Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The tar sands only produces 4 er... 5 er... 6% of Canada's total GHG (for now!)

Shell's New Jackpine Mine Adds 100,000 bbl per day capacity

You've seen and heard the feverishly cut and pasted line before... Canada only produces 2% of the world's GHG emissions and the tar sands only 5% of Canada's total...

This is also the platitude that Alberta spends millions advertising and spreading around the world, and what its PR folks tell people like Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and visiting U.S. senators.

Not to suggest that this situation would be acceptable if it were true however... this specific point demands further scrutiny here and now.

For starters, the figures being tossed around by tar sands apologists are probably from  2006, 2007 or 2008 at the latest. Since the tar sands are in a state of expansion, it could probably be presumed that the 5% is already more like 6 or 7%, although economic events since 2008 may have had a slight dampering effect on production increases..

As of this week, with Shell's new Jackpine Mine coming onstream, you can add another 100,000 barrels a day of capacity, so that daily-quoted 5% figure is now looking even rougher around the edges. And don't forget, the tar sands are expected to account for approximately 12% of Canada's GHG by 2020.

Not to mention that this figure only represents the GHGs produced in extracting and upgrading the bitumen. It doesn't count the final combustion by the consumer, wherever they may live. Nor does it include the rarely-mentioned discharges that will need to be incurred in most or all carbon capture and sequestration schemes that have been envisioned.

In case anyone's wondering, I do not advocate shut down of the tar sands. I advocate a net zero-GHG tar sands extraction and upgrading process. Getting there should be fun, interesting and profitable, and should provide Canada and Alberta with a wealth of proprietary technologies.

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