Alberta Climate Announcement Puts End to Infinite Growth of Oilsands

Alberta Climate Change Announcment

The days of infinite growth in Alberta’s oilsands are over with the Alberta government’s blockbuster climate change announcement on Sunday, which attracted broad support from industry and civil society.

This is the day that we start to mobilize capital and resources to create green jobs, green energy, green infrastructure and a strong, environmentally responsible, sustainable and visionary Alberta energy industry with a great future,” Premier Rachel Notley said. “This is the day we stop denying there is an issue, and this is the day we do our part.”

Notley and Environment & Parks Minister Shannon Phillips released a 97-page climate change policy plan, which includes five key pillars.

Would You Raise Your Hand for Canada's Oil and Gas Industry?

Raise Your Hand Canada Feature Image

After a rough year of collapsing oil prices and the embarrassing dethroning of Alberta’s longtime Progressive Conservative government, the oil and gas industry could use a win. The latest campaign from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) was probably designed to be one.


Developed as part of CAPP's ‘Energy Citizens’ movement, the ‘Raise your Hand’ campaign is well-designed and clearly expensive. Online and off, it features smiling multiracial faces with hands raised — overlayed with hand-drawn outlines of patriotic maple leaves. There are cheerful videos, interactive bus shelter ads and an online submission form to stay connected. It even has a hashtag (#ryhcanada), the extremely limited Twitter impact of which must be giving at least one advertising executive an ulcer right now.

As Mark Hume noted in the Globe and Mail this weekend, an ad campaign that attempts to co-opt patriotism for its own ends is hardly something new. NGOs have done it for years. So have McDonalds, Molson's beer and Roots. And yet, as Hume says, “CAPP’s slogan — 'Raise your hand because you are proud of Canada’s oil and natural gas' — doesn’t quite have the same ring as one that urges you to raise your hand against racism, ignorance or disease.”

CNRL Releases New, Lower Cold Lake Oil Spill Estimates

bitumen emulsion oil spill at CNRL Primrose CSS site in the Alberta oilsands

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has released new figures tallying the total volume of bitumen emulsion recovered at the Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) Primrose site in Cold Lake, Alta. The new total — 1,177 cubic metres or 1.1 million litres — is more than a third lower than previously reported amounts.

An earlier incident report from November 14, 2013, states more than 1,878 cubic metres of emulsion was recovered at the four separate release sites, where the mixture of bitumen and water had been leaking uncontrollably into the surrounding environment for several months without explanation. That's enough liquid to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool three-quarters of the way full.

CNRL's July 31, 2013, statement (pdf), released to investors just over one month after the leaks were reported to the AER, said that within the first month of cleanup, 1,000 cubic metres of bitumen emulsion had been collected.

Scientist Kevin Timoney, who's authored several reports on the CNRL leaks, said the reported figures just don't add up.

The bottom line is, how do you go from essentially 1,900 cubic metres, which is what you get if you listen to the president of CNRL when he was talking in January, down to 1,177 cubic metres. How does that happen?” Timoney said. “And nobody has answered that.”

New Report Chronicles Alberta Regulator’s Continuous Failure to Address CNRL’s Uncontrolled Tar Sands Seepage

CNRL Cold Lake tar sands bitumen oil spill

A draft version of a new investigative report released this week by Global Forest Watch and Treeline Ecological Research argues the series of underground leaks currently releasing a mixture of tar sands bitumen and water into a surrounding wetland and forest on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range is related to a similar set of spills caused by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) in-situ operations in 2009.

The cause of the 2009 seepage was never determined and details of an investigation by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), then called the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), weren’t made public until last year, four years after the initial incident.

The new report, called “CNRL’s Persistent 2013 Bitumen Releases Near Cold Lake, Alberta: Facts, Unanswered Questions, and Implications,” takes aim at the AER for allowing certain in-situ, or underground, tar sands extraction technologies to continue without adequately addressing “major unknowns.” The independent investigation reveals the AER continually fails to protect the public interest in relation to these spills and that both industry and government demonstrate 'dysfunction' in their lack of transparency with the public.

1.5M Litres and Rising: CNRL Tar Sands Seepage Volume Continues to Grow

CNRL Cold Lake tar sands bitumen oil spill

According to new figures released by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) the total amount of bitumen emulsion – a mixture of tar sands heavy crude and water – released on Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s (CNRL) Cold Lake Site is now more than 1.5 million litres, or the equivalent to more than 9600 barrels of oil.

