Oil Sands Protest Based on Misinformation, Rhetoric - Not Facts

June 08, 2010 - Calgary, Alberta

Oil Sands Protest Based on Misinformation, Rhetoric - Not Facts
For Immediate Release

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) said today a protest against development of Canada's oil sands is a misguided attempt to promote environmental activism based on misinformation and rhetoric, not facts.

Oil Sands Video

Learn what the oil sands are and how they're developed.

"The Canadian oil and gas industry is committed to achieving an appropriate balance of what energy consumers tell us they want - environmental protection, economic growth and safe, reliable energy supplies," said CAPP president Dave Collyer. "Unfortunately, activities like this protest blur the lines between fact and fiction and add nothing to the serious dialogue occurring among reasonable people seeking solutions to our energy challenges."

Rainforest Action Network (RAN), an environmental activist group wants to stop oil sands development and promotes the use of renewable energy like wind and solar power. LUSH, a retail marketer of soap and beauty products, is urging its customers to support RAN.

"Store sales and fund-raising plans aside, it's technology - not soap - that enables cleaner energy," Collyer said. "Technology improves performance and delivers cleaner oil and cleaner oil sands. At the same time, technology and innovation will help diversify our energy supplies."

All sources of energy, developed responsibly, are required to meet rising global demand. Renewable energy is a good thing. But in reality, it represents a very small portion of total supply.

While Canada's oil and gas producers won't bare it all this week to make their point, consider these facts:

Development & Reclamation

  • Canada's oil sands are more difficult and expensive to develop compared with conventional sources but they remain economically viable and competitive both economically and environmentally with other options.
  • In northern Alberta, oil sands are developed using two techniques: surface mining or in situ drilling. Today, about one-half of production comes from each method.
  • Surface mining, used to develop 20 per cent of the resource, uses large electric shovels and trucks. In more than 40 years, oil sands development has disturbed about 530 square kilometres of land. This is equivalent to 4.8 per cent of Los Angeles County or 0.2 per cent of Canada's Boreal Forest.
  • The other 80 per cent of the resource must be developed using advanced in situ drilling technology, similar to conventional oil production.
  • All lands disturbed by oil sands development must be fully reclaimed under government laws. The land, air and water surrounding development are closely monitored and companies must abide by one of the strongest government regulatory systems in the world.

GHG & Low Carbon Fuel Standards

  • Many oil sands detractors argue making synthetic oil from oil sands produces significantly more carbon dioxide than conventional oil production. We see a range among producers and cite oil sands as five to 15 per cent more carbon intensive on a lifecycle basis than the average barrel imported into the U.S. today. (Source: Cambridge Energy Research Associates)
  • However, it's important to remember that trend-wise, the CO2 gap between oil sands and conventional fuel continues to narrow.
  • Oil sands producers have reduced CO2 per barrel by 26 per centfrom 1990 to 2010 (Source: Environment Canada) and continue to reduce emissions intensity or pay a carbon levy under law. While oil sand emissions are going down, conventional oil worldwide is declining so the average emissions from crude oil use is actually going up - a trend that underscores the need for increased investment in both oil sands technology and lower carbon energy.
  • Oil sands companies operate under GHG regulation (Alberta) and must reduce GHGs or pay a $15 per tonne carbon levy, which is comparable to the current CO2 price in Europe.


  • Oil sands development does not go ahead without direct and meaningful consultation about both environmental impacts and economic benefits.
  • Discussion, science, stakeholder viewpoints and disputes are brought forward transparently at public, government-moderated hearings.
    Productive relationships are crucial to oil and gas companies earning their licence to operate.
  • Delivering economic and social benefits and minimizing environmental impacts are fundamental to an oil sands project being found in the public interest, the final test a development must pass in order to proceed.


  • The Athabasca River is one of the largest rivers in Canada and is also one of the most stringently regulated northern rivers in the world.
  • Currently oil sands production draws less than one per cent of the Athabasca's average total flow. Going forward, all oil sands mining projects, including current and approved projects, are forecast to use about 2.2 per cent of the natural flow of the river.
  • Industry supports protecting the river during winter low flow and is developing improved recycling measures as well as water storage options.
  • More than 80 per cent of process water is recycled.
  • Water quality in the Athabasca is monitored and over several decades of monitoring there has been no significant change in water quality.

"Bottom line, the oil sands will play an important, necessary role in the global energy mix for the foreseeable future," Collyer said. "The goal is to develop these resources safely and responsibly, using the latest technology to improve the process and reduce the environmental footprint. Experience shows that collaboration, not confrontation and rhetoric, is the most direct path to results."

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) represents companies, large and small, that explore for, develop and produce natural gas and crude oil throughout Canada. CAPP's member companies produce about 90 per cent of Canada's natural gas and crude oil. CAPP's associate members provide a wide range of services that support the upstream crude oil and natural gas industry. Together CAPP's members and associate members are an important part of a $110-billion-a-year national industry that provides essential energy products. CAPP's mission is to enhance the economic sustainability of the Canadian upstream petroleum industry in a safe and environmentally and socially responsible manner, through constructive engagement and communication with governments, the public and stakeholders in the communities in which we operate.

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