Wichita, Kansas-based conglomerate Koch Industries has sold off its substantial position in the Canadian tar sands/oil sands, selling thousands of hectares of land to Cavalier Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Calgary-based Paramount Resources Ltd., the Financial Post revealed Wednesday.
“Koch, one of the world’s largest private companies owned by American billionaires and Republican donors Charles and David Koch, has also abandoned the licences it did not sell in the transaction with Paramount and has been allowing its leases in the play to expire,” the Post reports.
The news lands just days after tar sands/oil sands analysts bemoaned the poor response the industry is receiving from investors, despite its continuing efforts to cut costs.
“The majority of Koch Oil Sands licences have been transferred to Paramount Resources Ltd.,” Alberta Energy Regulator spokesperson Shawn Roth said in an email. “All of the remaining licences for well sites have been abandoned, which means they have been permanently sealed and taken out of service.”
A Koch subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources, still owns oil storage tanks in Hardisty, Alberta and runs U.S. refineries that process diluted bitumen from Alberta. “However, the company confirmed it had sold down its upstream oilsands holdings and surrendered expired leases in the play,” the Post states.
“Those leases, which were held by Koch Oil Sands Holdings, have varied over the years,” wrote spokesperson Rob Carlton. “These recent transactions are merely a reflection of the opportunities that are currently available in the marketplace and our desire to prioritize other initiatives.”
The Post lists a half-dozen international fossils that have abandoned the tar sands/oil sands since 2017, leaving Canadian firms like Suncor Energy Inc., Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., and Athabasca Oil Corporation to solidify their holdings. While the Post blames the departures on a lack of export pipeline capacity and price pressure from fracking fields in the U.S. Permian Basin, the analysis earlier this week pointed to intense competition from efficient, affordable renewable energy and electric vehicles that is rapidly eroding future demand for oil as a transportation fuel. “Koch is not the only company allowing leases in the oilsands to expire as the pace of development in the play has slowed in recent years,” the Post reports. “In a move to cut costs, MEG Energy President and CEO Derek Evans said on his company’s recent earnings call that his company would allow leases on its longer-term holdings to expire, rather than pay escalating rents on the land.”
New coalition launched to protect Bay Area from tar sands, oil tankers
By Dan Bacher, Thursday Jun 20th, 2019 7:33 PM
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (Traditional Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone Lands) — In a state where oil and gas drilling have increased in recent years, a group of local residents today launched the Protect the Bay coalition to educate the Bay Area community about the expansion proposal at Phillips 66’s San Francisco Refinery in Rodeo to bring in more oil tankers and process more heavy crude oil like Canadian tar sands.
“The proposal would impact local health and the climate by increasing refinery emissions and worsening air quality for nearby communities, while also increasing tanker traffic and the risk of a devastating oil spill in San Francisco Bay,” according to a press release from the coalition.
The San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary is the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas — and the increased risk of an oil spill on the bay threatens many fish populations that migrate through, reside, spawn or rear in the bay, including Chinook salmon, steelhead, halibut, striped bass, rockfish, lingcod, leopard sharks, sixgill sharks, soupfin sharks, bat rays, brown smoothhound sharks, green sturgeon, white sturgeon, Pacific herring, anchovies, jack smelt, over a dozen species of surfperch and many other species.
“If the refinery’s full expansion moves ahead, more than twice as many crude oil tankers could travel to the refinery, some of them carrying tar sands from Canada, which is extremely difficult to clean up. This could add up to as much as a tenfold increase in the amount of tar sands processed in Bay Area refineries,” the group said.
The coalition said the Canadian federal government is expected to announce next week whether it will approve the new Trans Mountain Pipeline that would likely supply the tar sands to Phillips 66’s San Francisco Refinery.
“Economists have questioned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claims that the pipeline would help Canada reach new markets in Asia, instead of simply expanding into existing U.S. markets in California and Washington,” the group stated.
The coalition launched an extensive website at protectthebay.org with factsheets, presentations, and more on the refinery proposal. The coalition asks local community members to get involved to help illustrate the community’s growing opposition to the refinery expansion proposal by:
Signing the petition urging decisionmakers to reject the Phillips 66 refinery expansion proposal at protectthebay.org/take-action. The petition will be sent to Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and others.
