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Why are the most polluting oil sites still in operation?

According to 2019 Alberta Environment data, some operations produce up to three times more greenhouse gases per barrel produced than the industry average.

The operation at Rivière-la-Paix of Canadian Natural Resources (CNRL), for example, emits 0.197 tonnes of carbon dioxide per barrel, which is the highest carbon intensity in the oil sands. The average is 0.066 tonnes.

CNRL hopes, however, to double production there to 5,000 barrels per day. The price of a barrel of American oil, the West Texas Intermediate, reached its highest level since October 2018.

Given the price of oil, areas like Rivière-la-Paix are good exploitations for our liquidity, explains COO Scott Stauth.

The company wants to introduce a new, less polluting steam technology there once it has proven its commercial potential.

Too lax regulations, according to some

In a rational world, these sites would no longer be active, believes Andrew Logan, chief executive of the consulting firm Ceres. They have not yet been the target of specific regulations and this could be the case for a long time to come.

Canadian Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says his government has already addressed some concerns by imposing stricter methane regulations and future clean fuel standards. However, he recognizes that more could be done.

Alberta, on the other hand, prefers to encourage all oil companies to reduce their emissions, regardless of their carbon footprint, rather than force the closure of some, according to Provincial Environment Minister Paul Hamnett.

The Alberta director of the Pembina Institute, Chris Serverson-Baker, adds, however, that at this point the cost associated with reducing emissions is higher than the carbon tax, making it more profitable for companies to maintain these emissions. active sites.

Greenfire Acquisition Corp, which owns the second largest operating site in terms of emissions, also wants to double its production, according to its director, Robert Logan.

However, Mr. Logan points out that keeping such operations in operation has fewer environmental consequences than creating new sites.

The companies Imperial and Cenovus promise to reduce their carbon intensity.

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