Canadian Manufacturing

Oilsands emissions could decline even as production ramps up, report finds

Energy efficiency could hold key to growth in Alberta's oilsands

CALGARY—As the NDP government begins turning the screws on Alberta’s oilsands, technology may make it possible for producers to continue to ramp up production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a Canadian Energy Research Institute report says.

The report lays out numerous scenarios that show how regulations and industry priorities will impact the oilsands over the next 35 years, comparing them to the “business as usual” case. For example, if the industry experiences constrained growth – brought on by regulation or other measures – production is expected to fall 33 per cent below organic growth, while greenhouse gas emissions fall by 32 per cent.

If the industry is able to increase its energy efficiency, however, oilsands producers will be able to not only increase their production, but cut emissions while doing so. The reports notes production in-line with the business as usual case would allow companies to cut emissions by 29 per cent by 2050. The energy efficiency scenario assumes advances in technology and industry innovation.

With thermal, electricity, hydrogen and diesel making up oilsands producers’ energy mix, the report says a 0.4 gigajoule per barrel decrease in energy usage would allow for the almost one-third drop in GHG emissions while maintaining steady production.

“Cost and cost effectiveness are important considerations surrounding an industry that contributes significantly to the national economy,” the report says. “The oil sands industry is a major energy user and as such, the management of GHG emissions has come to be a substantial environmental challenge.”

“Understanding the production and demand of oil from the oil sands, from a technical and economic perspective, in an objective manner, is paramount,” it added.

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