Major Pipeline Delays Leave Canada’s Tar Sands Struggling

Keystone XL’s construction has been delayed by the courts, tar sands forecasts are down and investors are worried.

Credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty
Credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty

March has brought a string of setbacks for Canada’s struggling tar sands oil industry, including the further delay of two proposed pipelines, a poor forecast for growth and signs that investors may be growing wary.

On Friday, a federal appeals court in California refused to lift a lower court order that blocks construction of the Keystone XL pipeline until a thorough new environmental assessment is completed. The decision likely pushed back by a year the start of major work by TransCanada, Keystone XL’s owner, to complete the project.

The same day,  ExxonMobil affiliate Imperial Oil said it was delaying a new tar sands project in Alberta, likely by a year.

Those setbacks followed an earlier announcement by Enbridge, another pipeline operator, that it would delay the completion of its Line 3 expansion through northern Minnesota by a year, to late 2020. That project is one of two other major pipelines planned to carry oil out of Canada’s tar sands, also called oil sands. MORE

‘Making this up’: Study says oilsands assessments marred by weak science

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EDMONTON — Dozens of oilsands environmental impact studies are marred by inconsistent science that’s rarely subjected to independent checks, says a university study.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” says University of British Columbia biology professor Adam Ford, who published his findings in the journal Environmental Reviews.

“You would have to go out of your way to make it this bad”

“You would have to go out of your way to make it this bad. It’s just a symptom of the state of the industry and it’s definitely a signal that we can do better.”

In 30 different assessments filed between 2004 and 2017, Ford found each study considered different factors in different ways. Few independently checked their conclusions. And those who did were notably less confident about the industry’s ability to restore what it had disturbed.

HOW POLICE, PRIVATE SECURITY, AND ENERGY COMPANIES ARE PREPARING FOR A NEW PIPELINE STANDOFF

Activists protest the Line 3 decision, Thursday, June 28, 2018, in St. Paul, Minn. Minnesota regulators approved Enbridge Energy's proposal to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline, angering opponents who say the project threatens pristine areas and have vowed Standing Rock-style protests, if needed to block it. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)
Activists protest the approval of Enbridge’s proposal to replace its aging Line 3 pipeline on June 28, 2018, in St. Paul, Minn. Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune/AP

MINNESOTA POLICE HAVE spent 18 months preparing for a major standoff over Enbridge Line 3, a tar sands oil pipeline that has yet to receive the green light to build in the state. Records obtained by The Intercept show that law enforcement has engaged in a coordinated effort to identify potential anti-pipeline camps and monitor individual protesters, repeatedly turning for guidance to the North Dakota officials responsible for the militarized response at Standing Rock in 2016.

Enbridge, a Canada-based energy company that claims to own the world’s longest fossil fuel transportation network, has labeled Line 3 the largest project in its history. If completed, it would replace 1,031 miles of a corroded existing pipeline that spans from Alberta’s tar sands region to refineries and a major shipping terminal in Wisconsin, expanding the pipeline’s capacity by hundreds of thousands of barrels per day.

The expanded Line 3 would pass through the territories of several Ojibwe bands in northern Minnesota, home to sensitive wild rice lakes central to the Native communities’ spiritual and physical sustenance. Given that tar sands are among the world’s most carbon-intensive fuel sources, Line 3 opponents underline that the pipeline is exactly the kind of infrastructure that must be rapidly phased out to meet scientists’ prescriptions for mitigating climate disasters. MORE

Diverse group of North American scientists call for moratorium on tar sands development

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More than 100 scientists from Canada and the US are renewing the call for a moratorium on all new oil sands development, a move they say is necessary in order to combat the climate crisis.

No new oil sands or related infrastructure projects should proceed unless consistent with an implemented plan to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health, and respect treaty rights.

The following ten reasons, each grounded in science, support our call for a moratorium. We believe they should be at the center of the public debate about further development of the oil sands, a carbon-intensive source of non-renewable energy. MORE

 

Drawing a line in the oilsands

Why the leaders of First Nations that have been on the front lines opposing oilsands expansion now support a project to develop the industry’s biggest mine in their own backyard

Search “Chief Allan Adam” online and photos pop up of the Indigenous leader with celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda and Daryl Hannah. When Hollywood stars travel to northern Alberta to voice their disgust with the oilsands, the chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is usually their tour guide.

Adam and his people are based in Fort Chipewyan, an isolated community that is a 40-minute flight north of Fort McMurray, Alta., and downstream from the region’s massive oilsands developments. MORE

 

 

Canada won’t perform an environmental review of most new oilsands projects. Here’s why.

The future of development in Alberta’s oilsands lies in underground, steam-assisted operations that represent some of the country’s fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions. These projects have never been subject to federal environmental reviews and that’s not expected to change with Ottawa’s new-and-improved assessment rules. MORE

 

The Tar Sands: It devours our land

A historically willing participant in oilsands operations, the Fort McKay First Nation is taking the Alberta government to court over its failure to protect Moose Lake, a sacred site, from rampant industrial development

Surrounded on three sides by oilsands operations, the Fort McKay First Nation has benefited tremendously from industrial development — while also experiencing firsthand its environmental consequences.

While the nation has historically supported nearby operations, when Prosper Petroleum proposed a 10,000 barrel per day oilsands project near Moose Lake, an area of sacred cultural value for the people of Fort McKay, the community reached a tipping point. MORE

 

 

Peak Energy & Resources, Climate Change, and the Preservation of Knowledge

The remaining oil is poor quality–and Canada’s tar sands produce the world’s dirtiest energy– and the energy required to mine this remote oil is so great that more and more energy goes into oil production itself, leaving far less available to fuel the rest of civilization.

This is the scariest chart I’ve ever seen.  It shows civilization is likely to crash within the next 20 years. I thought oil depletion curve would be symmetric (blue), but this chart reveals it’s more likely to be a cliff (gray) when you factor in Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI). MORE