Canada oil sands projects flunk green test: groups

Thu Jan 10, 2008 6:42pm EST
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian oil sands mining projects, seen as a key source of North American energy supply for decades to come, have been given poor environmental marks in a report released on Thursday, with even the best performer barely garnering a passing grade.

Environmental groups Pembina Institute and World Wildlife Fund surveyed 10 Alberta oil sands ventures, including seven yet to start producing, for attention to land, air emissions, water, climate change and overall environmental management.

Authors of the study called on the government to set more stringent limits on water use, emissions and impacts on wildlife and public health.

Only Royal Dutch Shell Plc's Muskeg River mine got a passing mark, and even that was just 56 percent, according to the report, entitled "Under-Mining the Environment."

"What this study has shown is that there's more talk than there is action in terms of meaningful commitments to addressing the issues," said Dan Woynillowicz, senior policy analyst at the Pembina Institute.

All projects scored well in some areas and poorly in others. If each adopted the best features of their rivals, the industry could make meaningful improvements, the study said.

For instance, if all mines had the greenhouse gas emissions intensity proposed by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd for its Horizon project, due to start up later this year, Alberta could cut its emissions by 3 percent a year, it said.

If all companies had similar water use to Petro-Canada's proposed Fort Hills project, the oil sands industry could reduce its consumption by almost 60 percent, said the report, which took a year to complete.   Continued...