Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Dirtier tar sands Coming

Dirtier oil sands Coming

By SHAWN BELL, SRJ Reporter 17.FEB.09

The Alberta government has tried sneaking through a policy allowing the oilsands to get even dirtier, according to the Pembina Institute, an Alberta environmental think-tank.
The new policy allows in-situ oilsands operations to burn bitumen, petroleum coke or asphaltenes instead of natural gas to produce steam, processes that increase air emissions by 40 to 66 per cent. The policy was posted to the Alberta Environment website on Dec. 23, 2008, with a deadline for public feedback set for Feb. 13, 2009.
Pembina only noticed the policy on the day of the consultation deadline.
“The reason we’re dealing with this so late is that nobody knew anything about it,” said Simon Dyer, director of Pembina’s oilsands program. “It was posted in the middle of the Christmas lull, with no press release. They want to push it through right away, so by March oilsands could be burning bitumen and petroleum coke.”
Bitumen is much more carbon-intensive than burning natural gas. Petroleum coke and asphaltenes are waste products of oilsands upgraders.
Compared to conventional oil production, in-situ oilsands production produces four times the greenhouse gas pollution per barrel when burning relatively cleaner natural gas. According to the Pembina Institute’s analysis, in-situ oilsands operations burning petroleum coke would produce 66 per cent more greenhouse gas pollution than if the same operation were to burn natural gas.
“While Canada seeks to assure the U.S. that efforts are underway to clean up dirty oil from the oilsands, Alberta is unveiling a policy that takes us in exactly the opposite direction,” Dyer said.
The policy includes a requirement that in-situ plants be designed to be capable of capturing carbon emissions in the future. “Steam generators, when using non-gaseous fuels are required to be carbon dioxide capture-ready,” it states.
Dyer scoffed at the wording of the policy.
“Carbon capture-ready is essentially a meaningless statement,” he said. “It means that industry must have the space available to install capture carbon technology at some point in the future. But Alberta and Canada have no regulations or reduction requirements that would require carbon capture and storage (CSS), nor has CCS been proven for application with in-situ oilsands operations.”
“It’s ironic that while Alberta puts out a plan to make oilsands development more environmentally friendly, they’re pushing a policy that will increase greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.


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