bitumen

Sat, 2014-07-12 08:00Derek Leahy
Derek Leahy's picture

Is Canada Putting All of Its Eggs in the Oilsands Basket?

Eggs in basket

The recent shelving of the Joslyn mine oilsands project in Alberta is a reminder of the fragile economics of the oilsands. No economic formula could be found to make the $11 billion project work and it has been put on hold indefinitely.           

Oil major Total E&P, the biggest partner in the project, said the Joslyn mine project “cannot be (financially) sustainable in the long term.” Interestingly, Total did not blame lack of new pipelines for squeezing profit margins either.

You run the risk in developing fossil fuels that one day will either become fully depleted or too expensive to extract,” Philip Gass, a policy analyst at the International Institute of Sustainable Development, said from Winnipeg.

It would be difficult to deny Canada has economically benefited from developing the oilsands, a particularly difficult and expensive fossil fuel to mine and refine into light fuels — but failing to diversify the Canadian economy beyond an oil and gas ‘energy superpower’ makes for a very uncertain economic future for Canada.

Canada could find itself an energy superpower overspecialized in the ‘old economy’ (resource extraction) in a world rapidly trying to cut carbon emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change,” Andrew Jackson, a senior policy advisor with the Broadbent Institute, told DeSmog Canada.

Fri, 2014-07-11 05:00Derek Leahy
Derek Leahy's picture

Ontario Town Accepts Donation from TransCanada On Condition It Won’t Publicly Comment on Pipeline Company’s Business

A small town is northeastern Ontario has become the centre of attention in the Energy East pipeline debate for accepting a $30,000 donation from TransCanada while agreeing not to publicly comment on the pipeline company’s operations for the next five years.

The Town of Mattawa will not comment publicly on TransCanada’s operations or business projects,” states the agreement between TransCanada, Canada’s second largest pipeline company, and the Town of Mattawa. The agreement is valid for five years. 

The clause reads like a gag order,” Sabrina Bowman, climate campaigner for Environmental Defence Canada, says.

It makes me wonder how many donations by pipeline companies to other municipalities across Canada have been given on condition of silence,” Bowman told DeSmog Canada.

Mon, 2014-07-07 13:55Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

'Alarming' New Study Finds Contaminants in Animals Downstream of Oilsands

Stephane McLachlan

A health study released today by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Manitoba, is the first of its kind to draw associations between environmental contaminants produced in the oilsands and declines in health in Fort Chipewyan, a native community about 300 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The report, Environmental and Human Health Implications of Athabasca Oil Sands, finds health impacts for communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands are “positively associated” with industrial development and the consumption of traditional foods, including locally caught fish.

Dr. Stéphane McLachlan, lead environmental health researcher for the report, said the study’s results “as they relate to human health, are alarming and should function as a wakeup call to industry, government and communities alike.”

Findings include generally high concentrations of carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and heavy metals arsenic, mercury, cadmium and selenium in kidney and liver samples from moose, ducks, muskrats and beavers harvested by community members. A press release for the study says bitumen extraction and upgrading is a major emitter of all of these contaminants.

Wed, 2014-07-02 10:42Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

PHOTOS: Famed Photographer Alex MacLean’s New Photos of Canada’s Oilsands are Shocking

Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

Alex MacLean is one of America’s most famed and iconic aerial photographers. His perspective on human structures, from bodies sunbathing at the beach to complex, overlapping highway systems, always seems to hint at a larger symbolic meaning hidden in the mundane. By photographing from above, MacLean shows the sequences and patterns of human activity, including the scope of our impact on natural systems. His work reminds us of the law of proximity: the things closest to us are often the hardest to see.

Recently MacLean traveled to the Alberta oilsands in western Canada. There, working with journalist Dan Grossman, MacLean used his unique eye to capture some new and astounding images of one of the world’s largest industrial projects. Their work, funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, will form part of a larger, forthcoming report for GlobalPost.

DeSmog Canada caught up with MacLean to ask him about his experience photographing one of Canada’s most politicized resources and the source of the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines.

Thu, 2014-06-19 11:06Derek Leahy
Derek Leahy's picture

Energy East, Line 9 Pipelines Will Have “Insignificant” Economic Impact on Quebec, Says Report

Energy East export pipeline, Line 9 pipeline, desmog canada

Quebec will gain “minimal economic benefits” from west-to-east oil pipeline projects such as TransCanada’s Energy East and Enbridge’s Line 9 according to a new report released this month. Both projects would transport western Canadian oil and oilsands (also called tar sands) bitumen to refineries and ports in Quebec, but would only make a combined 0.50 per cent contribution to economic activity and 0.30 per cent to jobs in the province.

Quebec will bear almost all of the risks and costs associated with spills and other environmental impacts, without any offsetting economic gains,” Brigid Rowan, senior economist with the consulting firm The Goodman Group Ltd., and co-author of the report says.

Oilsands producers, pipeline companies, and the owners of the two refineries in Quebec have the most to gain from Line 9 and Energy East concludes the report by The Goodman Group Ltd. in collaboration with Greenpeace and Equiterre. The fifty-five-page report also refutes claims by pipeline proponents that supplying Quebec with cheaper western Canadian bitumen will make things cheaper at the gas pump for Quebecers.

