Posts tagged “tar sands”
Today’s article continues the series covering my recent trip to the Athabasca oil sands around Fort McMurray, Alberta. This is an annual trip that the Canadian government hosts for energy journalists, and expenses for the trip were paid for by the Canadian government.
Previous articles in this series include:
- Oil Sands and the Environment – Part I
- Oil Sands and the Environment – Part II
- How Alberta’s Oil Sands are Produced
Today I want to discuss in more detail the two companies that we visited on this trip: Canadian Natural Resources Limited (NYSE: CNQ, TSE: CNQ) and Cenovus Energy (NYSE: CVE, TSE: CVE). I will detail the cost of oil sands production via the different methods these companies utilize, as well as the energy return on energy invested (EROEI) of extracting the bitumen. CONTINUE»
I spent the first week of November in the heart of the Athabasca oil sands around Fort McMurray, Alberta. I was there as a guest of the Canadian government, which hosts annual tours for small groups of journalists and energy analysts. In the previous two articles, I covered some of the environmental issues arising from the development of the oil sands.
In Oil Sands and the Environment – Part I I discussed greenhouse gas emissions, impacts on wildlife, and I touched upon water usage. I also detailed some of the work of Pembina Institute (PI), which is working to improve the environmental conditions as the oil sands are developed. In Oil Sands and the Environment – Part II I covered the tailings ponds, water consumption, impacts to water quality, and impacts to indigenous people.
Today I want to discuss the actual process of converting the oil sands into oil. Some may feel that this should have been the first article I wrote, but because the development of the oil sands is environmentally controversial on many fronts, I thought it was important to go over environmental issues first before discussing the process. I think that if I had covered the process first, most of the comments and questions would have been about the environmental issues. CONTINUE»
Today I continue coverage of my recent visit to the Athabasca oil sands near Fort McMurray, Alberta. I was there as a guest of the Canadian government, which hosts annual tours for small groups of journalists and energy analysts. I will be covering multiple aspects of oil sands production in a series of posts.
In last week’s post — Oil Sands and the Environment – Part I — I discussed greenhouse gas emissions, impacts on wildlife, and I touched upon water usage. I also detailed some of the work of Pembina Institute (PI), which is working to improve the environmental conditions as the oil sands are developed. Today’s article will discuss the tailings ponds, water consumption, impacts to water quality, and impacts to indigenous people.
There are two primary ways of extracting bitumen from the oil sands. In situ production involves injecting steam into the ground to heat up the bitumen which is then pumped out of the ground. Surface mining is done when the resource is fairly close to the surface. During my trip we visited one in situ producer – Cenovus Energy – and one surface miner – Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL). These methods will be discussed in greater detail in next week’s post. CONTINUE»
I spent the past week in the heart of the Athabasca oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta. I was there as a guest of the Canadian government, which hosts annual tours for small groups of journalists and energy analysts. During my trip I was told that the only person who ever asked as many questions as I did was when David Biello from Scientific American was a guest. (You can read one of David’s articles from his trip here).
I felt like I learned enough to write a book on the oil sands, so I have a great deal of information I want to share with readers in a series of articles. In these articles I will provide an overview of the oil sands, compare and contrast the different ways of processing them, discuss the environmental issues, and then discuss the particular companies that I visited on this trip — Cenovus Energy and Canadian Natural Resources Limited.
I want to start this series with a 2-part discussion on the environmental issues. Generally when people think of oil sands, the environmental issues are foremost on their mind. That has always been the case with me, so most of the questions I asked during my trip related to the impact of oil sands development on the environment. This is a very contentious issue, and one in which the battle lines have been drawn. CONTINUE»
On Sunday, November 3rd, I am heading to Fort McMurray, Alberta for a tour of the oil sands operations. Here are the details from the initial email that I received inviting me on the trip:
Each year, the Consulate General partners with other U.S. Canadian missions to organize a tour of Canada’s oil sands for American media, mainly from the East Coast – for reporters/writers/editors from traditional publications, as well as those from other, more specialized publications, such as Energy Trends Insider.
