Canada, the world & the tar sands 2013 -2014

Written by  //  November 11, 2014  //  Canada, Oil & gas  //  3 Comments

See also Canada, the world & the tar sands 2012

See The Devastated Landscape Of The Alberta Tar Sands From 1,000 Feet Above
(Fast Company) Hidden in plain sight, the Alberta tar sands fields are an industrial expanse where forests once stood. These aerial images capture the scenes of destruction. (19 May 2014)

Tar sands being scooped and loaded. Oil companies hope to mine the entirety of Fort McKay’s heavy-grade bitumen deposits by 2030. Photo: Aaron Huey
The High Cost of Oil
(Outside Magazine) The crude that would feed the XL pipeline comes from a once pristine part of Alberta that now resembles mining operations on a sci-fi planet. At places like Fort McKay, home to First Nations people who’ve lived there for centuries, the money is great but the environmental and health impacts are exceedingly grim. The world has to have fuel. Is this simply the price that must be paid? …
More than 250 square miles of former boreal forest have already been stripped away, and by 2030 the industry hopes to extract all the mineable tar sands from the 1,853 square miles of deposits, an area larger than Rhode Island.
31 May
Desmond Tutu calls oilsands ‘filth’ created by greed in Fort McMurray speech
(National Post) Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu has called Alberta’s oilsands “filth” created by greed, and has urged all sides to work together to protect the environment and aboriginal rights.
“The fact that this filth is being created now, when the link between carbon emissions and global warming is so obvious, reflects negligence and greed,” Tutu told more than 200 rapt attendees a conference on oilsands development and treaty rights in Fort McMurray.
“The oilsands are emblematic of an era of high carbon and high-risk fuels that must end if we are committed to a safer climate.”
“Oilsands development not only devastates our shared climate, it is also stripping away the rights of First Nations and affected communities to protect their children, land and water from being poisoned.”
21 April
Why a world-renowned climate scientist sees hope in the tar sands
(Press Progress) During a recent trip to Alberta, climate warrior Tim Flannery sat at down with oil executives — and he emerged feeling a little hopeful.
When you consider the statistics, the author of the 2006 groundbreaking book The Weather Makers: The History & Future Impact of Climate Change has little reason to be optimistic … the industry resembles an old man, the Australian explained in a talk earlier this month at the Spur Festival in Toronto, a national festival of politics, art and ideas.”It doesn’t have the flexibility to cope with price shocks anymore. It’s got to trade in a very narrow price band or it’s going to fall over,” Flannery told the audience. And Big Oil, he said, views innovation as “the enemy.”
As new technologies make renewables cheaper, fossil fuel producers continue to feel a price squeeze. In other words — trouble for the costly extraction of oil from the tar sands.
17 April
Giving Canada’s tar sands a much needed reality check
(Environmental Defense) The tar sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. We’ve said it before. And last week, Environment Canada confirmed again that the tar sands are becoming a bigger and bigger piece of Canada’s emissions pie.
Environment Canada released a report on Friday that showed the tar sands have surpassed transportation and are now Canada’s biggest generator of global warming gases and the single biggest obstacle to meeting our 2020 climate goals.
These numbers fly in the face of federal government spending on glossy ads to convince Canadians and our trading partners that the tar sands aren’t that bad for our climate. As Environment Canada’s report shows, it’s clear the tar sands are big global warming polluters.
4 February
Oilsands pollution greatly underestimated: study
(CBC) The reporting of emissions of some hazardous air pollutants in Canada’s western oilsands projects are “very likely too low,” according to new research from the University of Toronto.. Scientists there used a model to assess the reported emissions of some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Many PAHs are highly carcinogenic. PAHs are released during the process of extracting oil from the heavy sand. Monitoring has so far only considered the pollutants released directly into the atmosphere. But this study looked at other ways PAHs are released, for example though evaporation from waste or tailings ponds. The study by Wania and PhD candidate Abha Parajulee was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Rex Murphy and Big Oil: friends with benefits? Rex Murphy has long admired Canada’s oil and gas industry from afar, it seemed. Like the protagonist in William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, Murphy has delivered many romantic soliloquies to the tar sands from his weekly soapbox on The National, the flagship news show of Canada’s public broadcaster. And he’s penned many eloquent, passion-stirring opinion pieces denying climate change in the newspapers. Many. Many, many, many. But has it really been from afar? Have Murphy and Big Oil — to borrow a term from the parlance of millenials — been hooking up, unbeknownst to his viewers and readers?


