Air emissions

Imperial recognizes we have an important role to play in reducing emissions to help improve air quality in the communities in which we operate. Our goal is to reduce emissions from our facilities,  focusing our efforts and investments on the needs of the local airsheds around our operations.

Our environmental management approach includes policies and procedures at our operational sites to identify and control air emissions. In 2022, we advanced plans to further reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions at our Ontario refineries and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions at our Alberta assets. We are also reducing our volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions across our assets.

We work with government and industry groups in regional air monitoring networks to measure and track cumulative air quality in regions where we operate. We meet regularly with community residents and stakeholders to review air quality and discuss concerns.

Air quality innovation

Imperial has adopted an aerial-based, next-generation remote sensing technology at our Cold Lake operation to more efficiently and cost-effectively detect and measure fugitive emissions and support timely repair. And we have partnered with VEERUM Inc. to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to create digital twins of our Kearl and Cold Lake assets, which will allow us to link leak detection and repair (LDAR) data to maintenance tasks, which should lead to expedited repair activities.

Air metrics and performance

Sulfur dioxide emissions

We continue to focus on sulfur dioxide emission reduction plans for our Sarnia and Nanticoke refineries and chemical plants, and expect to reduce our SO2 emissions by approximately 50 per cent at Nanticoke and more than 90 per cent at Sarnia by the end of 2028. 7

In 2022, we made further reliability improvements and began using proprietary SO2 reducing additives in our fluid catalytic crackers at our Sarnia and Nanticoke refineries. We expect to see a material reduction in our SO2 emissions from these actions.

Nitrogen oxides emissions

NOx emissions are primarily created by combustion of fuel in stationary equipment such as boilers and furnaces or in mobile equipment like haul trucks, excavators, and dozers. Imperial’s NOx reduction plan involves introducing new, lower-emission equipment at our sites. For example, any new boilers installed at our facilities are low-NOx burners. Strathcona is progressing plans that are expected to further reduce NOx emissions by approximately 20 per cent, by 2028.7

These changes include upgrades to ultralow NOx burners in selected furnaces and equipment modifications to the fluid catalytic cracker. At our Cold Lake operation we are developing a comprehensive plan to upgrade many of the boilers to have ultralow NOx burners.


A primary source of volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions at our operations is a result of fugitive emissions; new federal regulations mean that we have enhanced our leak detection and repair program at our refineries in 2022.

We are actively engaged with the federal government on new regulations that will reduce VOCs from tanks and loading equipment. Imperial has dedicated resources to evaluating abatement strategies and planning VOC reductions.

At our upstream assets the continued focus on reducing methane emissions will also help drive VOC reductions.


Across our operations, our goal is to reduce flaring through improved operating practices and, where appropriate, equipment upgrades. Flares are primarily a safety device and emissions will fluctuate depending on operations. In 2022 our flaring was flat compared to 2021.

Imperial upstream air emissions intensity

(tonnes/thousand m3)

Imperial downstream air emissions intensity

(tonnes/thousand m3)




1Versus the five year average up to and including 2019. 
2Dependent on equipment maintenance strategies and commercial availability. 
3What Are Tier 4 Diesel Engine Standards? – CrossCo