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Oil sands

[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Shell launches commercial operation of Quest carbon capture and storage in Alberta oil sands

November 08, 2015

Shell marked the official opening of the Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Alberta, Canada, and the start of commercial operations there. Quest is designed to capture and safely store more than one million tonnes of CO2 each year—equal to the emissions from about 250,000 cars. Quest was made possible through strong collaboration between the public and private sectors aimed at advancing CCS globally.

Using activated amine (ADIP-X), Quest will capture one-third of the CO2 emissions from Shell’s Scotford Upgrader, which turns oil sands bitumen into synthetic crude that can be refined into fuel and other products. The CO2 is a byproduct of the production of hydrogen, which is used to upgrade the bitumen.

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US rejects Keystone XL pipeline, citing combatting climate change as critical factor; Kerry: arguments pro and con “overstated”

November 06, 2015

On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued his determination that “the national interest of the United States would be best served by denying TransCanada a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama agrees with this determination and the eight federal agencies consulted under Executive Order 13337 have accepted it.

The determination by the State Department brings to an end the much delayed, deferred and debated permit process that would have allowed TransCanada to built the fourth phase of its Keystone pipeline system to bring more oil sands crude from Canada to refineries in the US. In response, TransCanada announced it would review all of its options, including filing a new application to receive a Presidential Permit for a cross-border crude oil pipeline from Canada to the United States.

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U Calgary study finds oil shale most energy intensive upgraded fuel followed by in-situ-produced bitumen from oil sands

July 10, 2015

A team at the University of Calgary (Canada) has compared the energy intensities and lifecycle GHG emissions of unconventional oils (oil sands and oil shale) alongside shale gas, coal, lignite, wood and conventional oil and gas. In a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they report that lignite is the most GHG intensive primary fuel followed by oil shale. Oil shale is the most energy intensive fuel among upgraded primary fossil fuel options followed by in-situ-produced bitumen from oil sands.

Based on future world energy demand projections, they estimate that if growth of unconventional heavy oil production continues unabated, the incremental GHG emissions that results from replacing conventional oil with heavy oil would amount to 4–21 Gt-CO2eq over four decades (2010 by 2050). Taking this further, they estimated that the warming associated with the use of heavy oil amounts to this level of emissions could lead to about 0.002−0.009 °C increase in earth surface temperature, based on mid-21st century carbon-climate response model estimates.

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New lifecycle analysis of WTW GHG emissions of diesel and gasoline refined in US from Canadian oil sands crude

June 26, 2015

In a new, comprehensive study, a team from Argonne National Laboratory, Stanford University and UC Davis ITS has estimated the well-to-wheels (WTW) GHG emissions of US production of gasoline and diesel sourced from Canadian oil sands. The analysis uses an expanded system boundary including land disturbance-induced GHG emissions and also incorporates operating data that represent the average practices and technological advances of the oil sands industry since 2008. The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers examined 27 oil sands projects, representing four major oil sands production pathways, including bitumen and synthetic crude oil (SCO) from both surface mining and in situ projects. Overall, they found that pathway-average GHG emissions from oil sands extraction, separation, and upgrading ranged from ∼6.1 to ∼27.3 g CO2 equivalents per megajoule (in lower heating value, CO2e/MJ). This range can be compared to ∼4.4 g CO2e/MJ for US conventional crude oil recovery.

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Ecofys report concludes current European regulations underestimating GHG reductions

November 13, 2014

Substituting biofuels for marginal fossil-based liquid fuels results in the avoidance of significant GHG emissions that are not currently accounted for in the European Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC), according to a new analysis by the consultancy Ecofys. The study was commissioned by the European Oilseed Alliance (EOA), the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) and the European Vegetable Oil and Proteinmeal Industry (FEDIOL).

The European RED and the Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC) both assess the GHG benefits of biofuels by comparing the lifecycle emissions of biofuels to a “fossil comparator”. However, the Ecofys authors note, the current comparator does not reflect the increasing emissions of fossil fuels that are becoming more difficult to extract. In addition, they argue, biofuels should not just be compared to the average performance of gasoline or diesel but with the fossil fuels they most likely replace—i.e. those that are marginally “not produced”.

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