oilsands

Alberta’s Pipeline Regulation a ‘Facade’: Experts

Oil pipeline

The Alberta Energy Regulator — responsible for regulating more than 430,000 kilometres of pipelines in the province — has finally started to try to clean up its image.

In the last two weeks of February, the agency launched a “pipeline performance report” that graphs recent pipeline incidents, it levelled a $172,500 fine against Murphy Oil for a 2015 spill that went undetected for 45 days and it shut down all operations by the notoriously uncooperative Lexin Resources, including 201 pipelines.*

But critics suggest there are major systemic flaws in the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) that still need to be addressed if pipeline safety is to be taken seriously.

It’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. “You’re talking about a spill that went undetected for 45 days. And the company was fined an amount that they could likely make in less than an hour. That doesn’t send any message to the company. It definitely doesn’t send any message to the industry. And it doesn’t reform company behaviour.”

What The Oilsands Sell-Off Actually Means

Oilsands trucks

The last few months have been marked by some massive shifts in the oilsands.

In December, there was the $830 million Statoil sale to Athabasca Oil, followed in January and February by the writing down of billions of barrels of reserves by Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

On March 9, Shell sold a majority of its oilsands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) in a huge $7.25 billion sale, while Marathon Oil split its Canadian subsidiary between Shell and CNRL for a total of $2.5 billion.

The question is: why are all of these companies selling their oilsands assets? While some celebrate the moves as successes for the climate movement, others blame the Alberta NDP for the exodus of internationals.

Tweet: Experts say #oilsands sell-off has more to do w/ a broader shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical http://bit.ly/2nK3zyQ #ableg #cdnpoliBut experts say the reality has more to do with a broader economic shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical — for the time being at least.

4 Reasons the ‘Oil to Tidewater’ Argument is Bunk

Oil tanker

Access to world markets for Canadian oil has been available since 1956 when the Westridge dock was constructed in Burnaby, B.C., and linked to the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The dock’s export capacity has rarely been used to its full potential in more than 60 years — yet the oil industry and politicians continue to make the argument that Canada needs new pipelines to get oil to world markets. 

Here are four reasons that argument doesn’t fly.

Canada Risks International Embarrassment Over Mismanagement of World Heritage Site: UNESCO

Wood Buffalo National Park salt flats

Canada’s largest World Heritage Site is under threat from unfettered oilsands development and hydro dams on the Peace River — where the B.C. government is now planning to build the massive Site C dam — says a hard-hitting report by a United Nations agency.

While contaminants from the oilsands are affecting water and air quality, water flows through Wood Buffalo National Park are being strangled by dams, according to the highly critical report by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and International Union for Conservation of Nature

The report warns that, if there is not a “major and timely” response to its recommendations the organization will recommend that Wood Buffalo National Park be included in the list of World Heritage in Danger, a list usually reserved for sites in war-torn countries or those facing other disasters.

The park, made up of 4.5 million hectares of boreal plains in northern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories, has been affected by decades of massive industrial development along the Peace and Athabasca Rivers, along with poor management and lack of overall consideration of the effect of projects, it says.

The scale, pace and complexity of industrial development along the critical corridors of the Peace and Athabasca Rivers is exceptional and does not appear to be subject to adequate analysis to underpin informed decision-making and the development of matching policy, governance and management responses,” says the executive summary, which adds that the park is also subject to the additional stress of climate change.

Secrecy Around Composition of Oilsands Dilbit Makes Effective Spill Response, Research Impossible: New Study

Knowledge gaps about the behaviour of diluted bitumen when it is spilled into saltwater and lack of information about how to deal with multiple problems that can result from extracting and transporting bitumen from the Alberta oilsands, make it impossible for government or industry to come up with effective policies to deal with a disaster, says a newly published research paper, Oilsands and the Marine Environment.

Canada’s Costly Oilsands Loses Another Player as Norwegian Oil Giant Statoil Pulls Out

Statoil's oil sands operations

Norwegian oil major Statoil will be pulling out of its Canadian oilsands project after nearly a decade with an expected loss of at least USD$500 million.

In yet another sign that Canada’s oilsands – one of the most polluting fossil fuel projects on the planet – is becoming increasingly costly, Lars Christian Bacher, Statoil’s executive vice-president for international development and production, said in a statement: “This transaction corresponds with Statoil’s strategy of portfolio optimisation to enhance financial flexibility and focus capital on core activities globally.”

The 14 December announcement comes just weeks after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline in a move to facilitate growth in the oilsands and create jobs.

The Carbon Offset Question: Will Canada Buy its Way to the Climate Finish Line?

Alberta oilsands, tar sands Kris Krug

On Dec. 9, after much deliberation and political theatre, the federal government, eight provinces and three territories signed the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba were notably absent from the list of signatories.

But also absent was an explanation of just how and how much Canada will rely on emissions trading  — technically known as internationally transferred mitigation outcomes — to meet its 2030 target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions down to 524 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, a reduction of 30 per cent compared to 2005 emission levels.

In its framework Canada vaguely pledged to “continue to explore which types of tools related to the acquisition of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes may be beneficial to Canada.”

Yet Canada may be eyeing the offset tool as a fundamental part of achieving emissions reductions, especially if global resource prices rebound and the oilsands expand to production levels allowable under newly approved pipelines.

In Photos: Lessons from the Scene of the Sea Empress Oil Spill

Dr. Robin Crump had a front row seat to one of the world’s worst oil spills.

Twenty years ago, on Feb. 15, 1996, the Sea Empress oil tanker ran aground on mid-channel rocks in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales.

Over the course of the following week, the Sea Empress spilled almost 18 million gallons — 80 million litres — of crude oil, making it Britain’s third largest oil spill and the world’s 12th largest at the time.

Beaches were coated in a thick brown chocolate mousse of petroleum. Thousands of birds and other creatures perished. The rare species, Asterina Phylactica, first discovered by Dr. Crump, was reduced to a handful of individuals. Thanks in large part to Crump’s efforts, the species was well on the road to recovery within six months.

Can Trudeau Possibly Square New Pipelines with the Paris Agreement?

On Nov. 29, the federal government granted conditional approvals for the twinning of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project.

If built, the two pipelines will add just over one million barrels per day of export capacity from Alberta’s oilsands. Expectedly, many Canadians cried climate foul.

And, equally as predictably, there’s been a litany of arguments criticizing people for protesting the approvals.

The ‘Canada Needs More Pipelines’ Myth, Busted

Rachel Notley, Stephen Harper and Naheed Nenshi

For years, the Canadian public has been besieged with the same message: Alberta’s pipeline network is completely maxed out, meaning the oilsands are landlocked and new pipelines must be constructed to allow producers to ship their product to new markets and eliminate the discount imposed on exports.

It’s a notion that’s been repeated by politicians of all stripes, including Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

But there’s no merit to that argument, according to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Oil Change International.

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