Refineries will not provide discounts for Quebec markets when they can also sell their refined products to profitable markets outside Quebec,” the report states.

Consumers who think that oil companies will give them a break at the gas pump have another thing coming,” Pierre-Olivier Pineau, an energy specialist at HEC Montreal Business School warns.

Sat, 2014-06-14 12:35Guest
Guest's picture

Why Are Pipeline Spills Good For the Economy?

oil spill

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Energy giant Kinder Morgan was recently called insensitive for pointing out that “Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term.” The company wants to triple its shipping capacity from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby, in part by twinning its current pipeline. Its National Energy Board submission states, “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”

It may seem insensitive, but it’s true. And that’s the problem. Destroying the environment is bad for the planet and all the life it supports, including us. But it’s often good for business. The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico added billions to the U.S. gross domestic product! Even if a spill never occurred (a big “if”, considering the records of Kinder Morgan and other pipeline companies), increasing capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day would go hand-in-hand with rapid tar sands expansion and more wasteful, destructive burning of fossil fuels — as would approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects, as well as increased oil shipments by rail.

Thu, 2014-06-12 10:30Derek Leahy
Derek Leahy's picture

Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Granted Leave By Federal Court to Appeal Line 9 Approval

Joe Miskokomon

Yesterday (June 11th) the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal granted the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation leave to take their challenge of the Line 9 pipeline decision to court. The National Energy Board (NEB) – Canada’s energy regulator – approved the Enbridge oil pipeline project last March despite the federal government failing to fulfill its legal duty to consult with First Nations along the 38-year old pipeline’s route in Ontario and Quebec.

Line 9 goes through the Chippewas of the Thames or Deshkaan Ziibing* in the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) language traditional territory.

We do not agree with the NEB’s decision enabling Enbridge to reverse the flow of Line 9B. While the NEB can give certain approvals, it does not give Enbridge the social license to operate. Now we are in the position of having to argue about this pipeline in the Federal Court of Appeal on the issue of aboriginal consultation,” Chief Joe Miskokomon of the Chippewas of the Thames said in a statement.

Thu, 2014-05-29 05:12Derek Leahy
Derek Leahy's picture

Oilsands in the EU: European Union Receives its First Bitumen Shipment Today

Oil tanker

Today an oil tanker carrying between 500,000 and 600,000 barrels of western Canadian oilsands (also called tarsands) bitumen arrives in Bilbao, a port city in northern Spanish. It is the first shipment of Canadian bitumen to the European Union and a sign the federal government’s “pan European oilsands advocacy strategy” is succeeding.

This shipment could open the door to more imports of dirty tarsands,” says Franziska Achterberg of Greenpeace from Brussels. “Europe can’t be both a climate champion and a market for climate-wrecking tar sands. The EU must uphold its environmental credentials and stand up to the intense lobbying by the oil industry and the Canadian government.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has been lobbying the EU since 2009 to keep its markets open to bitumen. Internal documents have shown the federal government has used its embassies in Europe “to protect and advance Canadian interests related to the oil sands.”  

Fri, 2014-05-16 09:27Derek Leahy
Derek Leahy's picture

Federal Regulator Acting "Impermissibly in Favour" of TransCanada's Energy East Pipeline, Says Lawyer

The National Energy Board (NEB), the federal regulator responsible for inter-provincial pipelines, appears to have jumped the gun on TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline proposal by releasing a 'list of issues' to be considered for the project's approval, before the company submitted an official application for the project. If approved, Energy East will transport 1.1 million barrels of oil and oilsands bitumen 4,600 kilometres across the country from Hardisty, Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick each day.

It is highly irregular and, as far as I know, unprecedented,” Jason MacLean, an assistant professor of law, and specialist in environmental law, at Lakehead University, said. “Releasing the list of issues in advance is acting impermissibly in favour of the proponent of the pipeline project.”

MacLean is also acting counsel for a legal challenge announced Thursday against the NEB as a result of the 'list of issues' release. In the past the NEB has waited for pipeline companies to apply for projects before deciding what issues are relevant to their approval.

The NEB is acting in bad faith and demonstrating how biased it is in favour of the oil industry by tailoring the list of issues to be considered to the company’s advantage,” Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians, said. The Council of Canadians – one of Canada’s largest civil society organizations – is spearheading the legal challenge.

Thu, 2014-05-08 12:54Indra Das
Indra Das's picture

Alberta Government Bans Environmental Groups From Oilsands Hearing, Again

The Alberta government has barred the Oilsands Environmental Coalition from hearings on a proposed new oilsands development by Southern Pacific Resource Corp., even after a similar decision last fall was overturned by a judge.

Conservationists say the decision only makes clearer the Alberta government's tendency to shut down public dialogue on resource development. “The government hasn't learned its lesson from last time,” said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute, one of the groups in the coalition.

Dyer said the coalition will be appealing the second ruling, reports the Canadian Press.

Alberta Environment first denied the coalition standing to participate in hearings about a development on the MacKay River in northern Alberta in 2012, which would expand an existing steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) project. The expansion would result in the extraction of an additional 24,000 barrels per day (bpd) of bitumen.

Pages

Subscribe to bitumen