Technological Prospects for Reducing the Environmental Footprint of Canadian Oil Sands
The Expert Panel on the Potential for New and Emerging Technologies to Reduce the Environmental Impacts of Oil Sands Development
Canada’s oil sands are an important economic driver and play a growing role in meeting global oil supplies. They contain an estimated 169 billion barrels of bitumen and span an area larger than the three Maritime provinces. As is widely known, they create a significant environmental footprint — one that is forecasted to grow in the decades to come. Addressing the environmental impact is a long-term endeavour and technology will be an important part of the path forward.
In an effort to obtain the latest evidence on the subject, Natural Resources Canada asked the CCA to examine whether new and existing technologies have the ability to significantly reduce the environmental footprint of oil sands development.
How could new and existing technologies be used to reduce the environmental footprint of oil sands development on air, water, and land?
Technological Prospects for Reducing the Environmental Footprint of Canadian Oil Sands reviews the environmental footprint of the three main bitumen processing activities (surface mining extraction, in situ extraction, and upgrading), and assessed a range of technologies with the most potential to reduce the environmental impacts on air, water, and land. The Panel then considered the impediments to the adoption of these technologies and estimated their potential to reduce the environmental footprint through to 2030.
Addressing the environmental impact of the oil sands is a long-term endeavour. Technologies implemented over the short- to medium-terms can reduce the footprint on a per barrel basis, however, none can bring absolute reductions. The greatest potential lies with emerging technologies that are longer term research and development prospects.
The CCA also recognizes the contribution of Marlo Raynolds, Vice President, Market Development, BluEarth Renewables Inc. (Calgary, AB), to this assessment.