Study finds plausibly high volumes of Canadian oil sands crudes in US refineries in 2025 would lead to modest increases in refinery CO2 emissions

An analysis of the US refining sector, based on linear programming (LP) modeling, finds that refining plausibly high volumes of Canadian oil sands crudes in US refineries in 2025 would lead to a modest increase in refinery CO2 emissions (ranging between 5.4% to 9.3%) from a 2010 baseline, depending upon... Read more →

Study concludes permanent loss of peatlands in open-pit oil sands mining adds significantly to carbon burden of oil sands production

Researchers at the University of Alberta (Canada) have quantified the transformation of the boreal landscape by open-pit oil sands mining in Alberta, Canada to evaluate its effect on carbon storage and sequestration. Their analysis suggests that carbon storage loss caused by peatland conversion could be equivalent to as much as... Read more →

Canada oil sands producers form alliance to improve environmental performance

Twelve of Canada’s oil sands producers have formed a new alliance, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), focused on accelerating the pace of improving environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands through collaborative action and innovation. Through COSIA, participating companies will capture, develop and share the most innovative approaches and best... Read more →

North American, annual-mean OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) tropospheric NO2 VCDs (vertical column density) (2005–2010) averaged onto a 0.25° x 0.25° grid. The oil sands region within Alberta is indicated. McLinden et al. Click to enlarge. Atmospheric nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide pollution over Canada’s oil sands region is comparable to... Read more →

US BLM issues draft PEIS for oil shale and oil sands; significantly scales back public land available for commercial leasing

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has published the Notice of Availability (NOA) of the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) and Possible Land Use Amendments for Allocation of Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources on Lands Administered by the BLM in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The publication opens... Read more →

Proposed oil sands monitoring by 2015. Click to enlarge. The Government of Canada and Government of Alberta unveiled “The Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring” in a partnership to improve environmental monitoring in the oil sands region with a program that will sample more sites for more substances... Read more →

Keystone XL Pipeline application denied; Obama says not a judgment on merits of the pipeline

The US Department of State recommended today to President Obama that the presidential permit for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline be denied and, that at this time, the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline be determined not to serve the national interest. The President concurred with the Department’s recommendation, which was predicated... Read more →

Natural Resources Canada team investigates solvent extraction process for oil sand bitumen; non-aqueous alternative to hot water processing with reduced environmental impacts

A team of two researchers from Natural Resources Canada’s CanmetENERGY reports on a new process for solvent extraction of bitumen from mineable Athabasca oil sands (i.e., surface mining, not in situ well-based production) in a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels. Wide-scale deployment of such a non-aqueous... Read more →

Full-fuel-cycle GHG emissions estimates for reformulated gasoline pathways by LCA study. Nominal value of 70 g CO2/MJ for combustion emissions is applied evenly across all studies. Credit: ACS, Brandt 2012. Click to enlarge. In a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, Stanford University assistant professor Adam... Read more →

CSLM image (63x) of 3-day-old aerobically grown biofilm on CBD pegs. Autoflouresence of hydrocarbons from the tailings can be seen in the background and small clusters of cells are indicated with a white arrow. Source: Golby et al. Click to enlarge. Researchers at the Universities of Calgary and Alberta are... Read more →

Enbridge’s current liquids pipelines (not showing Seaway or proposed Flanagan South and Wrangler). Click to enlarge. Canada-based Enbridge Inc. has entered into an agreement to acquire ConocoPhillips’ 50% interest in the Seaway Crude Pipeline System for US$1.15 billion. On closing, Enbridge will become joint owner of the pipeline with Enterprise... Read more →

Kinder Morgan to purchase El Paso for approximately $38B to form largest natural gas pipeline network and largest midstream energy enterprise in North America

Kinder Morgan, Inc. (KMI) and El Paso Corporation on Sunday announced a definitive agreement whereby KMI will acquire all of the outstanding shares of EP in a transaction that will create the largest midstream and the fourth-largest energy company in North America with an enterprise value of approximately $94 billion... Read more →

Unconventional liquids become increasingly important in the total supply of liquid fuels, according to IEO2011. Click to enlarge. Worldwide energy consumption will grow by 53% between 2008 and 2035 with much of the increase driven by strong economic growth in the developing nations, especially China and India, according to the... Read more →