beneath-the-surface-jan2013-coverBeneath the Surface — A review of key facts in the oilsands debate
(Pembina Institute) This report examines some common claims about the environmental performance of oilsands producers and the environmental impacts of oilsands production. Many of the claims included in this document are not false, but they selectively present information to minimize the negative impacts of oilsands production or overstate the positive strides that industry or governments have made toward addressing those impacts. The information presented draws on independent research, public information and expert analysis to put key facts about oilsands production in their proper context. (January 2013)
See also Canada, the world and the tar sands Garth Lenz: Images of beauty and devastation What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDx Victoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project — and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat. Garth Lenz’ touring exhibition, “The True Cost of Oil”, has played a major part in the fight against Alberta Tar Sands Mining. (Photos taken Nov 2011)
Slideshow of a selection of Garth Lenz’s breathtaking photos of the tarsands and the land on which they encroach
Sinopec, the oil sands and justice delayed Forwarded by David Kilgour with the comment This news appears even more relevant now. Do Canadians want our oil sands and possibly a new pipeline to Kitimat to be ‘developed’ by temporary workers from China without work safety, unions, etc? The methods reported here appear astonishingly similar to what China’s party-state companies have been doing in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa.
Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel NRDC November 29 2011 — Pipeline and Tanker Trouble: The Impact to British Columbia’s Communities, Rivers, and Pacific Coastline from Tar Sands Oil Transport (pdf)
Ah! Ha! The Financial Post now has a ‘trending’ section for Northern Gateway
(The Mark) Friends with benefits: Unearthing the connections between the Harper government,, and Sun Media
At IssueThe Politics of the Oilsands
David (Jones) Exploiting existing oil options is more practical than the alternatives vs. David (Kilgour): Use oil revenues to invest in alternative and renewable energy solutions
David (Jones) Nexen: China is not yet a country Canadian firms should partner with vs. David (Kilgour) Nexen: We shouldn’t allow foreign control of any Canadian business


13 November
Booms, busts and bitumen —
The economic implications of Canadian oilsands development

By Steven Guilbeault, Sarah Dobson, Nathan Lemphers
This report, jointly published by Equiterre and the Pembina Institute, examines how the rapid pace of oilsands development is creating economic risks and regional disparities that could have long-term implications for Canada’s economic prosperity. The report also provides pragmatic recommendations to address these concerns, such as improving the management of one-time resource wealth and eliminating preferential tax treatment for the oil and gas sector.
Terence Corcoran: The tale of two oil sands: Pembina vs Canadian Manufacturers
The always reliably off-kilter Pembina Institute, fomenter of oil sands phobia in Alberta and organizing backer of green energy madness in Ontario, seems keen on triggering a nation-splitting debate over the oil sands. In a report Wednesday, the Calgary-based organization, advised by political heavyweights such as Preston Manning and David McLaughlin, said development of the oil sands threatens to impose burdens on manufacturing and other sectors across Canada. The arguments in the new report— Booms, Busts and Bitumen: The Economic Implications of Canadian Oil Sands Development — hinge mostly on the discredited idea that energy development turns the Canadian dollar into a “petrocurrency” which in turn makes Canadian manufacturing a victim of “Dutch disease.” The Dutch disease theory had been widely dismissed by the Bank of Canada and others over the last year or so, but Pembina has never been inclined to let its bad ideas die a respectable death. And so Boom, Busts and Bitumen is an attempt to perform CPR on Dutch disease. Canada, it says, is suffering from what “appears to be a uniquely Canadian strain of Dutch disease that we call ‘oil sands fever.’” Such fever, it said, is beginning to create clear winners and losers in Canada’s economy. The claim is that “oil sands expansion exacerbates challenges currently being faced by the manufacturing sector, and could pose a significant risk to Canada’s long-term economic competitiveness.”
21 October
Koch Brothers Could Earn $100 Billion in Tar Sands Profit if Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved
KXL will create a cash cow on steroids for the Kochs. Authors of a 40-page report by the liberal think-tank International Forum on Globalization have concluded that the billionaire duo, David and Charles Koch, stand to make as much as $100 billion in profits from their holdings in the tar sands of Alberta if President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline. Because it would cross the boundary between Canada and the United States, the pipeline, which would connect the tar sands to refineries on the Texas gulf coast, requires a presidential permit based on U.S. national interest. Given the mandates of the review process, a decision isn’t likely until early 2014. Boiled down to the essentials of its executive summary, the IFG report— Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb: The Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL Pipeline—states: By better connecting Canadian tar sands to U.S. refineries and their growing export markets, KXL will create a cash cow on steroids for the Kochs.
20 September
Annesley: Some oilsands facts for fiction-loving actor
Janet Annesley is vice-president of communications with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
(Calgary Herald) Silver screen star Robert Redford is a successful and respected actor for a good reason. For an hour or two, his films allow the audience to escape into a world of fiction, a world that’s removed from reality, a world that’s entertainment. His latest movie, a short film on the Canadian oilsands, is no different: it has little grounding in reality. In fact, it makes a number of false claims in a script whose only outstanding quality is a lack of facts.
4 July
The Tar Sands Trap What if natural-resource booms are actually bad for the Canadian economy?
By Jonathan Sas
(Maisonneuve) Our policymakers’ focus on resource exports risks trapping us in a precarious economic situation—one in which Canada not only becomes more vulnerable to volatile fluctuations in the price of oil, but in which we sacrifice innovation and the development of other areas of the economy at the altar of short-term profits from the bitumen rush. In fact, this is a scenario that eminent political economist Mel Watkins believes is a chronic Canadian condition. Forget “Dutch disease”—he calls it “Canadian disease.” The story of Canada’s economy is one of successive resource booms exploited for export to more advanced industrial centres like Britain and the United States. We fished cod from the sea, hunted the beaver to near-extinction, turned the prairies into a breadbasket, logged the forests for timber—and watched our staple goods disappear across our borders.- See more at:
17 May Tar sands residue in Detroit Petroleum coke
A Black Mound of Canadian Oil Waste Is Rising Over Detroit