Sharing your opposition to the Phillips 66 refinery expansion proposal and the increase in oil tankers in San Francisco Bay on social media using the hashtag #TarSandsFreeSFBay.
Coalition members include Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment (CRUDE), Idle No More SF Bay, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, Rodeo Citizens Association, Stand.earth, and Sunflower Alliance. Supporting organizations include 350 Bay Area, Amazon Watch, Fresh Air Vallejo, and San Francisco Baykeeper.
Representatives of the groups in the coalition commented on the launch of the new group.
“Our community knows refinery expansions are a dead end,” said Isabella Zizi, Stand.earth. “We need our public officials like the Contra Costa County supervisors to stand with us in preventing new pollution sources from harming our health, and supporting real solutions like a just transition for refinery workers and local economic development that protects air and water quality.”
“Phillips 66’s reckless plans to increase tanker deliveries to its wharf and refine tar sands at its Rodeo refinery are opposed by tens of thousands of Bay Area residents,” said Shoshana Wechsler, Sunflower Alliance. “These plans endanger our neighbors living near that refinery and the entire San Francisco Bay, and they worsen an already severe climate crisis. People power stopped an oil terminal in Pittsburg, and oil train projects in Benicia and San Luis Obispo. We won’t rest until Phillips 66’s tar sands proposals are dead in the water.”
“The refinery’s latest plan to expand dilbit imports, cracking of that bitumen, and recovery of those diluent oils threatens to lock in a worst-case future for our climate, air, health, safety, and Bay,” said Greg Karras, Communities for a Better Environment. People have a right to know about this unnecessary threat.”
“The small towns of Rodeo and nearby Crockett are ‘ground zero’ for tar sands processing in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it’s not just us who will be affected. Sounds from increased tanker traffic will negatively impact the already stressed, killer whale population and hasten its long-term slide to extinction,” said Nancy Rieser, Crockett-Rodeo United Defend the Environment. “Equally important, is the plight of the indigenous communities of Alberta, Canada whose waterways and lands have been devastated by tar sands mining. It is our sincere hope that the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors stand in solidarity with the people they are tasked to serve and do what’s right for the West Coast.”
“Rodeo Citizens and our neighbors throughout Contra Costa County have been overwhelmed with toxic chemical releases from this refinery,” said Janet Pygeorge, Rodeo Citizens Association. “The asthma rate in Contra Coast County school children is higher than surrounding areas, as is the cancer rate when compared to the national average.”
The coalition is hosting this upcoming event in the Bay Area:
July[date TBA] – Toxics Tour with community members
Take a guided tour of the Bay Area’s refineries and learn about the toxic pollution that people living near the refineries experience every day. This event is open to the public, and reporters are welcome to attend. Contact info [at] protectthebay.org with questions or to RSVP.
Most Californians, including many environmentalists, are unaware of how effectively Big Oil and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) have captured California regulators, in spite of the state’s “green” image.
A review of state permitting records in last year’s report “The Sky’s The Limit: California,” shows that more than 21,000 oil and gas well drilling permits were issued during the Jerry Brown administration. These wells include 238 new offshore wells approved between 2012 and 2016, according to Department of Conservation data analyzed by the Fractracker Alliance: http://www.fractracker.org/…
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is not a household name in California, but it should be. It’s the trade association for the oil industry and the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying organization in the state. If you want to know the industries, organizations and people that control California, WSPA and Big Oil are right at the top of the list.
WSPA represents a who’s who of oil and pipeline companies, including AERA. BP, California Resources Corporation, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, Plains All American Pipeline Company, Valero and many others. The companies that WSPA represents account for the bulk of petroleum exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, according to the WSPA website, http://www.wspa.org.
WSPA and Big Oil wield their power and influence over public discourse in 6 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: (5) working in collaboration with media; and (6) contributing to non profit organizations.
