March 19, 2007

Upstream oil and gas producers report stewardship performance

Record low levels of benzene emissions for 2005 as well as substantial reductions in releases of other substances are among the highlights of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)'s seventh Stewardship Progress Report. The 2006 report is part of CAPP's Stewardship initiative, a program unique to the Canadian upstream petroleum industry. CAPP says there is no other program like it anywhere else.

Benzene emissions per million cubic metres of gas production declined to a new low in 2005 of 0.009 tonnes. This represents a decrease of 11%. Total benzene releases from the upstream industry, at 1,634 tonnes, also declined by 11% from the previous year. Benzene emitted per glycol dehydrator (field equipment used to purify raw natural gas by removing the water content) was 0.59 tonnes, a decrease of 6% from 2004. In addition to reducing emissions, upstream gas producers are also working to reduce the number of dehydrators in use: 2,775 were in operation in 2005, 7% fewer than in 2004.

Sulfur recovery, for which reporting first began in 2003, has risen from 5.4million to 6.2 million tonnes, the recovery rate rising from 97.8% to 98.3% between 2004 and 2005. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions declined to approximately 238,000 tonnes in 2005 from 263,000 the previous year. SO2 emissions per million cubic metres of sour gas production dropped slightly, to 2.2 tonnes from 2.3 tonnes in 2004, while emissions per similar unit of production from oil sands and in situ operations dropped to 1.8 tonnes in 2005 from 2.1 tonnes the previous year.

The report also notes that less than 1.5% of the hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in sour gas production is being burned in flares or incinerated. This reflects industry and government commitments to reduce gas flaring. An increasing proportion of the H2S formerly incinerated is now being injected into underground rock formations.

Growing concern about Canada's water resources has made water use an important environmental management issue for the oil and gas industry. The report includes only two years of water use data, but CAPP notes that 90% of water in major oil and gas projects is recycled and re-used. The upstream industry has made significant progress in reducing use of freshwater through alternatives such as saline water and CO2 injection to enhance oil recovery and recycling. Only one-third of water allocated to the industry under license is actually used.

New technologies are also being developed to reduce water use in oil sands mining. Particularly promising, says the report, is a new cold bitumen extraction process that uses saline groundwater in bitumen recovery.

Among the notable activities during 2006 was the formation, last September, of the CAPP Stewardship Advisory Group. The group has begun the development of a long-term strategic plan, which will remain a priority activity during the 2007-09 period.

The report also profiles winners of the 2006 Steward of Excellence Awards: Syncrude in the Environmental Performance category for its task force-led water recovery and conservation initiative; Petro-Canada, winner of the President's Award for its partnership with the city of Edmonton on the installation of membrane filtration technology at the Gold Bar wastewater treatment plant; and ExxonMobil in the Health and Safety category, for its role as founder of a Marine Safety Council, whose work has significantly improved safety performance at offshore drilling operations.

CAPP most recently developed the Stewardship Advisory Group - an external advisory group that will review and evaluate Stewardship's vision, commitments, reporting measures and progress to identify areas for improvement.

"Participation in Stewardship exemplifies our commitment to reducing environmental, health, safety and social impacts," said CAPP president Pierre Alvarez. "We know we have work to do on issues that concern Canadians. It's through Stewardship that we hope to better address those concerns," he added.

The full report may be viewed on the CAPP Web site, www.capp.ca.

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