Canada’s oil sands are one of the least efficient and most polluting ways to provide energy. The project requires mining millions of tons of material a day, which then must be processed using large amounts of water and natural gas to remove about 20% of the bitumen from the other material present. This leaves raw bitumen which is then upgraded to synthetic crude status in a process which uses further energy, much of it produced by coal power in Alberta. The final step is to ship the synthetic crude to refineries where even more power is required and the last step is distributing the final products to market where it is then burned.
The process of extracting oil from the sand is expensive. It takes two tons of sand to produce one barrel of crude oil. Great Canadian Oil Sands opened the first large-scale mine in 1967, but growth was slow until 2000 because the global cost of a barrel of oil was too low to make oil sands profitable.
At every step oil sands crude has a significant impact on the environment and the overall release of greenhouse gases means there is no way that Canada will ever meet it’s climate change commitments and still develop the Athabasca tar sands.
In the immediate region, toxins present in the tar sands end up in the watershed and surrounding land, these include mercury, lead, PAHs, arsenic and other hazardous material. There is already evidence of the toxic effect of all this material in area.
EDMONTON—The fish are hard to look at.
One whitefish has a golfball-sized tumour bulging from its side. Another is simply missing part of its spine, its tail growing from a stumpy rear end.
One has no snout. Another is coloured a lurid red instead of a healthy cream. Others are covered with lesions and still others are bent and crooked from deformed vertebrae.
All were taken from Lake Athabasca, downstream from the oilsands in northern Alberta, and were on display Thursday. All are reasons, say a group of scientists and aboriginals, for the federal government to conduct an independent study on what’s happening to the Athabasca River and its watershed after decades of industry expansion.
There are clusters of rare cancer in First Nations populations who have been in the region for millenia.
On Oct. 29, the day after Chadi was sworn in as a councillor in the municipality of Wood Buffalo, the couple travelled to Edmonton. He had not been feeling well, and she insisted he see a doctor.
“His symptoms were vague, but he looked really, really sick,” Voyageur said. “His skin had started to turn yellow.”
Within 48 hours, Chadi was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, the same extremely rare incurable disease that has stricken other residents of Fort Chipewyan, a remote First Nations community with a population of about 1,100 people in northeast Alberta.
A cancer of the bile duct, cholangiocarcinoma occurs in one of every 100,000 to 200,000 people — yet Fort Chipewyan has had three confirmed diagnoses and several other suspected cases over the last decade.
Due to the need to ship the heavy crude from the oil sands to specialized refineries that can handle all the impurities still in the synthetic crude there has been a dramatic increase of rail traffic and equally dramatic derailments that in one case burned out the center of one Canadian town and killed almost 50 people. There have also been recent crude oil derailment here in Alberta and in New Brunswick that required large scale evacuations. St. John New Brunswick is the terminus for a lot of these trains and residents there are becoming stressed from the constant train traffic and the significant risks involved.
More oil spilled in the Lac-Mégantic train disaster than was previously reported, according to new information made public by Quebec’s environment department.
While the department had previously estimated that the 72-car train that crashed July 6 was carrying 7.2 million litres of crude oil, it now says it was in fact carrying nearly a half million litres more of oil — an estimated 7.6 million litres.
In July the environment department estimated 5.6 million litres of that oil spilled from the crashed train cars or burned in the ensuing fire. But the department’s October update now says nearly 6 million litres — 5.978 million to be precise — burned or was spilled in the devastating accident that left 47 people dead.
Tanker cars on a train carrying propane and oil derailed and caught fire outside of Edmonton on Saturday, forcing the evacuation of a small community.
The derailment caused explosions, through no injuries were reported. Fire and hazmat crews were on the scene, but firefighters have since opted to let the flames burn themselves out.
A CN freight train carrying dangerous goods has derailed and caught fire in northwest New Brunswick, not far from the U.S. border.
Jim Feeny, director of public and government affairs for CN Rail, said 16 cars are believed to have derailed, including four carrying propane and four carrying crude oil.
The train derailment happened just after 7 p.m. AT about five kilometres outside of Plaster Rock in Wapske, N.B. Feeny said the train was coming from central Canada and heading to Moncton.
Instead of finding a better alternative to the ongoing disaster created by mining, processing, shipping, refining and then burning massive amounts of bitumen from the tar sands, our government has instead shut down research that might negatively effect the industry, undermined the democratic process here, and brought in foreign investment at a massive scale that calls into question our sovereignty. Much of our future policy will be determined by governments like China which has invested more than $30 billion dollars in the project.
We now have one of the least responsible governments in the world as a result of this ecological nightmare.