Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
  Energy News  

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Canadian Oil Sands Development An Economic Boon But Leaves A Mess

Open pits now dot the northern part of Alberta province where vast tracts of the Boreal Forest once stood, and giant mechanical shovels now devour black oil-encrusted soil day and night.
by Guillaume Lavallee
Fort Mcmurray (AFP) Canada, June 22, 2007
The development of Canada's oil sands is laying waste to its great northern forest and western plains, say critics who point to skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions, diverted rivers and razed backwoods. And the devastation can only get worse, they say, as energy companies pump billions of dollars into new projects to triple local oil production to some 3.0 million barrels per day within the next decade.

The Athabasca, Peace River and Cold Lake Oil Sands, at an estimated 173 billion barrels, rank second behind Saudi Arabia in petroleum resources.

But due to high extraction costs, the deposits were long neglected except by local companies.

While conventional crude oil is pumped from the ground, oil sands must be mined and bitumen separated from the sand and water, then upgraded and refined.

Since 2000, skyrocketing crude oil prices (now at about 70 dollars a barrel) and improved extraction methods have made it more economical to exploit the sands, and lured several international oil companies to mine the sands.

Open pits now dot the northern part of Alberta province where vast tracts of the Boreal Forest once stood, and giant mechanical shovels now devour black oil-encrusted soil day and night.

In an article in the June 2006 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, former US presidential candidate Al Gore offered a scathing sketch of the oil sands industry as wasteful and a blight on Canada.

"For every barrel of oil they extract there, they have to use enough natural gas to heat a family's home for four days," Gore told the magazine.

"And they have to tear up four tonnes of landscape, all for one barrel of oil. It is truly nuts," he said, urging Americans, who are the main buyers of Canadian oil, to break their addiction to oil.

For Canada, which has stepped back from its 1997 Kyoto Protocol commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 6.0 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, the oil sands boom is a mixed blessing.

It creates wealth and jobs, but the industry is already Canada's worst polluter and is bound to double its harmful CO2 emissions by 2015, now at 29 megatonnes annually, according to a government environmental audit.

"It's almost impossible for us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions if we want to boost production from 2,000 to 250,000 barrels within a decade," said Michael Borrell, president of Total Canada, a scion of the French oil behemoth Total SA.

The government has proposed a 20 percent reduction in the "intensity" of the sector's CO2 emissions, but total emissions would still rise as oil production billows.

The boom is also prompting fears of local water shortages and declining water quality as oil companies drain 349 million cubic meters of water from the Athabasca River each year for use in oil production, then dump it into area tailing ponds.

A report by the Sage Centre and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on global warming said Alberta would have to curtail new oil sands projects, which now use 2.0 to 4.5 barrels of water and large amounts of energy to produce one barrel of oil, if warming persists.

The WWF called for no new water-taking permits for energy companies, noting water flows in the Athabasca River, down 20 percent since 1958, could diminish by another seven to 10 percent if temperatures continue to rise.

"Climate change (is) an issue because the flow in the Athabasca River has constantly been dropping and as the glaciers (that feed the river) disappear in Jasper National Park, it's gonna get worse," said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute, an environmental group.

"Those people they just don't care about the environment," said Terry, a young aboriginal in Fort McKay in the heart of the oil sands. "Some people fish (in the Athabasca River) for fun ... but nobody should eat the fish around here."

Higher than average cancer rates at the nearby Fort Chipewyan Indian Reserve were recently linked to oil industry contamination of the environment, said reports.

Alberta law requires oil companies to restore excavated lands, but out of some 44,000 square kilometers (17,000 square miles) leased to them since 1967, "not a single square meter (foot) of land has been reclaimed," Dyer lamented.

earlier related report
Canadian Govt Clashes With Senate Over Kyoto Protocol
Ottawa (AFP) June 22 - Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed Friday to ignore measures that would harm the economy after the Senate passed a private member's bill to force his government to meet its Kyoto Protocol duty. "Obviously this government isn't going to implement any measures that would do severe damage to Canadian jobs or to the Canadian economy," Harper told reporters at the close of the spring parliamentary session.