Enbridge liquid pipelines with Athabasca twinning project shown. Click to enlarge. Enbridge Inc. will twin the southern section of its Athabasca Pipeline from the Kirby Lake, Alberta terminal to the Hardisty, Alberta crude oil hub at an estimated cost of approximately C$1.2 billion (US$1.2 billion). The twin line will initially... Read more →

Comparison of the percent differential for WTW (well-to-wheel) GHGs from gasoline produced from WCSB oil sands using different production processes relative to gasoline produced from reference crudes. Source: FEIS, Appendix V. Click to enlarge. The US Department of State (DOS) released the final version of the Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)... Read more →

N-Solv reduces bitumen viscosity—accelerating the extraction rate—with a modest increase in temperature. Source: N-Solv. Click to enlarge. Canada is awarding C$10M (US$10.5 million) from Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s (SDTC) SD Tech Fund to a consortium led by N-Solv Corp. to support the demonstration of its Bitumen Extraction Solvent Technology (BEST),... Read more →

Summary of the current oil sands developments (mining and in-situ) and associated land use changes in the Fort McMurray region, highlighting some of the challenges the integrated monitoring design addresses. Click to enlarge. Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent released an integrated monitoring plan for the oil sands region. The Government... Read more →

The carbon capture process at the Scotford oil sands upgrader will capture about 35% of emissions. Click to enlarge. Shell has signed agreements with the Governments of Alberta and Canada to secure C$865 million (US$876 million) in funding for its Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Project in Canada. (Earlier... Read more →

Proposed anaerobic hydrocarbon biodegradation pathways in oil sands tailings. Credit: ACS, Siddique et al. Click to enlarge. The extraction of bitumen from mined oils sands produces enormous volumes of tailings—a slurry of slightly alkaline water, sand, silt, clay, and residual hydrocarbons—that are stored in settling basins; the current inventory is... Read more →

Canadian oil sands & conventional production. Source: CAPP. Click to enlarge. Oil sands growth will drive Canadian crude oil production to about 4.7 million barrels per day by 2025 from 2.8 million bpd in 2010—a 67% increase—according to the latest forecast from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). This... Read more →

Separation of bitumen from a Canadian oil sand sample using an ionic liquid. Click to enlarge. A team of researchers at Penn State has developed a new, more environmentally friendly method of separating bitumen from oil sands utilizing ionic liquids (IL). The method is also capable of cleaning oil spills... Read more →

Alberta moving ahead with major new oilsands refinery with carbon capture

The Alberta government has successfully negotiated contracts for two projects that will advance the upgrading and refining of oil sands bitumen to diesel fuel. The first project, with the North West Upgrading (NWU) / Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) Partnership will lead to construction of a new bitumen refinery as... Read more →

Increasing crude processing intensity and energy intensity with worsening oil quality. OQ: Crude feed oil quality. PI: Crude processing intensity. EI: Refinery energy intensity. Observations are annual weighted averages for districts 1 (yellow), 2 (blue), 3 (orange), and 5 (black) in 1999-2008. Diagonal lines bound the 95% confidence of prediction... Read more →

Suncor is targeting 1 million barrels per day output in 2020, with its growth in the oil sands underpinned by its alliance with Total. Click to enlarge. Canada-based Suncor Energy Inc., which pioneered commercial development of the Athabasca oil sands in 1967, plans to increase production to more than one... Read more →

The AFD development at the Muskeg River Mine from the air. Source: Shell Canada. Click to enlarge. Shell Canada has started its commercial-scale Atmospheric Fines Drying field demonstration for managing tailings from its oil sands operations. Tailings are a mixture of fine clay, sands, water and residual bitumen produced through... Read more →

Schematic of Tailings Reduction Operations (TRO). Click to enlarge. Suncor Energy has received conditional approval for its oil sands fluid tailings management plan from Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB). The plan proposed the expansion of a new approach to tailings management called TRO (Tailings Reduction Operations), which involves converting... Read more →

Growth of production of Canadian oil sands. Source: IHS CERA. Click to enlarge. The Canadian oil sands are now poised to become the number one source of US crude oil imports in 2010, according to new research from the IHS CERA Canadian Oil Sands Dialogue. In addition, oil sands imports... Read more →

