CCS and tar sands: a misallocated solution

Oil or tar sands is a mixture of sand, clay, water and especially heavy crude oil. Canada has the world’s largest oil sands deposits.

The extraction of oil from tar sands produces vast levels of GHG because the oil is technically and energetically intensive to extract. In fact, a previous study by StatoilHydro stated that the estimated emissions from tar sands production can be up to 10 times higher than the oil produced on the Norwegian continental shelf. This inevitably contributes significantly to global warming.

In order to meet a reduction of GHG of 85 percent by 2050 as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the extraction of oil from tar sands is not a viable option, with or without CCS. A huge amount of energy is required to strip the heavy oil from the sand and upgrade (physically and chemically treat the heavy oil to create amendable petroleum products). In addition the lifecycle emissions remain high as the oil is usually burned in small combustion engines without CCS.

“CCS is a necessary and appropriate solution for the reduction of CO2 emissions from sources such as energy plants, but inappropriate for the extraction of oil from tar sands,” says Gøril Tjetland from Bellona.

Read more on tar sands on Bellona Web and view the Co-operative Financial Services and WWF-UK report here.