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Shell Canada Announces Efficiency Improvement in Oil Sands Processing

Shell Canada has announced the first commercial application of a new high-temperature froth treatment processing technology—Shell Enhance—that it says will improve energy efficiency and reduce costs in oil sands production.

Developed by Shell Canada with the help of government scientists at Natural Resources Canada’s CANMET Energy Technology Centre facility in Devon, Alberta, Shell Enhance froth treatment technology is a process that removes sand, fine clay and water from oil sands froth to make clean bitumen suitable for upgrading via hydrogen addition, which is the upgrading method used at Shell Canada’s Scotford Upgrader near Edmonton. Shell Enhance will use higher temperatures to make the separation process happen at a faster and more efficient rate, utilizing less energy.

Froth is the mixture of oil, solids and water that results from the extraction process. By processing froth at a higher temperature, Shell Canada will be able to use smaller equipment, less water and less energy per barrel than conventional low temperature paraffinic processing. By saving energy, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with oil sands production are also reduced.

Compared to Shell Canada’s current paraffinic froth treatment processes, Shell Enhance offers the following benefits:

  • Improves energy efficiency by 10 per cent (about 40,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year);
  • Uses 10 per cent less water;
  • Uses plot space 35% smaller and essential equipment 75% smaller; and
  • Can be modularized, generating construction efficiencies and reducing costs.

Shell will apply its new froth treatment technology in the first expansion of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP), which was formally launched on November 1, 2006. (Earlier post.)


Rafael Seidl

Great, so with all the money they're saving perhaps they can afford to sequester the CO2 generated by the hydrogen production process. Or else, at least figure out how to drive an intensive biofuel production process with it.


The attempt to reduce GHGs, energy use and water consumption are all laudable, I'm just afraid that all savings will simply translate into higher production and Saskatchewan will still find itself without water.


___There are a few ways for the Canadians to meet Kyoto. One way is to reforest denuded sections of British Columbia. Whether due to beetles, or rampant clear cut logging, there are blocks of land in Pacific Canada that can be reforested. Likewise for the Pacific Northwest US.
___Tidal, wave, river/channel current, and wind are also possibilites for British Columbia. IF not for local consumption, they can export it south to California, or east to the rest of US or Canada.

kent beuchert

I'm amused at how the unknowing public has become convinced that CO2 is a mortal danger to the planet. It
accounts for less than 1% of the greenhouse gases and is treated like it were plutonium. Amazing what a little
brainwashing and a hysterical moving picture from Hollywood can acomplish. But then, look what Goebbels did to convince the Germans that the Jews were the root of all their problems. Perhaps someone could tell me why all those climatology models differ so much in their predictions? I thought I heard some guy claim they all
were in agreement. Sure they are. Their predictions only differ by some 400%. In the 1980's these same climatologists were predicting a new ice age. Now the dietary scientists are scaring everyone about trans fat not that many years after it was promoted by the same scientists as the solution to the problems of saturated fat. It's really getting hilarious waiting for the next big fear to motivate this world's fools into rushing to do something else really dumb.


I don't think it's mortal danger to the planet, more like a potential liability. In terms of concentration, sure, it's much less than 1%, but since all molecules aren't created equal, it supposedly accounts for 9-26% of the heat retained on Earth. A change in the amount of energy in the atmosphere will change the global climate, so the question is, by how much?

The problem with waiting until we have definitive answers and exceedingly accurate models is that we may reach a point where there will be irreversible negative changes in our climate, and reducing or halting carbon dioxide output will have little effect because of the rate at which various sinks absorb it. So, if we wait too long at current emissions levels, we run the risk of significant changes in our climate that can negatively impact our society.

This is a problem because it's relatively hard/costly to sequester the carbon dioxide that's already in the atmosphere. Otoh, if we are ever in a situation that requires us to dump tons into the atmosphere on short notice, well that's much easier. It's better to be safe than sorry.


If they had any biomass nearby, I would gasify it into SNG for the heat energy required. At least that would be CO2 neutral.



There is no rampant clearcuts going on in British Columbia for more than half century. Forest biomass is steadily growing, but it is not going to last long – there are no free space to grow new forest any more. Most of the timber is cut from the patches replanted 35-50 years ago. Old grows forest cuts represent only small amount of commercial timber. All clearcuts and forest losses due to beetle infestation and alike are immediately recultivated and replanted. In that respect BC forestry is more like agriculture, only with harvest once in 35 years. BC forestry is environmentally sound and sustainable. Troubles with beetles you mentioned got out of hand (but now under control) precisely because of inaction spurred by stupid pseudo-environmental practice not to cut infested areas in national parks, which inevitably made them hatching grounds for beetle widespread. Naturally, national parks suffered the most.

Massive reforestation in North America is going on for more than 50 years, regardless of global warming or global cooling. And actually, it is only temporary and limited sink of CO2 (once the forest mature, carbon uptake and sink reach equilibrium), and has nothing to do with CO2 sequestration.

