Oilsands coming of age: report

CALGARY — A report released by a U.S. energy consulting group suggests the Canadian government will have a tough time trying to balance environmental responsibility with the energy security increased oilsands production can provide.

CALGARY — A report released by a U.S. energy consulting group suggests the Canadian government will have a tough time trying to balance environmental responsibility with the energy security increased oilsands production can provide.

Provincial and federal politicians say they’re aware of the concerns, but will keep trying to persuade the world that Alberta is doing all it can to make the oilsands environmentally friendly.

“One can only achieve environmental progress if you have economic progress. Frankly, I think as a country we’ve done a pretty exceptional job in striking that balance,” said Environment Minister Jim Prentice while attending an event in Calgary Tuesday. “There’s always room for improvement and we’ll continue to do that.”

The IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates report says technological advances in the oilsands have made Canada the world’s second largest holder of recoverable oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.

The report said the oilsands have moved to the “centre of energy supply.” It produces 1.3 million barrels of oil daily.

As a result, the report said Canada has become the biggest foreign oil supplier to the U.S., 19 per cent of imports in 2008.

The study acknowledges total greenhouse gas emissions from oilsands — from extraction and processing through combustion of its refined products — can be approximately 5 to 15 percent higher than conventional crude oil processed in the United States.

But the report said sometimes emissions from the industry are on par with conventional oil processing.

“We aspire to be on the cutting edge in terms of being environmentally responsible as producers of energy and we’ll continue to do that,” said Prentice. “In particular here in Alberta with some of the technological innovations that are coming — carbon capture and others — Canada will continue to lead the way.”

The report comes as Greenpeace failed to force Norwegian energy-giant StatoilHydro out of Alberta’s oilsands.

The environmental group brought a motion before Statoil’s annual general meeting Tuesday in Norway for the corporation to withdraw.

Statoil bought into Alberta’s oilsands in 2007 and has said it plans to develop an area that contains an estimated 2.2 billion barrels of tar-like bitumen.