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Tarsands

November 28, 2011

greening our energy production – “…By continuing to move CCS technology forward, Alberta is demonstrating its ongoing leadership in realizing the commercial-scale deployment of this technology and greening our energy production,” said Premier Ed Stelmach. The project will capture and store more than one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year from the Scotford Upgrader and its expansion. The province has allotted $745 million in funding for the Quest project over 15 years. “Canada is a world leader in carbon capture and storage and we are in an excellent position to use this technology on a wide scale,” said the Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources. “The Government of Canada is committed to supporting innovative clean energy technologies such as the Shell Quest project which will help to bring high-quality jobs to Alberta while contributing to the responsible development of Canada’s energy resources.” The Government of Canada is contributing $120 million toward this project through the Clean Energy fund to help demonstrate CCS technology and advance Canada’s leadership on clean energy technologies while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy production…” (Alberta inks deal for Shell Quest CCS project)

the world’s dirtiest fuels – “…The tar sands do not in fact contain oil but bitumen, probably the product of a freak geologic event. Formed more than 100 million years ago by marine organisms trapped in an ancient seabed, the tar sands are composed of a heavy chain of carbon-rich atoms high in sulfur. Bitumen, a thick, sloppy mess of oil, water, clay, and sand, feels and smells like cheap asphalt. The Cree used to heat up the stuff to repair leaky canoes. But most petroleum engineers acknowledge that it is one of the world’s dirtiest fuels. It’s not hard to understand why. To capture just one barrel of oil from this geologic pudding requires brute force. Great machines mow down trees (and all their supporting creatures such as boreal songbirds and woodland caribou), roll up acres of muskeg, drain entire wetlands, and reroute rivers. Next, for each barrel, workers must scoop up two tons of sand and wash the stuff in hot water. Even then the bitumen requires substantial upgrading to remove engine-clogging impurities. It costs more than 10 times as much to produce a flowing barrel of oil in this way than it does to produce a barrel of Saudi light oil. The entire process is fueled by natural gas, and the energy consumed is awesome: Every 24 hours the industry burns enough natural gas to heat four million American homes in order to produce one million barrels of oil…” (Canada’s Highway to Hell)

protect water and human health – “…We know that companies are increasingly injecting chemicals into the ground to extract tar sands and shale gas,” said Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence. “Environment Canada has a responsibility under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to make sure the environment is being protected, and right now that isn’t being done.” The environmental petition demands answers from Environment Canada on two emerging types of fossil fuel extraction: hydraulic fracturing or fracking of rock to access shale gas and in situ tar sands using chemical solvents. In both cases, chemical mixtures are injected into wells and there is currently no requirement for companies to report the substances used. In the U.S., companies recently disclosed that they used 750 different chemicals, 29 of which have been identified as potential carcinogens or having other human health impacts. Companies extracting tar sands are increasingly using chemical solvents to help get deep tar sands deposits out of the ground. The Auditor General’s Office will ensure that Environment Canada fully answers the questions that the petition asks. “It’s time for the federal government to meet its responsibilities to protect water and human health from the impacts of toxic chemicals used by oil and gas companies,” said Patrick Bonin of AQLPA. “The controversy around shale gas has escalated recently in Quebec because people are worried about these impacts, but British Columbia, Alberta and other provinces are also dealing with this issue…” (Ottawa Must Meet Responsibility to Protect Environment at Risk From Chemicals Used For Shale Gas and in Situ Tar Sands: Groups Petition Auditor General’s Office for Answers)

limits to protect the air and water – “…We are committed to the responsible development of the oil sands and all our natural resources,
and to managing the social and environmental impacts,” said Sustainable Resource Development Minister Mel Knight. “With this plan, we’re looking ahead more than a generation. It is government’s responsibility to plan for the future and it is important that all Albertans have their say.” An online workbook is available for the next two months at www.landuse.alberta.ca and public input sessions begin April 18 in Bonnyville and continue in 14 more locations through May 19. The plan also includes regional science-based limits to protect the air and water. Through regional planning, as well as other initiatives, Alberta is moving towards managing the cumulative effects of all development on the air, water and landscape. Management frameworks with science-based limits, and triggers to signal where proactive efforts may be needed to avoid reaching limits, will be in place to achieve the outcomes of the regional plan. Major additional areas of the Lower Athabasca’s land base are identified as new conservation areas, bringing the total for conservation and protected areas to more than two-million hectares of legislatively protected lands in the region – a 20,000 square-kilometre area three times the size of Banff National Park. Ten new provincial recreation areas and six new public lands areas have been identified, including Lakeland Country as an important tourism destination. Government will work with First Nations on an access management strategy for the Richardson backcountry and to develop historic and cultural sites for tourism in the region…” (Regional plan supports conservation and economic growth)

Bituminous sands, colloquially known as oil sands or tar sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The sands contain naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially “tar” due to its similar appearance, odour, and colour). Oil sands are found in large amounts in many countries throughout the world, but are found in extremely large quantities in Canada and Venezuela. The crude bitumen contained in the Canadian oil sands is described by Canadian authorities as “petroleum that exists in the semi-solid or solid phase in natural deposits. Bitumen is a thick, sticky form of crude oil, so heavy and viscous (thick) that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons. At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses”. Venezuelan authorities often refer to similar types of crude oil as extra-heavy oil, because Venezuelan reservoirs are warmer and the oil is somewhat less viscous, allowing it to flow more easily. Oil sands reserves have only recently been considered to be part of the world’s oil reserves, as higher oil prices and new technology enable them to be profitably extracted and upgraded to usable products. They are often referred to as unconventional oil or crude bitumen, in order to distinguish the bitumen extracted from oil sands from the free-flowing hydrocarbon mixtures known as crude oil traditionally produced from oil wells. Making liquid fuels from oil sands requires energy for steam injection and refining. This process generates two to four times the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of final product as the production of conventional oil. If combustion of the final products is included, the so-called “Well to Wheels” approach, oil sands extraction, upgrade and use emits 10 to 45% more greenhouse gases than conventional crude…Canada is the largest supplier of crude oil and refined products to the United States, supplying about 20% of total U.S. imports, and exports more oil and products to the U.S. than it consumes itself.[20] In 2006, bitumen production averaged 1.25 million barrels per day (200,000 m3/d) through 81 oil sands projects, representing 47% of total Canadian petroleum production. This proportion is expected to increase in coming decades as bitumen production grows while conventional oil production declines ..The environmental impact caused by oil sand extraction is frequently criticized by environmental groups such as Greenpeace.[97][98] Environmentalists state that their main concerns with oil sands are land damage, including the substantial degradation in the land’s ability to support forestry and farming[citation needed], greenhouse gas emissions, and water use. Oil sands extraction is generally held to be more environmentally damaging than conventional crude oil — carbon dioxide “well-to-pump” emissions, for example, are estimated to be about 1.3-1.7 times that of conventional crude (Wikepedia).

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