DOE Seeking Comments on Report on Research Strategy for Developing Unconventional Fossil Energy Resources

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking comments from industry and academia on a draft report outlining domestic unconventional fossil energy resource opportunities and associated technology applications, in support of an overall strategy for the further development of these resources. The report, Unconventional Fossil Energy: Domestic Resource Opportunities and... Read more →

Filters showing airborne particulates left after 900 mL of melted snow from each sampling site was filtered. Yellow, distance between sites; blue, communities; red, existing and approved surface mining projects. Source: Kelly et al., PNAS. Click to enlarge. A study by researchers in Canada and the US shows that oil... Read more →

Overview of the Quest CCS project. Click to enlarge. The provincial government of Alberta and the federal government of Canada will invest C$865 million (US$822 million) in a large-scale Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project in the Athabasca oil sands. The province signed a Letter of Intent with Shell Canada... Read more →

New Study Concludes Substantial Quantities of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Land-Use Change in the Boreal Forests for Oil Sands Production Are Unreported

A new study released by Global Forest Watch Canada finds that significant amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted through the disturbance and/or removal of biocarbon (trees, shrubs, peats), which overlay Alberta’s oil sands. These land-use change emissions have not previously been measured nor reported by governments and industry. The resulting... Read more →

SOLVE adds a solvent to the steam in SAGD (basic operation depicted above) to reduce energy input and water consumption. Source: StatoilHydro. Click to enlarge. Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) has awarded C$6 million (US$5.6 million) to the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) in Regina, Saskatchewan and StatoilHydro Canada for... Read more →

The Alberta Clipper pipeline (red). Click to enlarge. The US State Department has issued a Presidential Permit to Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership to enable construction of the Alberta Clipper pipeline for the transport of crude oil from the Canadian oil sands to US refineries. (Earlier post.) The 1,000-mile/1,607-km pipeline will... Read more →

A plot from the TIAX study of the ranges of well-to-wheel emissions for different types of crudes in different refinery areas in the US for gasoline production. The yellow bar is the range calculated for different conventional crudes. Click to enlarge. Two new lifecycle studies have found that direct greenhouse... Read more →

Oil sands supply chain. Source: Levi 2009. Click to enlarge. A new report from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)—The Canadian Oil Sands: Energy Security vs Climate Change— claims that prudent greenhouse gas regulations can limit emissions from Canadian oil sands while still enabling robust development of the energy resource.... Read more →

Genome Alberta Announces Funding for Genomics Project to Reduce Environmental Impact of Oil Sands Production

Genome Alberta announced C$25.2 million (US$22.2 million) in public/private funding over four years for two new genomic research projects, one targeted at enhanced recovery of fossil hydrocarbon resources from oil sands and coal beds through biological processes, the other focused on discovering plant genes that can be sequenced and used... Read more →

RAND Study Concludes Oil Sands Synthetic Crude Can Be Cost-Competitive with Conventional Petroleum Even Over a Wide Range of CO2 Prices

Estimated unit costs of SCO from steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) with upgrading, with and without CCS, and of conventional crude oil in 2025, versus different costs of CO2 emissions. Click to enlarge. Source: RAND A new report from RAND concludes that in 2025, synthetic crude oil (SCO) produced from oil... Read more →

UOP, Albemarle and Petrobras to Cooperate on Catalytic Crude Upgrading for Heavy Oils

UOP LLC, Albemarle and Petrobras have signed a technology cooperation agreement to demonstrate and further the commercialization of UOP’s Catalytic Crude Upgrading (CCU) process technology. UOP developed the CCU process in 2005 as a cost-effective option to upgrade heavy crude oils and bitumen-derived crude. Under the agreement, UOP will provide... Read more →

Argonne and KPM Developing New Efficient Process for Extracting Hydrogen from Hydrogen Sulfide in Unrefined Petroleum, Including Oil Sands

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Kingston Process Metallurgy Inc. (KPM) of Kingston, Ontario are developing a new process to extract and reuse pure hydrogen from the hydrogen sulfide that naturally contaminates unrefined oil, including oil sands. The hydrogen can then be used to upgrade... Read more →

