Canada: Oilsands Emissions Double In 15 Years

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From The Edmonton Journal, Aug 5, 2007, via Tar Sands Watch

by Duncan Thorne

EDMONTON – Greenhouse gases from oilsands production have doubled in just 15 years, driven by soaring United States demand for oil, reveals the latest inventory of the emissions in Canada.
The jump in oilsands-related greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from Alberta projects, helped Canada’s overall output climb by 25 per cent, according to the Environment Canada report.The latest numbers, for 2005, show that oilsands mining, extraction and upgrading produced 34 megatonnes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases associated with global warming. That’s double the 17 megatonnes emitted from the oilsands in 1990.

The increase came when the country was officially committed to cutting GHGs to six per cent below 1990 levels, by 2012. Parliament passed a Liberal private member’s bill in June that binds Canada to the Kyoto target, although Prime Minister Stephen Harper has threatened to resist it.

The statistics are in the latest National Inventory Report on greenhouse gases, which estimates that, as of 2005, Canada’s total GHG emissions stood at 747 megatonnes — up from 596 in 1990.

The oilsands are at the centre of Canada’s global-warming debate because they, and their emissions, are growing so fast.

As of 2005 they accounted for 4.6 per cent of the country’s overall GHGs; their output is expected to grow sharply in the years ahead.

The inventory report comments that the oilsands have contributed “significantly to the rapidly rising emissions increases in the oil and gas industry.”

The 700-page report also suggests oilsands emissions would have been even higher in recent years, but for several planned and unplanned plant shut-downs. One resulted from a fire.

The growth in energy production has far outstripped the growth in Canadians’ use of energy, the report says. Oil and natural gas exports to the U.S. grew by 148 per cent between 1990 and 2005.

During the study period, GHGs from natural gas production and processing grew almost as fast — by 93 per cent — as emissions from the oilsands.

The gas sector, which is also mainly based in Alberta, is often overshadowed in the oilsands debate but accounted for 7.8 per cent of Canadian emissions by 2005. Still, natural gas production has slowed in recent years.

Overall, fossil-fuel production — including conventional production, processing, refining, oil and gas transmission and gas distribution — caused 160 megatonnes of greenhouse gases, almost 22 per cent of the Canadian total.

The report’s tables do not list oilsands, conventional oil or natural gas production as separate categories. Instead they lump them with the broad fossil-fuel and mining industries. Environment Canada’s greenhouse gas division broke out the numbers for The Journal.