Oilsands CO2 emissions may be far higher than companies report, scientists say

Oilsands CO2 emissions may be far higher than companies report, scientists say

SOURCE: CBC DATE: April 23, 2019 SNIP: A number of major oilsands operations in northern Alberta seem to be emitting significantly more carbon pollution than companies have been reporting, newly published research from federal scientists suggests, which could have profound consequences for government climate-change strategies. The researchers, mainly from Environment Canada, calculated emissions rates for four major oilsands surface mining operations using air samples collected in 2013 on 17 airplane flights over the area. In results published today in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists say the air samples from just those surface mining operations suggest their carbon dioxide emissions are 64 per cent higher, on average, than what the companies themselves report to the federal government using the standard United Nations reporting framework for greenhouse gases. The gap between the facilities’ reported carbon dioxide emissions and the levels calculated by researchers was 13 per cent for the Suncor site, 36 per cent for the Horizon mine, 38 per cent for Jackpine and 123 per cent for Syncrude. It means that Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions would be around 2.3 per cent higher than previously thought. And if research eventually shows that other oilsands sites are subject to similar underreporting issues, Canada’s overall greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as six per cent more than thought — throwing a wrench into the calculations that underpin government emissions...

Oilsands waste is collected in sprawling toxic ponds. To clean them up, oil companies plan to pour water on them

SOURCE: The Star DATE: November 23, 2018 SNIP: The toxic waste of the Canadian oilpatch [near Fort McMurray, Alberta] has been quietly spreading in the boreal forest since bitumen mining began here in the 1960s. The yogurt-like mix of clay, water, toxic acids, metals and leftover bitumen has sprawled in artificial ponds to cover an area twice the size of the city of Vancouver. More than one trillion litres of the goop, called tailings, fill these man-made waste lakes that can be seen from space. An equivalent amount of water would take five days to tumble over Niagara Falls. The contaminated tailings ponds attract and kill migrating birds. They emit methane and other greenhouse gases. Despite years of public promises from officials that the tailings ponds would shrink and go away, they are growing, and they’re right along the migratory pathways for millions of birds that use the freshwater Peace-Athabasca delta for breeding or as a stopover as they move farther north to breed. And in the meantime, troubling gaps are opening in the oversight system meant to ensure the oilpatch cleans up its mess. Alberta has collected only $1 billion from companies to help remediate tailings — a problem that is now estimated to cost about 100 times that. Decades and billions have been spent on research and still there is no sure solution to a problem that is getting attention beyond Alberta. While the world watches, the mining companies operating here have been allowed by regulators to pursue a clean-up technique called water capping. It’s supposed to work like this: put the tailings into a mined-out pit,...
A Pipeline Controversy Explained: Is Washington Now In The Tar Sands Crosshairs?

A Pipeline Controversy Explained: Is Washington Now In The Tar Sands Crosshairs?

SOURCE: Sightline DATE: June 7, 2018 SNIP: It seems likely that the Canadian province of Alberta—home to a massive tar sands industry that produces some of the globe’s dirtiest and most polluting oil—has put the Pacific Northwest in its crosshairs. The province is partnering with the Canadian government to ram through the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, a 715-mile conduit that would carry up to 890,000 barrels of oil per day from the Canadian interior to southwest British Columbia. Much of that oil would be exported by tanker from a port just outside Vancouver—resulting in a seven-fold increase in oil tanker trips from the Port of Vancouver into the Salish Sea. Additional tar sands oil would make its way south to Puget Sound refineries, via a 69-mile pipeline called the Puget Sound Pipeline (PSP). … But hidden in the details was a surprising fact: the Canadian government intends to buy not only Trans Mountain, but also the Puget Sound Pipeline. Strikingly, this means that the government of Canada is poised to become the sole owner of an oil pipeline feeding Washington State refineries. Even more troublingly, Kinder Morgan has been telling investors for years that it is considering doubling the capacity of the Puget Sound Pipeline. … In light of the undeniable fact that tar sands oil produces far more climate-warming emissions than other types of oil, Alberta’s commitment to boosting tar sands projects is nothing short of alarming. Today, the region produces about 2.8 million barrels of tar sands oil per day, or about a billion barrels a year. But if the Canadian government’s plans come to...
‘Extreme’ fossil fuel investments have surged under Donald Trump, report reveals

‘Extreme’ fossil fuel investments have surged under Donald Trump, report reveals

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: March 28, 2018 SNIP: Bank holdings in “extreme” fossil fuels skyrocketed globally to $115bn during Donald Trump’s first year as US president, with holdings in tar sands oil more than doubling, a new report has found. A sharp flight from fossil fuels investments after the Paris agreement was reversed last year with a return to energy sources dubbed “extreme” because of their contribution to global emissions. This included an 11% hike in funding for carbon-heavy tar sands, as well as Arctic and ultra-deepwater oil and coal. US and Canadian banks led a race back into the unconventional energy sector following Trump’s promise to withdraw from Paris, with JPMorgan Chase increasing its coal funding by a factor of 21, and quadrupling its tar sands assets. Bank funding for tar sands production and pipelines more than doubled last year – compared to the 2015-16 period, when then-US president Barack Obama nixed the Keystone pipeline project, which Trump subsequently reapproved. Support for coal among the 36 banks surveyed was also up by 6% in 2017 after a 38% plunge in 2016. 14 European banks collectively increased their coal financing by more than $2bn last...
Carbon Footprint of Canada’s Oil Sands Is Larger Than Thought

Carbon Footprint of Canada’s Oil Sands Is Larger Than Thought

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: April 4, 2017 SNIP: The Donald Trump administration approved the Keystone XL pipeline knowing the tar sands crude oil it would deliver from Canada is even more polluting than the Obama administration thought when it turned the project down in 2015. Recent government studies of a different tar sands pipeline found that the project’s greenhouse gas emissions “may be five to 20 percent higher than previously indicated,” the State Department noted on March 23 in its decision approving the Keystone XL...