The trip will go through Edmonton and Fort McMurray, including visits of mining/in situ/refining operations, as well as the chance to meet federal/provincial/local government officials, business and private sector contacts, environmental groups, possibly First Nations representatives, etc. We will look at the full range of topics related to the oil sands and their place in the Canada/U.S. energy partnership, including economic growth/job creation/competitiveness, environment and climate change concerns, innovation and technological development, and energy security.
Among other things, we will tour in situ operations at Cenovus and mining operations at Canadian Natural Resources Limited. But we are also meeting with Pembina Institute (the major environmental NGO in Alberta) as well as Alberta Environment and Sustainable Development (covering air, land, and water regulations; as well as climate change and GHG issues). CONTINUE»
A year ago, President Obama, under pressure from a deadline set by House Republicans, rejected the application of TransCanada for the Keystone XL pipeline that would pump Canadian crude from Alberta to the American gulf coast.
With a new decision on the Keystone XL pipeline due in the first quarter of 2013, according to the State Department — a date that may slip according to some observers — it is useful to assess the actual effects of not building the Keystone pipeline on Canadian oil production and North American energy markets.
Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline was touted as a big win for environmentalists, who had set their sights on Keystone XL as a big target. As Bill McKibben often quotes NASA scientist James Hansen, using the entire resources of Canada’s oil sands would mean “game over for the climate.” Once complete, Keystone XL would have a capacity of up to 1.1 million barrels of diluted bitumen per day – 54% of Canada’s total bitumen production (note: bitumen is the crude product from production in the oil sands). So, for groups like McKibben’s 350.org, the goal of stopping the pipeline was to slow and eventually stop the exploitation of Canada’s tar sands. The thought was that if environmentalists could stop the building of the Keystone pipeline, they could prevent Canada from having a market for their oil, and thereby production would slow and eventually stop.
A new report issued by the Conference Board of Canada suggests that Alberta’s lucrative oil sands region will draw a further $364 billion in investment over the next 25 years, providing an astounding 3.2 million person-years of employment during that time.
The report, titled Fuel for Thought: Benefits of Oil Sands Investment for Canada’s Regions, aims to present a full overview of the financial implications of that country’s largest oil retrieval project, easing worries about its environmental impact while reminding Canadians – the the world at large – just how much is at stake in the oil sands. (Read more: The Facts About Canada’s Oil Sands and Climate Change)
Last week I received an email from John Bockris, a retired Distinguished Professor from Texas A&M University. I presume Professor Bockris had come across some of my writings on methanol, as that was the topic of his correspondence. I don’t think Professor Bockris realized that we had met when I was a first year chemistry graduate student at Texas A&M. At that time he was one of the most well-known professors in the chemistry department. (See also: Methanol versus Ethanol: Technical Merits and Political Favoritism)
I asked for permission to publish our correspondence, and permission was granted. My reply to him is in blue. Just one correction. He referred to me as Dr. Rapier. When I was halfway through my chemistry Ph.D. at Texas A&M, it had become clear to me that chemical engineering salaries were much higher. So I switched to the chemical engineering department and got my Master of Science degree. Thus, I am merely “Mr. Rapier”, or more preferably just “Robert.”
I include his contact information in case anyone wants to engage with him about methanol. CONTINUE»
Hug the Green Industry, Kill Big Oil When Barack Obama was campaigning for president, I thought he displayed a “comic book” view of the energy industry: Lots of stereotypes of the good guys and the bad guys. He would support the good guys (those who aspired to produce renewable power) and deal with the bad guys (those who were actually supplying the fuel that allowed him to campaign across the country). If he was elected president, there would be green jobs galore, and we would embark upon a major transition away from fossil fuels. He seemed to believe that our high level of dependence on fossil fuels was more due to policy reasons than economic reasons, and the country needed… Continue»
When evaluating energy technologies – whether conventional fossil fuels or alternative energy – one thing that I pay close attention to is the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI). While there are legitimate criticisms of the methodology, it can serve as a useful tool for comparing and contrasting various alternatives. To give a flavor for why this is, consider an example. Let’s say society as a whole produces 50 million barrels of oil equivalents (could be oil, nuclear, wind, solar, biofuels, or a combination). Consider a couple of energy options. Option A has an EROEI of 10/1 (Energy Output/Energy Input). Option B has an EROEI of 2/1. Option A has to consume 5 million barrels to produce 50, for a… Continue»