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Canada’s Oil Sands CO2 Emissions Rise as Production Grew

Canada, the world’s seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, increased carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from oils-sands production last year.

Emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas produced by humans, rose 1.8 percent to about 47.1 million tons, while nitrogen oxide output increased 2.1 percent to 84,037 tons, according to a report from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers released today. Oil-sands production last year rose 9.5 percent, Travis Davies, a spokesman for CAPP, said in an interview.

“It is recognized that a shift to more energy intensive production methods such as oil sands and hydraulic fracturing to produce natural gas, as well as in situ oil sands production, means reducing GHG emissions intensity will continue to be a challenge in the near term,” Calgary-based CAPP said in the report.

Oil-sands producers including Cenovus Energy Inc. and Suncor Energy Inc. are boosting the use of so-called in situ technology, which burns natural gas to heat steam in order to melt seams of bitumen underground. The technique is more carbon-intensive than mining bitumen in locations where the fossil fuel is closer to the surface, said Jennifer Grant, director of oil-sands policy at the Pembina Institute, a Calgary-based environmental research organization.

Carbon Tax

“Based on what the regulators have approved, carbon emissions are set to double between 2010 and 2020,” she said in a phone interview. “We really need to have an escalating price on carbon for more innovation.”

Alberta collects C$15 ($15.1) per ton of carbon from industrial emitters who don’t meet mandatory reduction targets established by the provincial government. The price isn’t high enough to force companies to develop technology to lower CO2 output, Pembina’s Grant said.

Emissions of carbon from oil-sands production has risen to about 6.5 percent of Canada’s total from about 1 percent in 1990, the Pembina Institute estimates. Increases in greenhouse-gas output from the oil sands will likely more than offset reductions from other industries such as transportation, agriculture and electricity generated by coal in the world’s 11th-largest economy, Pembina said.

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