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Oil Sands Companies

Oil sands are a type of petroleum deposit, most of which are located in Alberta, Canada. Oil sands companies have secured Canada’s place in the global oil market; however, there has been much criticism for this method of extraction, as it is extremely damaging to the environment.

Example of a Suncor oil extraction site. Suncor is the largest of the oil sands companies.
Suncor oil extraction site.

Environmental Concerns

The target of oil sands reserves is bitumen, a dense form of crude oil which covers the sand. Extracting this bitumen from oil sands accounts for 8.5% of Canada’s total emissions, which is a considerable amount to consider when looking at reducing Canada’s emissions.

A barrel of oil emits 80% of its greenhouse gases during combustion by the individual using the oil. So, to make the largest impact, the government could provide the end user with more sustainable Canadian natural resources.

Oil Sands Production

The Alberta oil sands contributes to approximately 64% of Canadian oil exports, and has secured itself as a major contributor to Canada’s economy. This is equivalent to producing 2.9 million barrels per day, and over 1 billion barrels per year. Just five oil companies in Canada account for 82% of this production. The largest contributor is Suncor Energy, who’s carbon emissions have been increasing by around 10% per year.

Other large companies like Cenovus Energy and Athabasca Oil, have been scaling back projects this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. This is likely to take a toll on many oil companies, and it is predicted that Canadian oil stocks will continue to decline over the coming months. In fact, recent news shows oil prices have actually turned negative.

Future Projects

Further expansions to oil sands infrastructure continue to attract attention. Major oil pipelines for carrying crude oil from Canada’s tar sands region have been called into question over environmental concerns. The impact that a leak could have on the lakes that it would pass through would be disastrous for the ecosystem. This questioning shows that there is still hope for the scaling back of these oil and gas industries.

Oil sands companies account for a large amount of the oil used in our everyday lives. They are also a large source of carbon, and oil pipe leaks can damage huge areas of environmental importance. Therefore, the move away from these companies towards the use of sustainable natural resources is essential to protect the environment.

Everything You Need to Know About Fossil Fuel Power

Fossil fuel is a natural resource of power made from the remains of dead plants and animals. It is a major source of global energy and gives us the ability to power our daily lives. However, whilst utilizing fossil fuel energy is useful, it is a mass contributor to climate change.

What is fossil fuel power?

Fossil fuel energy includes a large list of different sources that can used as power. In energy statistics1, coal, manufactured gases, peat, shale and oil sands, oil and natural gases all considered part of this group.

Major fossil fuel industries profit from producing and selling these as products on a global scale. Examples include the likes of BP in the United States2 who dominate the petroleum industry. The economic stance is one that businesses and politicians sometimes take.

For example, at the 2014 Canada Europe Energy Summit3, the UK’s Energy Minister Matt Hancock commented on fossil fuels. He said4, “Our aim is to maximise economic recovery of our hydrocarbon reserves, to boost growth, energy security, and jobs.”

Fossil fuel companies have come under criticism for their stance and impact on climate change. Since 1965, 20 companies have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide5. This hasn’t gone unnoticed as many protest against them.

Carbon emissions and climate change

Scientists recognise that the burning of fossil fuels over last century has increased the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Estimates suggest that roughly 80% of all manmade carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions originate from fossil fuels combustion.

The IPCC recognises6 that fossil fuel emissions must be halved by 2030 if we are to achieve targets of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. However, research by the UN Environment Programme shows we are not on track to meet this. More needs to be done to divest and move away from fossil fuel power. Renewables present an alternative.

Are there alternatives to fossil fuel power?

As a result of our fossil fuel use over the last century and the environmental impact it has had, there is a need for alternatives. We can’t continue on the same path and expect to meet our climate change goals. Furthermore, fossil fuel resources will run out as they are finite.

Renewable energy systems are a possible alternative as they have a limited negative environmental impact compared to fossil fuel power. Examples include wind, solar power, biomass, hydroelectricity, and geothermal.

Some research says renewables aren’t ready, but others are more optimistic7. Predictions suggest the solar surge will come at the cost of coal, currently the largest fossil fuel source of carbon emissions. There are also suggestions that electric production will curb the demand for oil. Yet whilst there are drawbacks, renewables are a way of moving away from fossil fuel power.

References

  1. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Glossary:Fossil_fuel
  2. https://www.bp.com/en_us/united-states/home/who-we-are/bp-in-the-us.html
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/speech-at-the-europe-canada-energy-summit
  4. https://www.carbonbrief.org/tackling-climate-while-maximising-oil-extraction-uk-canada-meeting-glosses-the-paradox
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/09/revealed-20-firms-third-carbon-emissions
  6. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
  7. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/12/global-energy-demand-will-keep-world-burning-fossil-fuels-agency-says.html