(NYT) Assumption Park gives residents of this city lovely views of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit skyline. Lately they’ve been treated to another sight: a three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the other side of the Detroit River. Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom. And no one knows quite what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it. The company is controlled by Charles and David Koch, wealthy industrialists who back a number of conservative and libertarian causes including activist groups that challenge the science behind climate change. The company sells the high-sulfur, high-carbon waste, usually overseas, where it is burned as fuel. … Coke, which is mainly carbon, is an essential ingredient in steelmaking as well as producing the electrical anodes used to make aluminum. While there is high demand from both those industries, the small grains and high sulfur content of this petroleum coke make it largely unusable for those purposes, said Kerry Satterthwaite, a petroleum coke analyst at Roskill Information Services, a commodities analysis company based in London.
We rarely agree with Greg Palast on anything, but this report is well worth reading/listening to
Koch Brothers Driving Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to Cut Out Venezuelan Oil
The XL pipeline, Keystone pipeline, is the proposed pipeline, extension of a pipeline that would take tar sands oil from Canada€ … which they want to move down to refineries, down to Houston, Texas. … The Koch brothers are the owners of the big refineries, like the Flint Hills refinery, along the Gulf coast of Texas. And you have to understand, refineries, these kind of giant filth machines, are actually very sensitive instruments. They can’t just suck up and refine any old oil and throw filth into the air; they’re very specialized machines. And the Gulf coast refineries, especially those controlled by the Koch brothers in Flint Hills, can really only handle heavy crude oil. So the stuff that’s in Texas itself, West Texas crude, which is light and sweet, it’s good oil; it’s not filled with a lot of crappy sulphur. That’s no good for the Texas refineries. Rather, they need that heavy, gunky stuff which is ultrapolluting.
27 April
Climate Change Scientist Calls Conservatives ‘Neanderthal’ The former NASA scientist criticized by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver earlier this week for his views on the Keystone XL pipeline is responding by calling the Conservatives a desperate and “Neanderthal” government. In an interview with Evan Solomon airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House, James Hansen defended his position that approving the proposed pipeline would be disastrous for the environment.
17 April
Texas: One more threat to the oil sands The Alberta oil sands were once seen as the last big oil reserve available to be exploited in a stable, democratic country. But that is no longer the case as companies bore in on new pools of oil in the United States. The latest is the Permian Basin, an oil-rich region in Texas that has produced crude since the 1920s. … There is also the question of how large the Permian will actually become. Industry players have a tendency toward optimism in the early days of a play, meaning Pioneer’s figures should be treated with some caution. Even other oil drillers say initial estimates can fail to account for the magnitude of difficulty, or cost, of extracting new supplies. [See comment from Nick’s Gleanings below]
3 April
How the Tar Sands Are Crushing Science in Canada
( The Canadian government is currently under investigation for its efforts to obstruct the right of the media and public to speak to government scientists. These policies are widely believed to be a part of the government’s unspoken campaign to ensure that oil keeps flowing from the Athabasca tar sands — even if it’s at the cost of free scientific inquiry, the environment, and by consequence, democracy itself. Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault officially launched the investigation into the alleged ‘muzzling’ of Canadian scientists earlier this week. Calls for the inquiry came in the form of a recent 128-page report chronicling “systemic efforts” to obstruct public access to researchers — a request that originated from the non-profit group Democracy Watch. The agencies to be investigated include departments of the environment, fisheries and oceans, natural resources, and the National Research Council of Canada.
20 March
Environmental giant stops tar sands monitoring
(RCI) As the future of the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico continues to be debated in Canada and the US, the much-maligned oil sands project (at least by most environmentalists) has suffered a public relations blow. The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, a division of Germany’s largest scientific organization, the Helmholtz Association, has declared a moratorium on oil sands environmental work. The centre is concerned its reputation could be tainted by association with development around Fort McMurray.
18 March
‘World class’ tanker safety system announced by federal government
(CBC) Federal Transport and Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said the new measures are part of the new Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act, which was introduced in Parliament earlier Monday. … Tanker safety has become a hot issue in B.C. because of the Enbridge proposal to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to a tanker terminal in Kitimat on the West Coast, raising concerns about oil spills in the marine environment. Last summer Premier Christy Clark announced five conditions that would have to be met before the province signs off on any new heavy oil pipeline. One of those conditions was a requirement for a world class oil spill response system. … A recent UBC study estimated the cost of cleaning up a major oil spill on B.C.’s northern coast could hit $9.6 billion.
14 March

Canada and Climate: From Leader to Threat By Henry Shue, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for International Studies, Department of Politics and International Relations, at the University of Oxford ( Debates over the policy of heavy, long-term reliance on tar sands oil have so far largely missed the most critical point when it comes to the climatic impacts, because they have failed to take our improved understanding of the dynamics of climate change into account.  It is true that Alberta’s GHG emissions from “expanding oil-sand production are Canada’s fastest-growing emissions source,” but prior to Swart and Weaver’s careful and conservative analysis in Nature Climate Change, attention was largely focused only these GHG emissions – those that result from extracting, shipping, and refining the tar sands oil. What matters incomparably more are the GHG emissions that would result from actually burning that extracted oil.

