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Air Quality

ConocoPhillips Canada uses steam-assisted gravity drainage for our oil sands production, which uses natural gas as a fuel source to create steam. While natural gas is relatively clean-burning fuel, its combustion produces air pollutants as well as greenhouse gas emissions. We continually evaluate new ways to reduce the steam-oil ratio and improve fuel-gas efficiency in our operations, which helps manage air pollutant emissions associated with the steam-assisted gravity drainage process and reduces our operational costs.

Learn more about our emissions performance and our other approaches to reducing emissions through our fugitive emissions monitoring program and our involvement with the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association.

Regulatory Requirements

Steam-assisted gravity drainage operations are regulated by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. Our facilities consistently meet the Alberta Ambient Air Quality Objectives, which protect human health and minimize environmental impacts. We monitor emissions as part of our project approval, which includes air pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen. Monitoring results are reported both monthly and annually to Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

At our Surmont facility, we conduct the following monitoring as per our approval requirements:


Continuous emissions monitoring

Continuous emissions monitoring uses an online analyzer to measure oxides of nitrogen emissions from one in every four of the steam generators as per the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development approval.

Manual stack surveys

Manual stack surveys are conducted regularly to test for oxides of nitrogen on the remaining steam generators and to confirm they are operating within the limits outlined in the approval.

Passive air monitoring

Passive air monitoring stations are set up around the boundary of the facility to continuously monitor the ambient air quality and confirm that guidelines are met for sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.

Ambient air monitoring

An ambient air monitoring station is set up at the facility for six months of the year to verify the facility is operating within the ambient air quality guidelines. The ambient air monitoring station monitors for parameters such as sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, oxides of nitrogen, wind speed, wind direction and temperature.

Last updated on August 13, 2015