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Little Gain From Oil Sands Carbon Capture: Report


n This June 25, 2008 file photo, shows an aerial view just north of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, where the world's largest oil companies are building massive open pit mines to get at the oil sands. Canada's oil sands industry is delaying expansion plans as crude prices decline and financial uncertainty slows the once booming sector. (AP Photo/Eamon MacMahon, File)

CALGARY, Alberta - Canada's government saw only limited
opportunities to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands using
carbon capture and storage technology, according to briefing notes
obtained by a Canadian media.

The notes, prepared by a carbon capture task force, were used by
Canadian federal and provincial politicians and were obtained by the
Canadian Broadcasting Corp, which said it requested them under freedom
of information legislation.

Carbon capture and storage would see carbon-dioxide removed from the
emissions of oil sands upgraders that turn tar-like bitumen into
refinery-ready synthetic crude. The captured CO2 would be put into
underground reservoirs for permanent storage instead of being pumped
into the atmosphere.

The government of Alberta and the federal government are touting
carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a way clean up emissions from huge
energy projects in the northern Alberta oil sands region, which
contains some 173 billion barrels of tar-like bitumen.

Earlier this year Alberta set aside C$2 billion (to fund CCS
projects from big emitters like oil sands upgraders and power plants

But the briefing notes say the technology offers only limited solutions to greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands projects.

"Only a small percentage of emitted CO2 is 'capturable' since most
emissions aren't pure enough," said a copy of the note that was posted
on the CBC website. "Only limited near-term opportunities exist in the
oil sands and they largely relate to the upgrader facilities."

It also said that the projects will be expensive and government will have legal liability for stored carbon-dioxide.

Some critics say the briefing notes are only acknowledging what is
already known: that the technology is expensive and may not mitigate
carbon emissions for the oil sands.

"This is technology that will require massive subsidies," said Dave
Martin, climate and energy co-ordinator for Greenpeace "This is a
boondoggle of the first order."

Still, the Alberta government is backing the technology as a way to
ensure that oil sands projects don't face sanctions from any climate
change legislation introduced in the United States, which buys most of
Canada's oil exports.

"It's well known that there are some challenges in capturing
emissions at oil sands facilities," said Jason Chance, a spokesman for
Alberta's energy department. "But what our own analysis tells us is
still up to 75 percent of oil sands (emissions) are capturable."

($1=$1.23 Canadian)

Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Rob Wilson


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