Forests and Biodiversity

ERCB approves Shell Canada tailings plan

CALGARY - Alberta's energy watchdog has given Shell Canada some leeway in approving the company's plans to deal with waste from its Muskeg River oilsands mine.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board acknowledges a consolidated tailings plant Shell plans to build will not be up and running until 2012.

"Until the new tailings plant is operational, Shell will not be able to achieve the ERCB’s annual fine tailings reduction requirements," the board said.

However, from 2013 onwards, the ERCB has directed Shell to exceed the annual fine tailings reduction requirements in order to achieve a cumulative overall fine tailings reduction that is equal to or exceeds requirements by no later than the end of 2017.

Last year, the ERCB issued Directive 74, which ordered oilsands miners to clean up their tailings ponds, and submit plans outlining how they intend to achieve that.
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$2B oilsands expansion approved

EDMONTON — Cenovus Energy's Foster Creek underground oilsands project has won approval for an estimated $2-billion expansion that will see 1,000 construction jobs created at the site 120 kilometres north of Bonnyville.

The Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board approval announced Monday covers the next three phases of expansion (F, G and H) for Alberta's oldest and largest steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) project.

"We will continue building the project in phases, making improvements with each one," spokeswoman Rhona DelFrari said.

Engineering on Phase F is already underway and preliminary ground work is expected to start soon.

Cenovus has its own construction management team, and the "cookie cutter" approach to the modules for each phase has resulted in industry-leading efficiencies.... Read more »

Back to nature a tricky task

FORT MCMURRAY - In the checkerboard of test ponds at Syncrude's wetland research site, Mother Nature has won some games and lost others.

Among the squares, there are certain ones with barely a sprig of green poking out from the silty water.

Other experimental combinations are more successful, though it takes a scientific eye to pick out the real winners. That's because the target is the recreation of a specific kind of wetland, called a fen. A fen is a wetland that is fed by groundwater, which is a heck of a thing to recreate in a landscape that was dug up extensively and then, in some cases, filled in with tailings.

Oilsands operations are increasingly striving to reach these milestones, partly because government is ordering them to do it in their approvals, but also because there is mounting pressure to improve the environmental image of oilsands development.... Read more »

Greenpeace report challenges Canada’s need for dirty, risky fossil fuels

9 September 2010 (Toronto) — Greenpeace today released a comprehensive analysis of Canada’s energy potential that challenges the need for dirty oil from the tar sands and shows that Canada can create tens of thousands of green jobs, while providing over 90 per cent of the country’s electricity and heating needs from renewable sources by 2050.

“Greenpeace worked with energy experts to show how Canada can break its addiction to dirty tar sands oil, coal and gas and save consumers $5.3 billion a year by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency,” said Keith Stewart, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner. “We challenge the oil industry and governments to lay out their plan for protecting Canadians from climate change and rising costs for fossil fuels. It’s past time for this debate.”... Read more »

Planned northern Pipeline Unacceptable

Stretched across Main Street in Smithers, the banner reads: "No Pipelines."

It heralds what many believe will be one of the most protracted environmental fights to rock the province in decades.

Dubbed the Northern Gateway, the pipeline proposed by Enbridge Inc. would bring tarsands oil from Alberta to the coastal town of Kitimat and then ship it via supertankers to refineries in Asia.

The street banner doesn't tell the whole story. The main problem is not the pipeline per se, although many now have strong concerns about pipeline safety. Rather it is supertankers running through the narrow labyrinth of islands and fjords between Haida Gwaii and the mainland.

If Enbridge's plan goes through, supertankers will travel right by Gil Island, where B.C. Ferries' Queen of the North sank in 2006.... Read more »

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