"We will continue implementing our (own) national system of regulations."

The act, passed by the Liberal-dominated Senate 53-20, requires Canada to "meet its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol."

But Harper's Conservative government has repeatedly said the greenhouse gas emissions cuts required under the international pact are unattainable.

A previous Liberal administration had agreed under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce CO2 emissions to 6.0 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, but a 2006 government environmental audit found emissions had instead increased by 35 percent.

In April, the government unveiled a plan to cut Canada's CO2 emissions linked to global warming by 20 percent by 2020, based on 2006 levels, and by up to 70 percent by 2050.

The outcome of the Senate vote is both controversial and problematic for Harper's minority government because it could find itself unwittingly breaking the law, said Liberal senators.

Harper countered: "The (Speaker of the) House ruled that this is not a money bill. Frankly, there are pretty strict constitutional limitations in what someone can achieve with a bill that is not a money bill. The bill cannot impose billions of dollars of costs upon the government or the Canadian economy."

Source: Agence France-Presse

Email This Article

Related Links
Total Canada
Powering The World in the 21st Century at

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

dsIT to Supply First Underwater Surveillance System To Protect Oil Platform
Givat Shmuel, Israel (SPX) Jun 22, 2007
dsIT Solutions Ltd. (dsIT) has announced that it has received an order from NAFTOPORT Liquid Fuels Loading Company Ltd (Poland), a leading European oil terminal operator, for a Diver Detection Sonar (DDS) system. Naftoport operates an oil terminal and conducts reloading of crude oil at the Gdansk port. The company has a key role in supplying crude oil to Polish and German refineries and in exporting Russian crude oil around the world.

  • Canadian Oil Sands Development An Economic Boon But Leaves A Mess
  • dsIT to Supply First Underwater Surveillance System To Protect Oil Platform
  • Russia Economic Bandwagon Rolls On Despite Major Problems
  • Renewable Sources Contributed Nearly 10 Percent To US Electric Generation In 2006

  • Mitsubishi And Areva To Bid For US Nuclear Power Plant
  • Bangladesh To Build Nuclear Power Plant
  • Singapore Sees Myanmar Nuclear Program As Unlikely
  • Russia Hopes To Sign Belene NPP Contract This Year

  • AIRS Global Map Of Carbon Dioxide From Space
  • Widespread Twilight Zone Detected Around Clouds
  • Rand Says Further Study Warranted On Save The World Air Technology
  • Noxious Lightning

  • Scientists Close In On Missing Carbon Sink
  • Indonesia Aims To Halve Haze-Causing Fires
  • Researchers Demonstrate Way To Control Tree Height
  • Human Activities Increasing Carbon Sequestration In Forests

  • Banned Chinese GM Rice Protein Found In Dutch Shipment To Cyprus
  • Wines Knocked Into Carbon Reduction
  • Down On The Virtual Farm With GrassGro 3
  • Annan Leads Drive To Reverse African Farming Decline

  • Billionaire Hopes To Move Entire Plant From Brazil To China
  • US Senate Clinches Fuel Economy Deal
  • Hybrids Or Diesels A Tough Call For Nissan-Renault
  • Debate Heats Up In US Over Coal Fuel For Cars

  • F-35 Lightning 2 Pushing Ahead On All Fronts
  • EU And US Launch Airline Pollution Initiative
  • easyJet Plans Greener Aircraft By 2015
  • Airbus Wants To Cut CO2 Emissions By Half By 2020

  • Could NASA Get To Pluto Faster? Space Expert Says Yes - By Thinking Nuclear
  • NASA plans to send new robot to Jupiter
  • Los Alamos Hopes To Lead New Era Of Nuclear Space Tranportion With Jovian Mission
  • Boeing Selects Leader for Nuclear Space Systems Program

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement