Climate & greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
At Cenovus, we share the world's concerns about climate change and are committed to do our part to reduce GHG emissions. As internationally recognized sources indicate that hydrocarbons will continue to be required beyond 2050 as part of the global energy mix, it’s critical we continue to make every effort to contribute towards Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments by setting our own emissions targets.
Our climate & GHG emissions targets
Emissions reductions are in reference to scope 1 and 2, on a net equity basis.
Cenovus has set a target to reduce our equity-based absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 35% by 2035 from 2019 levels, and has a long‑term ambition to achieve net zero emissions from our operations by 2050. These goals reinforce our focus on contributing towards a lower‑carbon future.
Achieving a 35% reduction in our absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by year-end 2035 means reducing our 2019 total of 23.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) by approximately 8.4 million tonnes. Technology will be key to enabling our target and multiple technology pathways will be required to get us there. We plan to advance a number of feasibility studies and pilots over phases to make the best commercial-scale decisions for each of our emissions sources, as outlined below.
Note: Capital for the proposed Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero C02 pipeline and hub are not included in the five-year capital forecast.
We’ve already made progress in reducing methane emissions at Cenovus and we’re continuing to progress other technologies that manage and reduce GHG emissions across our company.
We’ve integrated climate and GHG considerations into our strategy, capital allocation planning and Investment Committee processes to enable the achievement of our GHG target and long‑term ambition. We continue to develop our technology roadmap, including investing in technology innovations, establishing partnerships, and expanding opportunities through our Innovation Gateway team which is focused on solving our three greatest challenges: carbon, cost and revenue.
Net zero emissions by 2050
Cenovus's long-term ambition is to reach net zero emissions by 2050. This will require ongoing focus on technology innovations beyond those that are commercial and economic today. We continue to identify opportunities to participate in longer-term solutions to address emissions from our operations and beyond, including working with our peers in the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero initiative. The goal of this collaboration is to achieve net zero GHG emissions from the companies’ oil sands operations by 2050. The Pathways vision is supported by multiple parallel approaches – from electrification, fuel substitution and energy efficiency to carbon capture, process improvements and emerging technology. Extensive collaboration with our peers, government, academics, other industries and entrepreneurs from around the world continues to be paramount in order to achieve our own net zero emissions and help Canada meet its climate goals.
We currently operate two carbon capture projects:
- Lloydminster Ethanol Plant - we produce fuel-grade ethanol and capture on average approximately 80,000 tonnes of CO2e per year and safely inject that CO2e underground for enhanced oil recovery.
- Svante partnership - includes testing new carbon capture technology at our Pikes Peak South thermal project, which is now successfully in operation and captures upwards of 9,000 tonnes of CO2e per year while enabling the advancement of the technology. Read more about this project.
In addition to the carbon capture projects we already have underway, our five-year plan includes progressing CCS at our:
- Minnedosa Ethanol Plant
- Elmworth gas plant
- Lloydminster Upgrader
At our oil sands operations, the use of solvents, which are lighter hydrocarbons, has the potential to significantly reduce per‑barrel emissions. We’ve been testing these techniques in our steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operations for more than 15 years. Currently we test and pilot both a solvent-aided process (SAP) and solvent-driven process (SDP) which differ by the amount of solvent-to-steam ratio injected into the reservoir.
We plan to run the SDP pilot for at least another year before we determine the potential commercial economics to do a 100%-solvent field demonstration. Learn more about our solvent co-injection pilot.
We measure, monitor and report emissions of criteria air contaminants, including sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and others, through regulations we are subject to in Canada and the United States. This allows us to evaluate and manage emissions at the corporate and individual facility level, forecast emissions associated with future operations and achieve regulatory compliance. To reduce air pollutants such as SO2 and NOx, as well as GHG emissions such as methane, we invest in technologies that help capture contaminants and fugitives or lower energy consumption in our day-to-day operations and processes.
In addition to our ESG report, our climate and GHG performance is measured, reported and publicly disclosed in the CDP Climate survey, a global non-profit that runs the world’s leading environmental disclosure platform. Legacy Cenovus received a grade of C in 2020 and legacy Husky maintained a grade of B in the 2020 survey. Cenovus expects to continue to participate in this disclosure in 2022, where we will detail our climate and GHG emissions approach and governance.
- Between 2004 and 2020, Cenovus reduced the CO2 emissions intensity of its oil sands operations (Foster Creek, Christina Lake, Tucker and Sunrise) by approximately 25 percent.
- Foster Creek and Christina Lake oil sands facilities have cogeneration plants which use natural gas to power a combustion turbine to generate electricity for our operations and we sell excess electricity to the Alberta electrical grid, reducing the province’s reliance on coal-fired power.
- We started disclosing our scope 3 emissions estimates in our 2020 ESG report. As a fully integrated operator with upstream, downstream and marketing operations, our focus is on category 11. We have estimated scope 3 emissions for the three methods related to the use of sold products, allowing for easier comparison with our peers' emissions. Each method under category 11 represents a unique estimation method using different boundary conditions, with our estimated emissions as follows (i.e. these are not additive):
- upstream method 11.1 - 132.1 MMt CO2e
- refinery throughput method 11.2 - 113.9 Mt CO2e
- retail sales method 11.3 - 24.2 MMt CO2e.
Find out more about climate & GHG inititatives in our 2020 Environmental, Social & Governance Report.