20 February bitumencliff
Canadian Oilsands Dependence Could Hurt Economy: Report

A new report warns of the perils to the Canadian economy of relying too much on the oilsands. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study says Canada is heading towards a “staples trap,” whereby the more quickly bitumen is exported, the less diversified and productive the economy becomes. The study’s authors also warn of a looming “carbon trap” in which the Canadian economy is so closely linked to carbon-producing industries that it becomes difficult to adopt measures to deal with climate change. (CCPA) The Bitumen Cliff: Lessons and Challenges of Bitumen Mega-Developments for Canada’s Economy in an Age of Climate Change presents a wealth of empirical data indicating the negative side effects of unregulated bitumen developments for Canada’s trade, exchange rate, productivity, and income distribution performance and proposes a two-track approach to steer away from the “bitumen cliff.” Read more
7 January
Oilsands Pollution: Government Study Provides Conclusive Proof Development Damaging Alberta Lakes, Say Researchers
(CP via HuffPost) New research has provided the most conclusive proof yet that oilsands development in northern Alberta is polluting surrounding lakes. The findings all but end the debate over industry’s contribution to toxins found in local watersheds, say the report’s authors. The federally funded research by some of Canada’s top scientists was published Monday in the prestigious U.S. journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It concludes that levels of toxic hydrocarbons in six lakes in the oilsands region are between 2 1/2 and 23 times what they were before the mines were built. While overall toxin levels remain low, trends aren’t good and some lakes are already approaching warning levels. The paper adds that the timing of the contamination and its chemical makeup both point to industrial sources.


8 December
Greg Weston: Harper draws a line in the oilsands, for now Future foreign takeovers in oilsands will happen only under ‘exceptional circumstances’ The Harper government’s long hand-wringing over the proposed Chinese takeover of one of Canada’s top 10 energy corporations in the Alberta oilsands was never really about rejecting or approving the $15.4-billion deal. The main problem gripping the Harper government for months has been how to say yes without opening the door to a Chinese shopping spree in the Alberta oilsands. The government’s solution is now clear, announced Friday by the prime minister in a flourish of tough talk rarely aimed at Canada’s trading partners, least of all directly and bluntly at the Chinese. As expected, the government has approved the sale of Calgary-based Nexen to China’s state-owned energy giant CNOOC. The deal is China’s largest foreign takeover of any company in any country. But after Nexen, that’s it. No more. Other state-owned raiders of the oilsands will be stopped at the tailings pond. Well, maybe. The prime minister told reporters that future takeovers of Canadian oilsands companies would be allowed “only in an exceptional circumstance.” The government is deliberately not defining what an “exceptional circumstance” might be, reserving for itself full powers of political discretion. 17 November In U.S. energy renaissance, flares of fear for Alberta’s oil patch (Globe & Mail) … The International Energy Agency predicted this week that the U.S. is set to become the largest oil-producing nation on earth, more prolific even than Saudi Arabia. One day, the IEA said, the U.S. could drive away most foreign imports. … At stake is the growth of an industry that keeps Western Canada’s economy vibrant, producing boatloads of well-paying jobs, welcome spinoff effects and government revenue. Already, amid weaker oil prices, some oil companies have contemplated deferring or cancelling projects, and just this week the Alberta government backed away from a goal to balance its budget. … Enbridge believes it can be the solution by building new pipelines to bring Canadian oil to new markets, both abroad and in U.S. states not served by current pipelines. But it’s hard to find a new pipeline proposal – to the West Coast, to the Gulf Coast, to the East Coast – that is not wrangling with severe political and social skepticism. And if opponents succeed in stopping or slowing those projects, the outlook is grim: Prices for Canadian oil “will get pushed down to the point that production stops growing,” says Chris Micsak, an oil analyst with Bentek, an international energy forecasting and analysis firm. 8 October Questions over oil sands tailings disposal (RCI) Once a site has been mined, the industry is proposing to fill in pits with a thick layer of tailings, then “cap” it with a mixture of fresh water and dirty mine-processed water. They claim that the heavier material will settle to the bottom and eventually solidify, leaving clean water on top that could one day be used for recreational purposes. Critics say, the theory can only be proven by long term actual trials in a couple of test “end-pit lakes”. Testing which has not been done. [Emphasis added] RCI’s Marc Montgomery spoke with University of Alberta professor David Schindler about the proposal.. He is an ecology professor with an expertise in lake studies. 3 October Alberta’s Redford pushing for tougher conditions in CNOOC-Nexen deal: source Alberta Premier Alison Redford asked the federal government to impose tougher management and employment conditions on CNOOC Ltd.’s $15.1 billion takeover offer of Nexen Inc. before approving the transaction, according to a person familiar with the matter. Redford wants guarantees that at least 50% of Nexen’s board and management positions will be held by Canadians, the person said on condition they not be identified because the discussions are confidential. The request came in a recommendation provided to Industry Minister Christian Paradis and the government’s investment review division. Alberta’s conditions may impose additional costs and risks for CNOOC at a time when oil sands producers face a rising supply of North American crude and a lack of pipeline infrastructure threatens to stall sales. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is reviewing the bid under the nation’s foreign takeover law, which specifies transactions need to have a “net benefit” to the country in order to win approval. Andrew Coyne: Time for ‘net harm’ test in CNOOC-Nexen debate (Financial Post) I doubt we’d be hearing so much about state ownership if it was Norway’s Statoil that was buying Nexen. Which is fair enough, up to a point: it’s legitimate, given China’s track record, to want to be sure that our laws would indeed be obeyed, notably with respect to environmental and labour standards, and to insist that our regulators have the access they need to enforce them. I see no reason to think that is impossible. Still, if that’s where we’re drawing the line now — no longer opposed to foreign takeovers as such, but only to those emanating from repressive regimes — that’s progress in itself. The prime minister has promised a broader redrafting of foreign investment rules in the wake of the Nexen decision. If rejecting or modifying CNOOC’s bid provided cover for a general opening of our borders, that would be a pretty good trade. 2 October CNOOC-Nexen Deal: NDP Calls For Consultations, Says Opinion ‘Crystallizing’ Against Takeover (Canadian Press) UPDATE: Clement: Public Consultations On Chinese Oil Sands Deal ‘Illegal’ Treasury Board President Tony Clement has rejected the NDP’s call for public consultations on the takeover of Alberta energy company Nexen by state-owned Chinese oil giant CNOOC. “Basically they’re calling on the government of Canada to break the law,” Clement said, as quoted at Bloomberg news. “The law is very clear. Under the Investment Canada Act, there is a legal process that if you diverge from that process in any way, you are going to be subject to legal consequences.” The NDP says public opinion is crystallizing against the Nexen Inc. deal and is asking the government to hold public consultations before it makes a decision. The Opposition has been conducting it own consultations with the public and interest groups and says it’s hearing many objections against the sale of the Calgary-based oil producer to a company owned by the Chinese government. 1 October Opposition Day Watch: CNOOXen it is, then! (CBC) … the NDP will devote tomorrow’s opposition day to the proposed CNOOC-Nexen takeover — specifically, the need for public consultations, as well as legislative clarification on what, exactly, “net benefit” actually means. 22 September A reality check for the promise of the oil sands (Globe & Mail) … Suncor Energy Inc. … has abandoned lofty growth targets in favour of a rigid focus on costs, and has even said it could abandon some projects. That scrutiny comes amid a broad moment of reckoning for an industry that has spent most of a decade in frenzied construction. Now, amid sagging share prices and profits held back by price shocks, the oil sands industry is being forced to contemplate how profitably it can build new projects. No one expects growth to stop. It may, however, slow as question marks rise over a sweep of spending plans formulated by companies now concerned that weaker global demand and surging U.S. production will soften future oil prices. Threats to Canada, spy report Canada’s spy agency warns that some foreign takeovers may threaten national security. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service says that foreign state-owned firms might make illegal transfers of technology or engage in other espionage. The warnings come in the agency’s annual report and at the same time as shareholders approved the 15-billion dollar of oil company Nexen by the China National Offshore Oil Company.

Scrutinizing CNOOC takeover

(CBC) Power and Politics examines the pros and cons of China National Offshore Oil Company’s proposed $15.1B takeover of Canadian energy producer Nexen 4 questions about China’s Nexen bid With final approval for the transaction now resting with Ottawa, critics across party lines have questioned whether Canada stands to gain a “net benefit” from the deal, pointing out some potential hidden costs. 1. Does China have ulterior motives? 2. Does it jeopardize Canadian control of the resource sector? 3. Will it affect Nexen’s existing investments in the community? 4. Should China’s human-rights record be a concern? China trade minister to visit Canada, could mention CNOOC bid for Nexen Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming will visit Canada next week as Ottawa deliberates whether to approve a landmark $15.1-billion takeover of oil producer Nexen Inc by state-owned Chinese oil company CNOOC Ltd. CNOOC said it did not expect Chen to raise the sensitive takeover bid during talks with the Canadian government. Canada China Business Council president Peter Harder, however, said he would not be surprised if Chen mentioned it in a speech to his group next Tuesday. Nexen shareholders approve CNOOC takeover Stephen Harper is now the only remaining hurdle standing between China and the Communist country’s largest ever foreign acquisition. Nexen Inc. shareholders voted to approve the $15.1-billion takeover bid from Chinese state-controlled CNOOC Ltd. during a special meeting here early Thursday morning. Final approval is still required from Canada’s federal government and the Prime Minister and his cabinet have been directly involved in applying Ottawa’s ambiguous “net benefit” test, which the deal must pass before it can move ahead. “Today’s shareholder vote is just one step in the transaction approval process,” Kevin Reinhart, who has been serving as Nexen’s interim chief executive since January, told those assembled at a downtown Calgary conference centre. “Regulatory applications have now been filed with the applicable agencies in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., and it is now in their hands to assess the transaction against their criteria.” 18 September Battle over CNOOC’s proposed Nexen takeover heats up in Ottawa 17 August Keystone By John H. Richardson (Esquire) Whether to build the international pipeline, designed to convey the Tar-sands oil from the massive deposits in Western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast for refining, has not only become an explosive issue in this year’s presidential election, it has become central to the debate over the future habitability of planet earth. A special report. 26 July CSIS said to be probing financial links between First Nations, China (National Post) Canadian intelligence services appear to have probed financial links between First Nations groups and Chinese companies as scrutiny continues to mount on China’s interest in this country’s natural resources sector. This week, Chinese oil company CNOOC Ltd. announced a $15-billion takeover bid for Calgary-based Nexen, a proposal that will have to pass scrutiny under the Canada Investment Act. The deal seems to be raising warning flags among politicians who fear the energy-hungry superpower’s influence in Canada’s oil patch. But scrutiny of China’s investment reach appears to stretch back several years. 24 July Handle Chinese investment with care Canada should consider how much it really wants to depend on continued runaway economic growth and political stability in China, writes J. Michael Cole, former analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and currently a correspondent on China for Jane’s Defence Weekly. (Ottawa Citizen) the idiosyncrasies in China’s economy and political system make it essential that we fully assess the potential implications of allowing China to gradually take over a major segment of our resources. John Ibbitson: Ottawa will approve Nexen deal because it can’t afford not to If Ottawa were to reject this takeover, it would be signalling to the Chinese government, which owns CNOOC, that no investment in Canada from their state-controlled companies will be tolerated. And that’s a message that this country simply can’t afford to send. Canada is a small country that exports natural resources, which means it has always depended on foreign capital to develop those resources. … The alternative is to leave the stuff in the ground, until someone nicer comes along. That could be a long wait. 23 July China’s CNOOC offers $15B for Calgary oil firm Nexen Nexen has faced numerous challenges over the past few years, most recently the troubled launch of its Long Lake oilsands project in northern Alberta. The project has yet to come close to its design capacity of 72,000 barrels of bitumen per day due to a number of operational glitches. As it stands, Nexen is a sizable international conventional oil company. Only 28 per cent of Nexen’s output — and just 11 per cent of its revenue— comes from its Canadian operations. Indeed, Nexen’s non-Canadian assets shouldn’t be dismissed, Bob Shultz of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary said Monday. “The whole idea is to get assets from offshore to provide the oil that China needs to grow,” he said in an interview with CBC News. Nexen currently produces 207,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. But the company has about 5.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent when its oilsands holdings are considered. 15 July Bob Rae seeks middle ground on oilsands development Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae waded into the oilsands debate Saturday suggesting that, while Alberta’s booming development is an important part of Canada’s economy, the discussion about how best to use it has been polarizing and unproductive. Attempting to strike a middle ground between Opposition NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s strong stance against development and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s position that the oilsands are crucial to creating “jobs and growth” for Canadians, Rae told CBC Radio’s The House that “the key word in all this is balance.” … He challenged the federal government to set clearer standards for development and to ensure that all stakeholders — including First Nations communities, which live around the oilsands — are on board. 8 July Environmental Coalition Wants Alberta To Show Oilsands Recommendations Were Followed (Canadian Press via HuffPost) Environmentalists are trying to force the Alberta government to show it’s followed through on previous recommendations to reduce the impact of oilsands mines before any more projects are approved. The Oilsands Environmental Coalition has asked the regulatory panel examining Shell’s proposed Jackpine expansion to check into the status of dozens of recommendations by previous panels. Those recommendations were conditions under which previous oilsands projects were given the OK, but there’s no information on whether they’ve been lived up to, said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute. 27 June Maxime Bernier: Let entrepreneurs tackle tailings ponds (Financial Post) I recently visited the newly built ­pilot plant of Gradek Energy in Montreal, a small business founded by Quebec entrepreneur Thomas Gradek. He is one of many entrepreneurs and researchers across the country who are working on innovative solutions to deal with the environmental consequences of exploiting the oil sands. Mr. Gradek has invented a reusable bi-polymer bead that removes bitumen from the tailings ponds — the pools of waste created by the extraction process — leaving inoffensive organic matter and water as a byproduct. The recovered bitumen can be refined while the leftover organic matter can be reintroduced into the environment, free from contaminants. Valuable minerals found within the tailings ponds are also recovered. Water, which accounts for 85% of tailings ponds, can be reused in the oil extraction process. Since this water is already warm, this also brings energy savings. 19 May The age of extreme oil: ‘This used to be a forest?’ One grey Thursday at the end of April, a plane touched down in Fort McMurray, Alta., carrying four Achuar Indians from the Peruvian Amazon. They had flown 8,000 kilometres from the rain forest to beseech Talisman Energy Inc., the Calgary-based oil and gas conglomerate, to stop drilling in their territory. Talisman’s annual general meeting was coming up, and the Achuar were invited to state their case to chief executive officer John Manzoni in front of the company’s shareholders. But first, they wanted to see a Canadian oil patch for themselves, and meet the aboriginal people who lived there. 15 May Ethical Oil challenges Harper, Mulcair to back reversal of Ontario pipeline A pro-oil-sands lobby group is calling on politicians to support a proposal that would see an existing Southwestern Ontario pipeline reversed to send oil from west to east. B.C. premier floats oil sands royalty sharing Christy Clark targets risk-benefit ratio of proposed Northern Gateway pipeline British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is becoming a particularly uncomfortable thorn in Alberta’s side. In a wide-ranging interview with Brian Hutchinson at the National Post, the B.C. Liberal Party leader suggests – without explicitly saying so – that her government will not lend its support to Enbridge Inc.’s $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline without first seeing a commitment to oil sands royalty sharing. 11 May Who’s afraid of China? Industry mum as citizens worry about giant’s rising influence in oil sands China’s growing influence in oil sands development might be the most important issue facing Canada’s energy sector that nobody is talking about. Canadian companies have happily accepted billions of dollars in investments from Chinese state-owned enterprises in recent years on the basis that the energy-hungry emerging Asian superpower will soon be their best customer. Meanwhile, as the public grows increasingly concerned about the potential importation into Canada of questionable Chinese corporate practices and opposition politicians raise questions of possible interference with Canada’s national interests, industry associations, environmental groups and the government of Canada itself have stayed mute.
10 May
Oilsands critics put spotlight on foreign ownership
Anti-oilsands activists hit back at recent criticism of foreign funding of environmental charities Thursday by releasing a report showing oilsands companies are overwhelmingly foreign-owned. ForestEthics Advocacy — a spin-off of ForestEthics, which is a registered charity — released a shareholder analysis conducted using Bloomberg statistics that found 71 per cent of all companies operating in the Fort McMurray, Alta., area are not Canadian.
3 April
Don’t call them ‘tar sands’
(Maclean’s)The industry-approved lingo for Alberta’s hydrocarbon gunk is ‘oil sands’
15 March
Critic’s Journal: Oil Sands Net Benefits will be Maximized if Scientists Monitoring the Environmental Impacts can Speak Freely about their Research By Ted Hsu, Liberal Science & Technology Critic
12 March
Alberta, Ottawa, oil lobby formed secret committee
(Toronto Star) The federal and Alberta governments struck up a secret, high-level committee in early 2010 to coordinate the promotion of the oilsands with Canada’s most powerful industry lobby group, a document obtained through an access to information request reveals. The committee brought together the president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) with deputy ministers from Natural Resources, Environment Canada, Alberta Energy and Alberta Environment to synchronize their lobbying offensive in the face of mounting protest and looming international regulations targeting the Alberta crude.
23 February
EU delays decision on whether oil sands crude more harmful to environment
(Toronto Star) Environmentalists and oil producers are vowing to keep up the fight after a European Union vote Thursday delayed a decision on whether to declare oil sands output more harmful to the environment than conventional crude.
20 February
Impact of burning oilsands tiny: study
(Vancouver Sun) … This past Sunday, [Andrew] Weaver and his doctoral student, Neil Swart, published an analysis in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, an offshoot of Nature, the world’s most prestigious science journal. In their paper, Swart and Weaver conclude the impact of burning all the economically viable proven reserve of Alberta’s oilsands – all 170 billion barrels – would be negligible. Burning all the proven reserve between 2012 and 2062, they say, would raise global temperatures by just 0.02 C to 0.05 C.
17 February
Nobel Winners Urge EU Leaders To Back Tar Sands Law (Planet Ark) A group of Nobel peace prize winners urged European leaders in a letter on Thursday to support an EU Commission proposal to class fuel from oil sands as highly polluting. “Tar sand development is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, and threatens the health of the planet,” eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, said in the letter.
26 January
Federal documents spark outcry by oil sands critics
The documents, obtained through an access to information request and released by Greenpeace Canada, are a draft diplomatic strategy outlining ways to shape European perceptions of Canada’s oil sands. They show that the government’s messages are intended to shift attitudes in media and among top decision makers regarding the oil sands industry, which faces a possible effective import ban in Europe as the continent pursues a low-carbon fuel strategy.
23 January
Ottawa sees itself as protector of oil sands benefits
(Reuters) – Canada’s government has a responsibility to make sure people can take advantage of the economic benefits Alberta’s massive oil deposits can generate, the country’s energy minister said on Monday as he once again decried “radicals” bent on stopping Enbridge Inc’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline.
22 January
Boehner: ‘We May’ Try To Attach Keystone Pipeline Plan To Payroll Tax Cut, Again
(HuffPost) One week after the president — citing State Department concerns — put the kibosh on plans to build a pipeline through the United States for the purposes of carrying crude oil, Boehner told “Fox News Sunday” he would attempt to resuscitate the proposal.
XL Pipeline Opposition Funding: U.S. Groups That Funded Environmentalists Also Gave To Canadian Government
(Canadian Press) Rich American foundations are not only footing the bill for opposition to Canada’s oilsands. Tax returns show the Canadian government has also been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in largesse from some of the wealthiest private organizations in the United States. And some of that money came from the same U.S. groups that helped fund Canadian environmentalists.
18 January
Obama administration to reject Keystone pipeline
(WaPost) The Obama administration will announce this afternoon it is rejecting a Canadian firm’s application for a permit to build and operate a massive oil pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border, according to sources who have been briefed on the matter. However the administration will allow TransCanada to reapply after it develops an alternate route through the sensitive habitat of Nebraska’s Sandhills. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns will make the announcement, which comes in response to a congressionally-mandated deadline of Feb. 21 for action on the proposed Keystone pipeline.
16 January
Harper says pipeline debate should be left to Canadians
Canada not ‘giant national park’ for U.S., prime minister says
12 January
In Canada’s energy sector, foreign influence cuts both ways
(Globe & Mail) It isn’t wrong for foreign oil companies to discuss projects with Canadian officials, or for foreign backers of Northern Gateway, like France’s Total and China’s Sinopec, to support it at hearings. Or for environmental groups to take American sums to oppose it. The panel’s reviewing evidence, not taking a poll. CBC Showdown: Sierra Club vs “Ethical Oil” – One of them is a Ridiculous Radical
Terry Glavin: The real foreign interests in the oilsands
(Ottawa Citizen) If there were a global competition for the most brazen and preposterously transparent attempt by a ruling political party to change a necessary subject of national debate with alarmist distractions and hubbub, the Conservative escapade engineered in Ottawa these past few days really deserves some kind of grand prize. The $5.5-billion Enbridge pipeline project is all about sending Alberta bitumen in huge oil tankers to China. Beijing’s own state enterprises are among the project’s major backers, and Beijing has been buying up Alberta’s oilpatch at such a dizzying pace lately it’s hard to keep up.
10 January
Oliver’s comments roil Northern Gateway environmental hearings
(Globe & Mail) Mr. Oliver issued an open letter Monday, saying that there are “environmental and other radical groups” that are trying to block the pipeline and squelch Canadian resource prosperity and job growth. “They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest,” he said.
6 January
‘Foreign money’ could gum up pipeline approval, Harper warns
(Globe & Mail) The Prime Minister is threatening to prevent foreign environmental interests from delaying the approval of a pipeline that would take bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to the West Coast for shipment to Asian markets.
4 January China’s oil-sands deal will have lasting impact
(Globe & Mail) Chinese firms aren’t just buying stakes, they’re buying whole operations. It’s a new phase of China’s step-by-step Canada strategy. It will change not just the oil patch but Canada’s foreign policy. And a game of international energy politics is afoot in Canada’s West. … resource investments around the world indicate China doesn’t want to rely on buying products on the markets. It wants to own. The Chinese companies expect there will eventually be pipelines to the West Coast that will allow shipments across the Pacific.
3 January
Of Beijing and bitumen
(Globe & Mail) The acquisition by the state-controlled PetroChina Co. Ltd.’s of 100 per cent of the MacKay River oil-sands project is a vivid reminder that the federal government’s review of Investment Canada’s foreign-takeover criteria has not yet been issued

3 Comments on "Canada, the world & the tar sands 2013 -2014"

  1. Nick's Gleanings February 18, 2012 at 8:52 am ·

    I get amused, & irritated, by the media coverage of the Northern Gateway Pipeline. It’s all about China, China, China : will China want to buy &, if it does , should we let it buy, oil sands oil and, if so, on what conditions, if any? But this is only one aspect of the issue. For it’s not just China that wants to get oil from a secure source in a politically stable country. Japan is just as interested, as are South Korea & India, and just about every other oil-importing country in the world. But that would unduly over complicate the issue for a media that likes things oversimplified to a “Dick & Jane” level (since that’s the level at which many of its readers seem to comprehend things.

  2. Nick's Gleanings #508 April 20, 2013 at 12:35 am ·

    Re: ONE MORE THREAT TO THE OILSANDS (G&M, Nathan Vanderklippe)
    Once the Alberta oilsands were seen as the last major oil reserve not SOE-controlled & in a stable, democratic country. Then came shale oil. And now the industry is looking to unlock the vast amounts of residual oil left in the Texas & New Mexico Permian Basin after nearly a century of production. According to Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, a major landholder there, it still holds 50BN bbls of economically recoverable oil (i.e. seven years US consumption) & half as much again in its Delaware sub-basin (vs. the oilsands’ 169BN bbls. which are environmental footprint (dilbit)-, quality-, cost-, & access to market-, challenged. And Permian Basin oil is light, relatively cheap to produce, can be trucked cheaply to Texas refineries, and while its wells don’t have the long lives of oilsands plants, neither do they have their very high, upfront capital costs.

    Another reason why it may be in Canada’s-, & TransCanada’s-, long-term interest if President Obama put the kibosh on the whole Keystone pipeline idea. This also bears out my contention that the oil left in the ground in the traditional fields constitutes the world’s most significant oil reserve.

  3. Nick's Gleanings December 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm ·

    Nick’s Gleanings 542:
    In a recent commentary on the oilsands’ access to world markets’ problem , it was noted that a tripling of the capacity of the Kinder Morgan pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, BC, would necessitate a tripling of tanker traffic within a stone throw of Vancouver’s iconic Stanley Park. This was incorrect; for in the past three quarters of the existing line’s throughput went to refineries in BC & the US Pacific Northwest. So if the latter were to continue to take down like amounts of oil after the line’s capacity was tripled, tanker traffic past Stanley Park could increase as much as ten-fold.

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