Statoil and the tar sands in Canada

Side - 13 januar, 2011
Statoil was once known as an environmentally responsible oil company. But the 2007 acquisition of the tar sands leases in Canada for 12 billion NOK has changed this image.

Despite claims that it will somehow manage its resources better than other oil companies, Statoil’s plans for extracting oil from the tar sands doesn’t differ from any of the other projects in Canada and will certainly result in major greenhouse gas emissions and environmental damage. Greenpeace is demanding that the Norwegian government, as a major owner, use its influence to lead Statoil in the right direction or risk jeopardizing Norway’s climate credibility.

Vote statoil out of the tars at the Annual General meeting.

More information about participating at the AGM

What now?

A global solution to climate change is now more important then ever. After the breakdown at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December, the world was left with no binding climate agreement. Greenpeace demands that Statoil put its resources toward better uses than forcing the world’s dirtiest oil out of the Canadian tar sands.

At Statoil’s AGM, there will be a vote on a resolution over the future of its tar sands investments. Greenpeace expects the Norwegian government to take responsibility for the company and support our proposal to withdraw from the tar sands before more damage is done.

Join us at Statoil’s annual meeting in Stavanger on May 19 and say no to tar sands!

Not new, not environmentally friendly

Eighty per cent of tar sands deposits in Canada are so deep that the Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) method is necessary for extraction. However, this isn’t a new method, or an environmentally friendly one, as Statoil is claiming. The SAGD method that Statoil is using has been in use since the 1970s. Even if SAGD appears less damaging to the landscape than open-pit mining, the total amount of environmental damage on the forest and the climate is actually worse.

SAGD requires massive amounts of natural gas — far more energy than open-pit mining. Vast areas of Boreal forest will be carved up and fragmented by infrastructure such as roads and pipelines. The pollution continues to increase, and with that the health risks for the local populations, especially the First Nations that have lived off the land for centuries. The Indigenous peoples’ rights are not being protected and their resources and traditional values are being detstroyed.

Contrary to what some claim, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will not solve the problem of the massive emissions from the tar sands. Even the Canadian government knows this, as was indicated in a secret briefing note that was leaked to the media. In it, the government’s own scientists concluded that it would only be possible to capture a fraction of the CO2 due to the impure nature of the gas stream. For SAGD projects, the scientists don’t believe it’s possible to capture any CO2 at all, mainly because there are too many facilities over such a vast geographical area.

Two methods, both cannibalize energy

Open-pit mining is used to extract tar sands that are situated 75 metres or less from the surface. Forest and soil are stripped away and the formerly pristine Boreal forest — the most important carbon sink in North America — is destroyed forever. The toxic waste water from the processing is stored in enormous lakes called tailings ponds. These tailings ponds leak into one of North America’s main waterways, the Athabasca River, at a rate of 11 million litres every single day.

It takes two tonnes of tar sands to produce one barrel of oil. On average, each barrel of bitumen produces 40 kg of CO2 emissions. Another 40 kg of CO2 are produced in the upgrading process. This adds up to 80 kg of CO2 per barrel.

Tar sands that are situated deeper underground than 75 metres must be extracted through SAGD. A noxious mixture of steam and chemicals are pumped deep underground, to essentially melt the bitumen and pump it back up to the surface. This method requires even more energy than the traditional mining method, and impacts a much greater area.

On average the CO2 emissions from SAGD are approximately 60 kg per barrel, plus another additional 40 kg CO2 from the upgrading process. That makes a total of 100 kg CO2 per barrel — even more than open-pit mining. This is the so-called “environmentally-friendly” technology that Statoil will be using at its facility in Alberta. Compare this to the average emissions of the Norwegian oil industry, which is 7.8 kg of CO2 per barrel.

The wrong way

At Statoil’s AGM on May 19, Greenpeace and WWF will support a proposal that Statoil withdraw from the tar sands. At the AGM in 2009, several investors and firms supported a similar proposal by Greenpeace, because they believe that investing in tar sands is taking Statoil in the wrong direction and will negatively impact the company’s profile.

To not speak out on whether or not Statoil remains in the tar sands is perhaps the worst irresponsibility that a Norwegian government has ever shown. This is a major investment that will cost approximately 100 billion NOK. Investing in some of the dirtiest oil on the planet is a strategic decision that will open Statoil to a totally new dimension of consequences when it comes to environmental and climate impacts.

This is not your average energy project, and as an owner, the government has both the right and the duty to speak up about this dirty investment in the Canadian tar sands.

Vote statoil out of the tars at the Annual General meeting.

More information about participating at the AGM