Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tar Sands Production Graph

I needed some tar sands production numbers for a longer piece I've been working on. However, it was so disproportionately painful to find and assemble the data that I decided to give the graph its own little post, for the benefit of future Googlers who need to find this data.  For example, you might be looking up "oil sands alberta chart", or "canadian tar sands production graph" or "oil sands production chart" and here it will be!  A tiny little service to humankind, to save you the five or six hours of work and $6 (Canadian) of actual money that it took me to produce this. The data above is the current revision series as of Jan 23rd, 2010, and goes through September 2009.

For the benefit of anyone who wants to tell me that I'm doing it wrong, or get more up-to-date data, or make their own chart in a very expensive report for clients without revealing that it's really off the Internet for free, here's what I did. First of all, there's various resources that you'd think would get you straight there, but don't. For example, the government of Alberta has a page of facts and statistics about tar sands. However, this doesn't give complete time series, but rather a smorgasbord of bits and pieces of data trying to make the case that "oil sands" (as they'd prefer you to call the mixture of sand and generally-non-flowing-at-room-temperature-rotted-petroleum-leftovers that the rest of us think would be more accurately described as "tar sands") are the most wonderful thing for the future of humanity, with just the teeniest little tiny impact on the environment. From my perspective, the most useful information is this:
In 2008, Alberta’s production of bitumen was 1.3 million bbl/d with surface mining accounting for 55% and in situ for 45%.
Currently about 59% of bitumen production is sent for upgrading to SCO in the province
SCO is "synthetic crude oil", which is what is made via an upgrading process from some of the tar sands bitumen. The rest, I assume, is sold directly as bitumen without upgrading ("bitumen" is, oddly, otherwise known as "tar" not "oil") . There's also a different set of Gov. of Alberta spin here, but it doesn't add much to the picture.  I poked all over these websites and never could find even a decent annual production series, let alone monthly data.

So what you have to do instead is go to the Statistics of Canada web site, select "English" (unless, of course, you prefer to do your research in French which is fine with me but in that case you're on your own), then hit "Energy" in the "Browse By" section, and then follow the "Crude oil and gas" link. You'll end up here as of this writing, with a page that looks like this:

Follow the link for "Detailed tables from CANSIM", and towards the bottom of the resulting page, you'll see a region like this:

Click on the "126-0001" link to get the details of the supply and disposition of crude oil.

That gives you a page with a form like this:

In the first field, select "Alberta", in the second field, you are going to need to get the "Synthetic Crude Oil" and "Crude Bitumen" series (I got them separately because I didn't realize initially that it wasn't all being converted to syncrude, until I got numbers that were much too small). Select the time range you want, and then proceed (the two buttons at the bottom seem to do fairly similar things as far as I can tell). You will then proceed through a series of screens where you too will have the opportunity to contribute $6 to the great nation of Canada, and I'll let you figure that part out on your own.  Since the "Description" link for the table a couple of steps back is useless, my evidence for the idea that adding these two series together is the right thing to do is that the resulting numbers appear roughly consistent with other claims about oil sands data (such as the Alberta governmental numbers quoted above).

Eventually, you'll get a table of data, from which you'll have to edit out many, many instances of the character "r". The data is in m3/month, so you'll adjust for barrels and the number of days in each month (not forgetting leap years if you want to be thorough), and you too will be able to make a graph like the one above.

As you can see, we do seem to be in shouting range of the "1.3mbd" in 2008, total.  However, I actually got 1.25mbd average production in 2008, of which 52% was syncrude.  Since I assume the bitumen has got to expand when being upgraded to syncrude, the Gov of Alberta's estimate of 59% of the bitumen being upgraded seems a bit high to me.

Anyway, there you have it - a monthly chart of oil sands production.  Click on it for the bigger version in its own window:

Some interesting points to me:
  • About half of tar sands production is actually tar, not oil.
  • Compound annual growth rate from 2000-2009 (average of the first nine months of each) was 9.6%.  
  • Production did not appreciably slow down in late 2008/early 2009 as a result of the great recession.

