Oil-Sands Crude Sails From B.C., Sidestepping Federal Ban

Oil-Sands Crude Sails From B.C., Sidestepping Federal Ban

SOURCE: Bloomberg DATE: September 25, 2019 SNIP: A Canadian law barring oil tankers from the northern coast of British Columbia hasn’t stopped crude from setting sail there. Two Calgary-based companies, Melius Energy and BitCrude, are exploiting a loophole in the law passed this summer — by shipping semi-solid bitumen mined from oil sands on a cargo ship rather than in liquid form on an oil tanker. About 130 barrels of bitumen left Prince Rupert, B.C., on Saturday bound for a refinery in China, according to Cal Broder, founder of both companies and chairman of BFH Corp. He declined to name the cargo’s buyer. Canada’s Senate in June passed Bill C-48, banning oil tankers off the northern B.C. coast, against the objections of the oil sands-producing province of Alberta. Broder was able to get around the ban by sending the bitumen in a 20-foot shipping container in a semi-solid state, undiluted with lighter oils such as condensate. The concept of sending bitumen in solid form in shipping containers isn’t new. Companies have been developing technologies to send oil in the form of bricks or pellets for several years. The technology could help Canadian oil producers overcome a pipeline shortage that’s caused local oil prices to collapse last year and prompted the Alberta government to impose production limits on large producers. The bitumen shipped to China came from an oil sands producer that Broder didn’t identify. After diluent was removed, it was loaded onto a rail car and sent to Prince Rupert. Broder said he is currently setting up a processing center near Edmonton and plans to start shipping his undiluted...
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...
Despite Risks, Canada’s Tar Sands Industry Is Betting Big on Oil Trains

Despite Risks, Canada’s Tar Sands Industry Is Betting Big on Oil Trains

SOURCE: DeSmog Blog DATE: March 14, 2019 SNIP: Last year, Canada exported a record amount of tar sands oil to the U.S., despite low oil prices leading to major losses once again for the struggling tar sands industry. That achievement required a big bump in hauling oil by rail, with those daily volumes in late 2018 more than double the previous record in 2014 during the first oil-by-rail boom. Canada’s oil industry essentially has reached its limit for exporting oil into the U.S. through pipelines. That’s why it’s turning to rail to export more and more oil, but as an ever-increasing number of oil trains hit the tracks of North America, expect more accidents and oil spills to follow. This could result in a near doubling of the current record volumes of Canadian crude moving by rail. Trains potentially could haul over 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the next two years, an outcome I predicted four years ago when the Canadian industry was moving only 150,000 bpd of oil by rail. To put these volumes in perspective, the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline will have a capacity of 760,000 bpd. Oil trains amount to a veritable pipeline on wheels. If the oil and rail industries do end up moving 600,000 bpd or more of oil by train, one thing is for certain: Accidents will increase. Existing regulations ignore many of the risks of moving oil by rail. That means as oil volumes increase, we should expect derailments to increase too. And while the rail industry likes to tout its safety record, 2018 was not a good year for the...

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...