring and re-using the waste heat, Talisman is able to reduce its fuel gas consumption thereby reducing GHG emissions.

Learn more about other emission management technologies