oil change international

Thu, 2013-10-03 09:31Derek Leahy
Derek Leahy's picture

Oil for Export: Tar Sands Bitumen Cannot be Refined in Eastern Canada

Tar sands bitumen

The misconception with 'west-to-east' pipeline proposals like Enbridge’s Line 9 or TransCanada’s Energy East is shipping western Canadian oil to eastern Canada means ‘Canadian oil for Canadian refineries.’ This assumption overlooks the fact eastern Canadian refineries cannot refine a certain type of Canadian oil - tar sands bitumen.

Bitumen is the heavy unconventional oil found in the Alberta tar sands (also called oil sands). Only a specialized refinery can process bitumen and turn it into refined products such as fuels. Few refineries in Canada can do it. None of the refineries in eastern Canada can refine large quantities of bitumen.

TransCanada and Enbridge claim their west-to-east pipelines will transport mainly conventional oil and only small amounts of bitumen. This is unlikely to be true in the long term as conventional sources of oil dry up in Canada and bitumen production continues to increase.

If no eastern Canadian refinery makes the massive investment to outfit their operation to refine bitumen, Line 9 and Energy East are destined to ensure more bitumen will flow to markets overseas, not Canadian refineries.

Tue, 2013-01-22 12:52Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

Oil Change International: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sands

Thanks to Alberta's tar sands, coal-powered energy production just got cheaper, and dirtier.

That is largely due to an often overlooked byproduct of bitumen upgrading: petroleum coke. The byproduct, commonly referred to as petcoke, is derived from the excess heavy hydrocarbons necessarily processed out of bitumen in the production of lighter liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel. The leftover condensed byproduct, petcoke, bears a striking resemblance to coal, and is being integrated into coal power plants across the US and internationally, contributing a tremendous amount of carbon emissions to the tar sands price tag that has been previously unaccounted for.

That is, until the research group Oil Change International released a research report that calculates the use of petcoke in American energy generation increases the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline's emissions by a staggering 13 percent. 

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