Oil Sands Emissions Cap to Ground 3 Billion Barrels by 2040

Oil Sands Emissions Cap – Potential Long-Term Impacts

Many companies are left to wonder about long-term impacts of the new oil sands emissions cap. The Alberta government first announced details of its emissions cap last November. The cap is part of province’s broader shift towards climate leadership (click here to learn more).

Alberta oil sands emissions cap could slow industry growth
FORT MCMURRAY, AB.: JUNE, 18, 2013: — An aerial view of Syncrude’s oilsands upgrading facility north of Fort McMurray, Alta. on June 18, 2013. The plant converts bitumen which is extracted from oil sands into synthetic crude oil which is then piped to southern refineries. (Photo: Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)

Western Canada’s energy sector, already reeling from consistently low commodity prices, now needs to tackle the challenge of lowering emissions from production facilities.

For an industry established around policies that contributed to Canada being called a climate laggard, adjusting operations to fit within Alberta’s climate leadership objective will be a costly endeavor.

And one that some argue will have minimal impact on GHG emissions. To quote co-authors, Kenneth P. Green and Taylor Jackson, from their recent opinion piece in the Calgary Herald: 

“…this high cost will come with very little environmental benefit. This is not surprising given that over the past few years, GHG emissions from the oilsands have comprised less than 0.15 per cent of global emissions.”

Reduced Oil Sands Growth

The Fraser Institute released a report – also co-authored by Green and Jackson – that says the Alberta provincial government’s new carbon emissions cap will leave hundreds of billions of oil sands dollars untouched and do very little to reduce greenhouse gases.

The institute, an independent Canadian public policy research organization, says the oil sands industry will reach the 100 megatonne emissions cap by 2025. The study asserts that by 2040, this will result in over three billion barrels of oil – some $250 billion dollars’ worth – being left in the ground.

The report also concludes that the cap will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by only 0.035% in the same time frame.

You can read the full Fraser Institute report on their website.

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