The reported amount has grow from an initially estimated 4,450 litres or 28 cubic metres in late June, according the AER’s website.

The figures, made public by the AER, are reported to the regulator from CNRL, prompting onlookers to raise concerns about industry self-reporting.

Bob Curran from the Alberta Energy Regulator says that it is normal for companies to report spill volumes and rates in incidents like these. Although, he adds, “these aren’t numbers that we’re saying we’ve 100 per cent verified but these are numbers that are being reported to us. I think there’s an important caveat on that.”

Two New Possible Sources of Underground Oil Seepage Identified at CNRL Tar Sands Operations

CNRL Cold Lake tar sands bitumen spill

The ongoing seepage of bitumen emulsion – a mixture of heavy tar sands oil and water – on Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s (CNRL) Cold Lake operations is now reportedly occurring on six sites, up from a previously reported four.

The two new sites were identified by the Cold Lake First Nation, according to a press statement released early Monday.

Our people want answers and factual information on the contamination of now, six surface releases of bitumen oil,” said Cecil Janvier, Council Member and Media Spokesperson for the Cold Lake First Nation.

The Cold Lake First Nation says they want greater involvement in the ongoing release of oil on their traditional Treaty 6 territory and suggest that they have been left in the dark by CNRL.

Uncontrolled CNRL Tar Sands Spill Ongoing, 1.4M Litres Recovered

CNRL Cold Lake tar sands bitumen spill

New figures released yesterday from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) show a concerted effort is still underway to clean up the growing amount of bitumen emulsion – a mixture of tar sands oil and water – that is pooling in a forested area surrounding Canada Natural Resource Ltd.’s Cold Lake project.

The cause of the seepage, which shows no sign of subsiding, has yet to be determined.

AER’s updated volumes show that the total amount of bitumen emulsion recovered on four separate spill sites amounts to 1444.4 cubic metres, a volume equivalent to 1.4 million litres of oil.

In addition, cleanup crews have removed 494 cubic metres of oily vegetation from the forested landscape and an additional 1049.62 metric tonnes – equivalent to 2.3 million pounds – of “impacted soils.”

CNRL Cold Lake Bitumen Seepage Hits 1.2 Million Litres, Reports AER

cold lake bitumen spill, underground seepage, CNRL

The ongoing trouble on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range in North Eastern Alberta, where oil company Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) has numerous in situ oil recovery sites, has yet to show signs of abatement.

Underground oil spills on CNRL’s Primrose facility have been leaking bitumen emulsion into the muskeg, waterways and forest that surround the site for nearly three months.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) says the total volume of bitumen emulsion recovered from four separate sites where the seepage is ongoing is now 1275.7 cubic metres, the equivalent of 8024 barrels of oil or 1.27 million litres.

The original volume of the spill was reported as 28 cubic metres.

CNRL Cold Lake Bitumen Seepage Continues, Despite Company Claims

cold lake bitumen tar sand oil spill primrose project CNRL

Last week, after a frenzy of press coverage of the ongoing underground bitumen seepage* at the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, CNRL, the company responsible for the spill, released a press statement suggesting the incident was contained.

Each location has been secured and clean-up, recovery and reclamation activities are well underway,” the press release reads.

Cara Tobin from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) says the spill is still ongoing and has yet to be brought under control.

It’s ongoing. The spill is still ongoing. There is still bitumen coming up from the ground. With my language I would say it is not under control [because] bitumen is still coming up from the ground.”

The AER website has the incident officially listed as “ongoing” on its website.

However,” says Tobin, “from a containment point of view CNRL has put up a perimeter around the extent of the impact on the surface and that surface impact is not getting any bigger. They have contained the extent of the spill.”

Cold Lake Spill: “There is No Control on this Incident,” says Energy Regulator

cold lake bitumen tar sand oil spill primrose project CNRL

Canadian Natural Resource Limited (CNRL), the company responsible for a massive ongoing spill on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range southeast of Fort McMurray released a public notice last week claiming the release was “secured” and that “clean-up, recovery and reclamation activities are well under way.”

Cara Tobin, Office of Public Affairs spokesperson for the Alberta Energy Regulator, said that CNRL has yet to bring the release under control. 

The spill, caused by a rare underground spring of bitumen emulsion, is the result of High-Pressure Cyclic Steam Stimulation (HPCSS) technology that forces steam into underlying bitumen reservoirs at temperatures and pressures high enough to fracture underlying formations.

I don’t want to presume what they mean by [secure] but I can tell you a few things that might help clarify,” she said.


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