Bitumen Spill in Alberta: Nexen’s “Green” History
Tar sands companies promote offset schemes, gain social license to develop
July 17, 2015
The fact that this major spill comes from Nexen’s pipe, running from the Long Lake plant, is very notable. The process used in this plant was developed in Israel by a company called Ormat, who carried out oil shale research & development with this technology in the Niqab/Negev desert until the Israeli government (under Ariel Sharon) refused to subsidize production.
One of the largest operations for the production of tar sands crude in Alberta is the Long Lake Project. This massive facility, a steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operation, is the only major production plant that also operates an on-site upgrader, where the tar-like bitumen is diluted and transformed into a mock crude before further shipping to a refinery built by design to handle tar sands oil.
From a flyover of the then Opti-Nexen Long Lake North plant in 2008. The plant has doubled in size and multiple times over in production since. It was then already the largest in-situ operation in Canada’s tar sands.
2 Percent. It’s not the milk, but a percentage of the Canadian economy reliant upon tar sands production. For the Harper Government it’s a much larger number, because the Harperites– a Frankenstein’s monster emerging from years of the Ontario-centric Federal Liberal Party and major subsidies of the tar sands production– are a financially oil and gas grouping from southern Alberta.
Tar Sands. They may be the most destructive project in the history of humanity. Yes, all these megprojects combined together also create the largest project in the history of industrial developments– the Gigaproject. By linking projected developments associated with tar sands in northern Alberta all the way through to the North Slope in Alaska, possible connections to all three major oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and possibly even including Mexico itself via pipelines– oddly enough– that dip into and then back out of Mexico, taking bitumen on a little tour through territory captured through a different spate of violence during prior centuries.
The story of Neil Young and his advocacy on behalf of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s challenge to tar sands supremacy has garnered a lot of attention, and in itself this must be seen as a good thing. To have an entertainer of his caliber take on the Gigaproject can only bring an overall rise in attention to the suffering caused by tar sands. As but one of a myriad of people who have enjoyed his music, this deserves thanks. I just hope that this part of what Young is saying does not get going as a regular part of tar sands resistance:
“It’s all marketing. It’s all big money. This oil is all going to China. It’s not for Canada. It’s not for the United States.” Yikes. Well… then Young goes on to say: “It’s not ours – it belongs to the oil companies, and Canada’s government is behind making this happen. It’s truly a disaster.” And it seems clear to me that his focus is on the tyranny of tar sands development and the decimation of self-determination at the hands of the oil companies. But I still think it needed to point out that the oil is not going heavily to China, there is no yellow peril threat to Canada, and that the US already gets the bulk of Canadian oil.
Let’s see– Premier Christy Clark has done a predicted about face, and instead embraced Alison Redford, made up publicly and called for construction of the Enbridge Gateway tar sands pipeline. While predicted, it is depressing in a few ways. Members of high-financed ENGO’s had sought to “embrace” Christy Clark when the province of BC entered a non-consequential and symbolic “opposition” to Enbridge’s plans, after surprisingly winning the provincial election. The move had no authoritative power and was seen by many to be a simple move to garner public support (it was a major item of discussion during the electoral campaign).
May 07, 2013
A Qualitative Jump Down a Black Hole
Just the Beginning of Canada’s Filthy Tar Sands
The breakneck pace of tar sands development in Canada is well known; it is the sheer size of the multiple mines, in-situ plants, upgraders, pipelines, rail lines, refineries and more across all of North America that earned the nickname “the Gigaproject.” Now, what if we took the most destructive aspects of tar sands mining, combined that with the worst parts of in-situ, and put them together into a project that was even worse than any tar sands development for the climate?