Report Assesses Energy and Carbon Efficiency of Canadian Oils Sands Projects

Oil sands projects vary widely in carbon intensity. Click to enlarge. Trucost Plc, an UK-based environmental research company, has analyzed carbon data from Canadian oil sands projects to identify which oil producers are more exposed to financial risk from energy and carbon costs. Oil sands production is, in general, 3-4... Read more →

TransCanada Announces $7B Expansion to Keystone Pipeline Project; Capacity Could Reach 1.5M Barrels per Day

The existing Keystone pipeline project and the Keystone XL expansion project. Click to enlarge. TransCanada Corporation, on behalf of the Keystone Pipeline partnerships (Keystone) between TransCanada and ConocoPhillips, plans to expand the still-to-be-completed Keystone crude oil pipeline system project (earlier post) to provide additional capacity of 500,000 barrels per day... Read more →

US Conference of Mayors Calls for Fuel Life-Cycle Analyses; Halt to Purchasing of Oil Sands-Derived Fuels

At its 76th Annual Meeting in Miami, Florida (20-24 June), the US Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution encouraging the use of life cycle analyses that evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions from the production—including extraction, refining, and transportation—of fuels, including unconventional and synthetic fuels. The resolution further encouraged mayors to... Read more →

Alberta Oil Sands Output Estimated to Increase Almost 2.5x by 2017

The ERCB is projecting the production of synthetic crude oil from bitumen to almost triple over the forecast period. Click to enlarge. Annual production of non-upgraded bitumen and synthetic crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands will increase almost 2.5 times by 2017 from 2007 levels, according to the just-published report... Read more →

Ivanhoe Energy to Acquire Oil Sands Assets; First Commercial Application of HTL Upgrading Technology

HTL processing in High Quality mode. Vacuum tower bottoms (VTBs) are routed to the Reactor where thermal cracking takes place. Upgraded VTBs (product) are quenched at the exit of the Reactor Cyclone and routed to the Atmospheric Distillation Unit where distillate and lighter material is sent to product tank and... Read more →

Eni to Invest US$3B in Republic of Congo; Focus on Tar Sands and Palm Biodiesel

Italy-based oil and gas major Eni will invest US$3 billion in the Republic of Congo over the next four years, generating an expected equity production of 150 million barrels of oil equivalent from tar sands and biodiesel production. Eni reached an agreement with the government for the exploration and exploitation... Read more →

Titanium Corporation Receives Grant To Research Extraction of Hydrocarbons and Minerals from Oil Sands Tailings

Without recovery, oil sands production is projected to lose 30 million barrels per year of bitumen and naptha by 2015. Click to enlarge. Alberta Energy has awarded Titanium Corporation a C$3.5-million grant to research the value-added opportunities and environmental benefits of stripping out hydrocarbons and heavy minerals from oil sands... Read more →

Government of Canada to Require New Oil Sands Operations to Implement Carbon Capture and Storage Starting in 2012

Projected reductions in the future growth of greenhouse gas emissions based on the Turning the Corner Plan. Click to enlarge. The Government of Canada has published details of its regulatory framework originally announced on 26 April 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The newly published requirements include setting a target... Read more →

Suncor Board Approves C$20.6B Oil Sands Expansion

The diagram depicts the assets of the 200,000 bpd “Voyageur” expansion program; however, Voyageur will be operated on an integrated basis with existing operations. Click to enlarge. The Board of Directors of Suncor Energy gave final approval to a C$20.6 billion (US$20.7 billion) investment to boost crude oil production at... Read more →

Schlumberger Acquires Raytheon Technology for Oil Extraction from Oil Shale and Oil Sands

Radio Frequency / Critical Fluid Oil Extraction Technology. Click to enlarge. Schlumberger, a leading oilfield services company, has acquired Raytheon’s technology for the extraction of oil from oil shale and oil sands. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. The technology, developed by Raytheon and partner CF Technologies for... Read more →

Discovery of Mechanism of Biodegradation of Crude Oil to Methane Could Lead to Cleaner Oil-Sands Production and Enhanced Energy Recovery from Oilfields

An international team of researchers has shown how anaerobic microbes in oil deposits around the world—including in unconventional sources such as the oil sands—naturally break down crude oil into methane in the reservoir. Their discovery—published in the journal Nature—could lead to more energy-efficient, economic ways to extract difficult-to-recover energy from... Read more →