Kent, during last century there were two global warming and two global cooling rampages. For full story look at:


This is not just about Global Warming, there are other important issues too. What about fish stocks and marine food chain? Deforestation causes erosion that silts up streams, and hamper fish spawning.
_Another point is the longer hillsides stay relatively bare, the more soil, sand, dirt, and organic material is washed off. This soil took years, decades, centuries to reach the pooint that it could support a temperate rain forest. Even inland in drier alpine, or temperate areas, this is still true.
_Yet another point is water resources. Bitumen production and upgrade is water intensive. Parts of western Canada are semi arid. The long winters help disguise this with snowmelt, but there is only a certain amount of water. This resource is needed for cities, and farms, not to mention downstream farther north and east.



According to calculations, current concentrations of CO2 could contribute up to 25% of natural GW effect – but only if other gases from Earth atmosphere disappear. Presence of massive amount of water vapor in real atmosphere diminish CO2 GHG effect down to 1, 2, and up to max 5% of total GHG effect – different sources present different numbers. The reason for this is largely overlapping adsorption radiation bands of CO2 and water vapors. For more information you can look at:

and scroll down to “Greenhouse gas effect” chapter. Or in more detail from:


Anti-global-warming crackpots...


It accounts for less than 1% of the greenhouse gases

Of anthropogenic emissions? No. Not even remotely correct.

Amazing what a little brainwashing and a hysterical moving picture from Hollywood can acomplish.

Amazing that all the accurate information about understanding this issue is easily learned, yet you say such laughable things like CO2 being 1% of anthropogenic GHG emissions, or simply understand the delineation of natural carbon cycles from changes to that equilibrium from human sources from sequestered carbon.

But then, look what Goebbels did to convince the Germans that the Jews were the root of all their problems.

And Godwin's Law is proven once again. Nice work, pal.


To Kent B. - I agree with you! Pizmo is most likely making money on the GHG global warming scare/lie just like big ole Al G. and Billy C. are now. Why is it that these two guys didn’t do anything about GHG emissions when they be in el office for 8yrs? Al and Bill both own SUVs and AL doesn't even buy renewable power for any of his homes or farm. Anyway, global warming has to true because Pizmo saw it on his computer screen and computer models are always right? LOL


I understand your concerns. Deforestation is very ugly environmental problem. Fortunately, deforestation in N.America, Canada, and in BC in particular was stopped and reversed many years ago. Couple of facts:
Only one third of one per cent of B.C.’s forests is logged each year.
B.C.’s land base is 95 million hectares (235 million acres), larger than France and Germany combined.
Two-thirds of B.C.’s land base is forested (60 million hectares or 149 million aces), an area twice as big as all of the New England states and New York state combined.
For more information take a look at:
Or elsewhere on the web.


It's heartening to see so many crackpot illiterates making such strong cases. Nice work.


Probably I did not make myself clear. CO2 in atmosphere – all of it, natural and antropogenic combined, is responsible for only about 2% of natural GHG effect of Earth atmosphere. The rest is mostly due to water vapor and clouds.


CO2 in atmosphere – all of it, natural and antropogenic combined, is responsible for only about 2% of natural GHG effect of Earth atmosphere. The rest is mostly due to water vapor and clouds.

I see, so your proposition is that we shouldn't worry about CO2, since we have all this water vapor that keeps the Earth from turning into a block of ice.

This of course has nothing to do with the subject, which is the increase in temperature of the planet and the rate of that increase, all of which directly correlate with increases in CO2 levels that are the result of anthropogenic emissions.

I really don't understand why you would come to a forum where educated people congregate and try to pass off these simple shell games.


Here someone patiently explains the difference between feedback and forcing for you:

Perhaps you'd save everyone time and effort if you look to see if your "objections" have already been addressed and answered elsewhere. In my experience, all this "skepticism" just goes on the same merry-go-round that has been well-covered before. Many times (as with the water vapor objection) is simply reflective of not understanding how basic processes work.



This is quite primitive theory. In fact, every computer model predicting run-away GW because of increase of antropogenic CO2 get their dramatic results because they suppose that water vapor will multiply GHG effect of CO2 increase by factor of three or four. This represents unstable equilibrium of cooling/heating factors, which is not possible. Any credible climate model supposes negative feed-back in response of forcing of one of the factors. Other vice Earth would be chunk of ice or melted lava globe long time ago. All run-away computer models failed dramatically to predict or even explain documented climate trends when extrapolated beyond their initial calibration intervals. There are ample researches on the subject, some of them I posted on my previous posts.


This is quite primitive theory.

I'm done talking about this with you.


Hola Andrey,

I checked out the second link since it seemed to the point, and unfortunately, the author seems to have conveniently misplaced a citation for an initial, and critical piece of information.

Although estimates of the contribution from water vapor vary widely, most sources place it between 90 and 95% of the warming effect

Everything else is cited, but this isn't, and doesn't agree with similar peer reviewed papers like Ramanathan and Coakley, Rev. Geophys and Space Phys., 16 465 (1978), which stated the impact of carbon dioxide would be roughly 25% alone, and 9% as it stands due to overlapping absorption.