Update: picture, for Datamunger (from a Treehugger piece aptly titled "Canadian Tar Sands Look Like Tolkein’s Mordor Says UN Water Advisor")


porsena said...

Also interesting are Alberta's projections of the bitumen volumes available after 2012. They can be found (free!) in Figure 2 of a background paper on the government's proposal to take a portion of the industry's royalty payments in kind, as bitumen, for upgrading in Alberta.

I've also had the experience of contributing money to CANSIM and being uncertain about exactly what it was that I was retrieving, though retrieval does get easier with familiarity. I'm unhappy that we have to pay for industry data from Stats Can, but there it is.

Datamunger said...

It has to be mentioned that that graph represents obscene destruction of wilderness.

Stuart Staniford said...

Datamunger - yeah, I wonder how much?

Stuart Staniford said...

I stuck a picture on the end of the piece to give a little more flavor for what this looks like (at least the 55% surface mining piece)

Datamunger said...

Shell is apparently having 2nd thoughts and thinks there is better hunting elsewhere.

From yesterday:

Royal Dutch Shell’s expansion in Canada’s controversial tar sands will be “very much slower” than in recent years, the company’s new chief executive has said, as the group makes a strategic shift away from high-cost “unconventional” oil production.

Peter Voser, who took over at Europe’s second-largest oil and gas group in July, told the Financial Times that Shell now planned to rely more on conventional oil and gas reserves for its future growth.

The shift back to conventional oil and gas represents a break from the strategy of Jeroen van der Veer, Shell’s previous chief, who planned a steep rise in the share of the company’s production coming from unconventional resources.

It represents a vote of confidence in Shell’s ability to find new oil and gas fields, which has in the past been one of the group’s weaknesses.

Stuart Staniford said...

BTW: To all the folks coming in this morning from Hi! If you'd like to send some kind of official response or clarification, I'm happy to post it.

david.sands said...

Hi Stuart. Check here for oil sands production data, parsed by bitumen and SCO. If the info you seek is not there, let me know:

- David Sands, Government of Alberta

Stuart Staniford said...

Thanks David - will check that out later in the day.

KLR said...

Thanks for doing some legwork, Stuart. I asked Rembrandt Koppelar for info about petroleum use in European electrical generation, he was stumped. This is a favorite hobby horse of mine, the US divested itself of about 1.6 mb/d 1978-1983, and I'm curious what the equivalent was in Europe - you can see it in IEA graphs, but I can't get any numbers, info only goes back to 1984. I also can't figure out if I can get it from IEA through their pay services.

Hmm, decided to do some legwork before hitting the Publish button, and I've found 1980 figures in this IEA pdf (15 mb!): Electricity in European Economies in Transition.

Very handy guide you have here. Perhaps the equivalent could be cooked up for Sistema de Informaci├│n Energ├ętica, which is where you get those monthly Pemex production numbers. You don't have to grease any palms - surprising that Mexico is more liberal with info than Canada! - but you do have to figure about some simple Spanish - you can't run the site through a language translator.

The idea of sharing bookmarks and spreadsheets with this sort of info appeals to me. I've built up a big EIA data .ods - found a puzzling discrepancy in there, too. Here's some nice spreadsheets courtesy of the graphoilogy boys. Posted 2006 but hey, production data for 1859!

KLR said...

Even better: Electricity Supply in the OECD Structure, Ownership and Regulation in OECD Countries (24.7 mb pdf) That last was Eastern Block stuff. This one has figures down to the last mtoe.

Des said...

Louis Helbig is a young aerial photographer that has taken many photos of the tar sands while flying the plane! More pictures at his site of 'beautiful' destruction. One of these pictures was my xmas present. It was called effluvial fan. What can I say - even a tailing pond can have artistic value.

The photographer's website is here: