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Klein Nixes Nukes for Oil Sands

18 October 2005

Canoe. Alberta, Canada, Premier Ralph Klein is dismissing the possibility of building a nuclear power plant in the oilsands region to support the production and upgrading of the resource.

Klein also says that he is firmly set against using natural gas for the processing, preferring to see the oil sands companies use coal, hydroelectricity, coal bed methane or the bitumen itself as “much better alternative than using natural gas.”. Using natural gas would be a “tremendous waste of a resource.”

The issue arises because oil sands processing is energy—and hydrogen—intensive.

Historically, oil sands companies have relied on abundant and inexpensive natural gas for the heat used in processing, for the generation of electricity, and for the generation of hydrogen required for the hydrotreating upgrade of the bitumen.

According to the Oil Sands Technology Roadmap (OSTR), published by the Alberta Chamber of Resources, declining natural gas production combined with the projected “business as usual” rate of consumption for expanded oil sands production would lead to an unsustainable dependence on natural gas well before 2030, and perhaps as early as 2015.

OSTR identifies coal and nuclear as alternatives to natural gas for fuel and power. Coal has the added attraction of being an alternative hydrogen source by employing gasification, at economics that are increasingly attractive as natural gas prices rise.

Presumably, the electricity produced by the nuclear plant would also be used for electrolysis to generate hydrogen for upgrading the bitumen as well.

The portion of bitumen that might be used for fuel and hydrogen generation (via gasification) is the least valuable residue, which is similar to coal in its technical appeal.

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October 18, 2005 in Oil, Oil sands | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (2)

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Comments

So how long before Canada back out of the Kyoto agreement?

This is definitely political grandstanding and doesn't seem to make much sense from an economic perspective. If coal gasification was cost effective, then using natural gas would not be a 'tremendous waste of a resource' because it would be easily replacable. Whatever is cheapest will be used; at this point it looks like NG.
This is too bad; I thought this was a reasonable way to extract oil sands, although nuclear heat seems unlikely to be cost-effective either.

Rapidly using up our limited reserves of clean burning natural gas to extract and create oil for foreign markets does not seem reasonable to me. I'm not in favor of burning other fossil fuels to do the job either, but if it's going to happen it might as well be the stuff they are producing. It's too bad the Alberta government won't consider a mandate to use renewables like wind so that there won't be a need to pollute as much, but most likely it will be coal since that's the cheapest solution and that's all business is concerned with.

Wouldn't it simply be more efficient to use the electricity produced from natural gas or nuclear power to power a plug-in hybrid or electric car directly? Seems like a double loser to use all that power just to squeeze the oil out of tons of sand.

Obviously there are some applications like aviation that can't do without liquid transportation fuel.

Schwa and Bib you are right, without some sort of pollution tax, industry will end up using the lowest cost most profitable road and that will probably be natural gas to the last drop and/or cheap local polluting COAL.

A hefty federal tax on all the pollution created by whole process could make the use of dirty COAL prohibitive and favour the use of cleaner energy souces such as WIND, SOLAR and NUCLEAR.

Will the politicians have the guts to do it? May be, if they can get more votes by doing so. In a way, voters have their say, will they use it? Thagt's another question.

Of course, reducing gasoline consumption by 80% or more with the use of plug-in vehicles would be a much better idea. Where is the profit for the the OIL industry and votes for the politicians?

For A good read see

"Oil sands Kyoto and the Nuclear Option"

at www.blogger.com or

at www.ecolo.org

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