Friday, April 26, 2013

The Source for Keystone: Tar Sands Production

The above is an update on Canadian tar sands production, monthly from 1985 through Jan 2013.  (The location of the data is described here).  The blue is upgraded synthetic crude, and the red is straight bitumen (for use in roads, etc).  The synthetic crude is the stuff that will be filling the Keystone pipeline if it were to be approved.  Since global liquid fuel production is about 90mbd, this represents a shade over 2% of the world total.

If we look at the growth rates (here the year-over-year change in the trailing twelve month average), we get this:

Growth has stabilized at around 10% p.a.  That gives a doubling time of about seven years.  If that growth were to continue, Canada would reach 4mbd by about 2020, and 8mbd before 2030 - although the latter is perhaps implausible given that it will be harder to sustain growth at these high levels and this would likely require a lot more conversion of bitumen to oil (we probably won't need that much bitumen).

This shows total production to 2025 if it continued to grow at the same rate as the last decade:

Thus I would expect to see a lot more political fights over exports of Canadian oil in coming decades.


Nick G said...

What I would like:

A detailed, trustworthy analysis of GHG impact of production from the Alberta tar sands.

What is the CO2 "premium" over conventional crude oil? How does it compare to coal and tight oil??

Anonymous said...

Stuart, correct me if i'm wrong, but the pumpable stuf is currently at 1 Mb/day, the road tar is the other 1 Mb. The bottom graph suggests what is pumpable through the pipeline, but only the liquid part will pumped, so your graph should be halved (maybe I am confused by the blue color of the graph)

Do you think that there is a market for these huge amounts of bitumen? I think infrastructure investments will dwindle in the comming decades, making it questionable if all that tar will need to be produced.

John Millen said...

Stuart, this may be worth a closer look. Currently Alberta is exporting bitumen diluted with natural gas liquids - called dilbit - which can be pumped. The market for this product is assumed to be for cracking and refining to regular products. Alberta industry has stopped building upgraders for the bitumen because their local economy is so overheated with expansion of tar sand extraction.

James said...

The numbers I've seen suggest that oil sands is 25% to 50% more carbon-intense to produce, in that range, probably the lower half of it.

Most of the climate damage comes from burning oil, not producing it. If you roll that--the eventual combustion--into your figures, then I think the Canadians like to say, in effect, we are only a bit worse
20% of less, than conventional oil, on a well to wheels basis.

These aren't the exact figures, but they are in the ballpark range.

fpteditors said...

What is the real EROEI? Most of the numbers do not include all the externalities. If they are included then it is likely less than 1, meaning we are wasting energy to get liquid fuel.

Ael said...

Here in Canada, the media says that Keystone can (and presumably will) carry both crude and diluted bitumen.

Alexander Ac said...

Yeah, and Jim Hansen call this "Keystone" approach "Neanderthal"... I tend to agree.

In other news,

Pakistan faces biggest energy crisis in history

A said...

Stuart, below are some CO2 emissions data taken from a chart in a 2009 Cambridge Energy Research Associates report. It compares CO2eq emissions associated with the combustion of crude from different sources. Total emissions are for extraction, processing, distribution and combustion. The combustion portion releases 430 kg/bbl. CO2eq emission units below are in kg/bbl.

U.S. average barrel consumed: 530
Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage: 600 (highest)
Nigeria country average: 590
California heavy oil: 580
Venezuela country average: 560
Synthetic crude from mining, average: 555
Mexico average: 535
Saudi Arabia light: 510
Kuwait average: 510 (lowest)

The primary use of bitumen is to produce synthetic crude oil (SCO) not asphalt. One barrel of bitumen yields approximately 0.83 barrels of synthetic crude when heated in a coker to remove carbon, rather than adding hydrogen.

The typical EROEI is typically around 5. It takes from 900,000 BTUs to 1,000,000 BTUs of NG to produce one barrel of SCO, 5,800,000 BTUs

In today’s, Globe and Mail, the following appears: “Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) competes with Canadian heavy oil producers in the Gulf of Mexico, and its heavy Mayan crude is currently priced at $96 (U.S.) a barrel, $5 more than the trendsetting light crude, West Texas Intermediate, and nearly $30 more than Canadian heavy crude was fetching in the North American futures market.”

This statement makes one wonder what the real reasons for opposing Keystone XL are. While the environment may be a consideration, given the numbers above, supplying trapped bitumen cheaply to American refiners may not be far behind.


A said...

Stuart, below is another tidbit from this mornings Globe and Mail. As mentioned in my previous post, it makes one wonder what is the real game.

Canada warned about U.S. energy protectionism

Canada needs to beware U.S. energy protectionism – including policies that insist this country adopt greenhouse gas emission regulations for its oil and gas industry while giving U.S. and offshore producers a free pass, says former Conservative environment minister Jim Prentice.

In a speech delivered in Halifax on Tuesday, Mr. Prentice cited U.S. renewable energy strategies that discriminate against Canadian hydroelectric power from Quebec and Labrador, as well as proposed low carbon fuel standards, like the one in California that disadvantages oil sands companies while exempting heavy oil producers in that state.

Mike said...

Bitumen currently is - and will be - pumped through many pipelines. It is diluted with lighter liquid products, much of which is shipped northward from the U.S., just to return with the bitumen.