Ultimately, this is really about whether carbon dioxide output is worth risking our current, relatively stable climate since no one knows precisely what will happen. Since most human activities are based around climate, screwing with it isn't a good idea, and we've been lucky so far considering how little we know. But our luck may run out, so it's better to be safe than sorry imo.



Actually, in second link I was referring to 2006 update which explains interaction of adsorbtion bands of CO2 and water vapor. Most scientific papers I read put CO2 contribution to less than 5%, some even to 1-2%. And the more recent the article is, the less are estimations for CO2 role in GHG effect. The problem is that purely radiation models do not work. Early works tend to underestimate complexity of atmospheric distribution of clouds and convective heat exchange between upper and lower atmosphere. For example, lower tropospheric clouds tend to increase GHG effect, an upper troposheric clouds tend to decrease solar irradiation significantly.

I do agree with you that it is better to be safe then sorry. That’s why I am all for massive scientific climate research, efficient energy use, alternative fuels, PHEV, renewable energy, hydropower, etc. Even for GM crops and massive nuclear power R&D. But I am against inefficient measures based on speculative science, political and ideological agenda, and media-fed hysteria.



When you state the 1,2, and 5% contributions, are you referring to anthropomorphic carbon dioxide, or total carbon dioxide? If you are referring to total carbon dioxide, what papers come to these conclusions? I as because the 1,2 or 5% figure seems plausible for anthropomorphic carbon dioxide, but not for all carbon dioxide, at least from what I've read.

If you take the proportion of the increase in ppm of carbon dioxide, and compare that to the total impact of carbon dioxide (~9%). It appears that humans contribute a little less than 2% of the greenhouse effect via carbon dioxide. Which, interestingly enough, is about the same as the increase in average global temperature seen as well (.6C increase from an average of 33C).

Harvey D.

Since forests absord more CO2 during their early years, wouldn't it be appropriate to cut and replant or selectively cut and let nature play the rejuvenation role, every 40 to 60 years, including the national parks.

This may reduce forest fires fed by older dryer woods, reduce associated CO2 and particles emission and/

Wildlife may survive much better in young forests.

The net effect on insects from planned harvesting is rather unknown. There are other means to control that type of infestation.

This is not a costly operation. Every dollar invested in proper reforestation can double the harvesting value of each acre.


pizmo and others:

Andrey's statement that "CO2 accounts for less than 2% of the Global Warming Effect" and that "water vapor accounts for the remaining 98%" is totally supported by this paper (URL reference below) by Richard Lindzen, a well known MIT scientist, Professor of Meteorology and expert in atmospheric models.

NB - This paper was written in 1990, so some portions may be dated, but the "98% of GHG effect is caused by water vapor" is evidently an established scientific fact that is understood and accepted by atmospheric scientists.

TITLE: Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus by Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The main absorbers of infrared in the atmosphere are water vapor and clouds. Even if all other greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide and methane) were to disappear, we would still be left with over 98 percent of the current greenhouse effect.

What is really going on is schematically illustrated in Figure 1. The surface of the Earth is cooled in large measure by air currents (in various forms including deep clouds) that carry heat upward and poleward. One consequence of this picture is that it is the greenhouse gases well above the Earth's surface that are of primary importance in determining the temperature of the Earth. That is especially important for water vapor, whose density decreases by about a factor of 1,000 between the surface and ten kilometers above the surface. Another consequence is that one cannot even calculate the temperature of the Earth without models that accurately reproduce the motions of the atmosphere. Indeed, present models have large errors here--on the order of 50 percent. Not surprisingly, those models are unable to calculate correctly either the present average temperature of the Earth or the temperature ranges from the equator to the poles. Rather, the models are adjusted or "tuned'' to get those quantities approximately right.

More important, the climate is a complex system where it is impossible for all other internal factors to remain constant. In present models those other factors amplify the effects of increasing carbon dioxide and lead to predictions of warming in the neighborhood of four to five degrees centigrade. Internal processes within the climate system that change in response to warming in such a manner as to amplify the response are known as positive feedbacks. Internal processes that diminish the response are known as negative feedbacks. The most important positive feedback in current models is due to water vapor. In all current models upper tropospheric (five to twelve kilometers) water vapor--the major greenhouse gas--increases as surface temperatures increase. Without that feedback, no current model would predict warming in excess of 1.7 degrees centigrade--regardless of any other factors. Unfortunately, the way current models handle factors such as clouds and water vapor is disturbingly arbitrary. In many instances the underlying physics is simply not known. In other instances there are identifiable errors. Even computational errors play a major role. Indeed, there is compelling evidence for all the known feedback factors to actually be negative. In that case, we would expect the warming response to carbon dioxide doubling alone to be diminished.


Go to and search on Lindzen for access to many other items by Prof. Lindzen, including a July 2006 piece written for the WSJ entitled:
Don't Believe the Hype
Al Gore is wrong.
There's no "consensus" on global warming.
Sunday, July 2, 2006


On climate change, I'm with the better safe than sorry crowd. It also happens that most of the solutions to CO2 problems also solve energy supply and security problems (bio fuels, renewables). So why bother arguing?

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