The Canadian Senate adopted Bills C-69 and C-48 last night, along with a lower-profile measure enshrining a moratorium on Arctic oil drilling, clearing the way for the country’s new Impact Assessment Act and a federal ban on large tanker traffic off British Columbia’s environmentally sensitive north coast to become law.
“The assault from the oil and gas industry on this legislation was unprecedented,” wrote one observer, but Canada finally has “a new environmental assessment process, and the national energy board has been transformed to a new and improved institution.”
“Better rules will provide certainty to business and show investors that Canada is the best place in the world to invest,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna in a statement last night, reiterating that many of the contentious amendments to both bills had been handcrafted by the fossil lobby before being adopted by compliant but unelected senators.
In the end, “Bill C-48 was passed with only modest amendments, despite efforts by some senators to create a so-called ‘corridor’ that would allow oil tankers to dock in some designated areas,” the National Post reports.
Sen. David Tkachuk (C, SK), the transport committee chair whose conduct of hearings into Bill C-69 became a matter of public discussion among some senators earlier this month, was critical of the vote, the Globe and Mail writes. But Sen. Paula Simons (I, AB), who some said was “harassed” into casting the deciding vote to defeat C-48 in committee, supported the final version of C-69. She tweeted that the 99 amendments the government had adopted, mostly from Independent senators, had “improved it hugely”.
The Post notes as well that Senate adopted the less heavily-debated Bill C-88, amending the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to ban offshore oil drilling in the North.
In December 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “announced a moratorium on offshore oil drilling across all Arctic waters, which the federal government enforced not through legislation but by simply rejecting any new bids for licences or exploration permits, effectively shutting down any would-be resource extraction in the region,” the Post explains. “The updated legislation now provides the federal government the right to enforce the drilling moratorium based on ‘the Canadian interest,’ but does not explicitly define how the threshold will be met.” In June, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett told a Senate committee that Trudeau was concerned about the risk of an oil spill in ecologically sensitive waters.
Carbon pollution from four major tar sands/oil sands mines in northern Alberta is 64% higher than their owners reported using the United Nations’ standard emissions measurement framework, according to a study released this morning in the journal Nature Communications.
“The researchers, mainly from Environment Canada, calculated emissions rates for four major oilsands surface mining operations using air samples collected in 2013 on 17 airplane flights over the area,” CBC reports. The study found gaps from 13 to 123% between reported and actual emissions at the four facilities, a finding that “could have profound consequences for government climate change strategies”.
As for the fossils that submitted the data, “they’re just doing exactly what they’ve been told to do,” said John Liggio, an aerosol chemist at Environment and Climate Change Canada. “They’re not doing anything on purpose.”
But that doesn’t make the research finding any less significant. Accurate numbers on carbon pollution “inform national and international climate policies,” the study states. “Such anthropogenic GHG emission data ultimately underpin carbon pricing and trading policies.”
“The bottom line is we still have more work to do in terms of really determining how much is being emitted,” Liggio told CBC.
The findings of this one study place Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions about 2.3 higher than they were previously believed to be, CBC notes. “If research eventually shows that other oilsands sites are subject to similar underreporting issues, Canada’s overall greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as 6% more than thought—throwing a wrench into the calculations that underpin government emissions strategies.”
On CBC, Liggio explained the standard, “bottom-up” method by which fossils are required to report their production emissions is fraught with uncertainty, factoring in everything from the carbon intensity of the fuels they use to whether plant maintenance activities may have driven a temporary spike in emissions.
With their flyovers, Liggio and his colleagues took “a ‘top-down’ approach involving hundreds of air samples taken during more than 80 hours of flights over four major surface mining operations in northern Alberta: Syncrude Canada’s Mildred Lake facility, Suncor’s Millennium and North Steepbank site, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s Horizon mine, and what was then Shell’s Albian Jackpine operation, now majority owned by Canadian Natural,” CBC explains.
“Left out of the study, notably, are emissions from all oilsands operations that use in-situ extraction, pumping steam into the ground to get the petroleum out. About 80% of oilsands reserves, and the majority of current production, require in-situ extraction,” which means “the overall amount of underreported greenhouse gas emissions could be significantly higher.”