what are the negative impacts of oil sands

Although Alberta only has 10 percent of the population in Canada, it emits the most GHG emissions out of any province. Change ). What Are the Pros of Oil Energy? Despite the negative environmental impact, oil sands produce significant revenue for Canada, which relies on oil sands as a significant portion of … Withdrawal of water during natural low-flow conditions in the river is of concern due to the potential for water levels to drop below the in-stream flow needs. Impacts on water quality can result from the discharge of waters drained from muskeg and the overburden (during site preparation) to natural aquatic systems. We’re one of the few news outlets dedicated exclusively to people-focused environmental coverage, and we believe our content should remain free and accessible to all. Here are the key points to look at. If you dig our mission and agree news should never sit behind a paywall, donate today to help support our work. will use oil revenues to pay for the transition to green energy, This hidden doctrine could stymie climate action under the new Supreme Court. Other impacts on water quality could result from leaks, seepage, or spills of mine-impacted waters or chemicals used on site, or deposition of air-borne particulates into aquatic ecosystems (RAMP 2005). Tailings ponds water can be acutely toxic and hence, the water is stored rather than discharged into a receiving environment such as the Athabasca River. The birds or waterfowl, landed on the tailings pond and subsequently died or had to be euthanized as a result of toxic poisoning. Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has made climate change a priority of his administration, but the nation’s economy is still heavily dependent on oil production. Tailings are discharged into large settling basins known as tailings ponds, where larger particles (e.g., sand) settle quickly to the bottom, leaving a suspension of fine solids and associated chemical residues. Natural debate: Do forests grow better without our help? In China, a nation beset by smog, the pollution results in an estimated average of 5.5 years of reduced life expectancy. Tailings are a mixture of sand, silt, clay, water, residual bitumen and other hydrocarbons, salts, and trace metals left over from the oil sands mining extraction process (Government of Alberta 2008a). The oil sands are Canada’s largest source of CO2 emissions. GHG emissions from the oil sands extraction and processing is "3.2 to 4.5 times as intensive per barrel as for conventional crude oil". Grist is powered by VIP. Oil sands projects can affect the natural hydrology of streams, rivers, and lakes through the following activities: Removal of natural soils and vegetation can have important impacts on stream hydrology (see Forestry), while redirection or removal of streams can stress or eliminate aquatic organisms, including fish. GHG emissions from the oil sands extraction and processing is “3.2 to 4.5 times as intensive per barrel as for conventional crude oil”. Those barrels hold diluted bitumen, not crude oil. We already knew that Canadian tar sands oil is particularly damaging for the climate, but a new study reveals that the fuel is especially bad for human health, too.. The industrial processes used, and the large scale of oil sands development, can result in negative impacts on the aquatic environment if deliberate action is not taken to protect these ecosystems. Phase 2 will build on Phase 1 and will develop a long-term strategy based on additional data and considerations. Other concerns related to tailings ponds include seepage of contaminated waters into nearby aquatic ecosystems and the long-term viability of the huge tailings ponds, currently covering more than 130 km2 (Government of Alberta 2008a), as a component of the regional landscape. To view potential linkages between oil sands activities and aquatic resources, see the impact pathways interactive feature. As such, the oil sands are an important natural resource for Canada and have a positive economic impact however the extraction process is more unfriendly to the environment than traditional oil drilling and has created controversy. The oil sands and tailing ponds are destructive to the the local boreal forest, “The development of oil sands mining leases will result in the clearing of 300,000 hectares of Boreal Forest and constructing 30,000 km of roads, leaving 80% of the remaining Boreal Forest within 250m of a road, pipeline or well site”. Every dollar counts. If Alberta were a country its GHG emissions per capita would be the highest out of any country in the world. The perched lakes, wetlands, and waterways of the Athabasca River delta also are highly sensitive to small changes in the level of the Athabasca River (Schindler et al.). Grist's comments only work with JavaScript. The 175-odd oil sands mining projects are owned by major oil companies from around the world, including Exxon and China’s CNOOC. “To get there, we need to make smart strategic investments in clean growth and new infrastructure,” said the prime minister in March, “but we must also continue to generate wealth from our abundant natural resources to fund this transition to a low-carbon economy.”. “11 million litres if toxic waste water seep out of the tailings pits into the boreal forest and Athabasca river every day. Acidification can have short-term toxic effects on aquatic animals and vegetation, and can have long-term effects through changes to the aquatic pH and, ultimately, the health of the ecosystem. Large amounts of water are required in the process. In the Athabasca River, successful feeding, migration, rearing and overwintering of various fish species depend on sufficient flows. The news about the dangers of Canada’s oil sands comes in the midst of another crisis besetting the industry: 80,000 oil workers were evacuated from Alberta’s Fort McMurray in mid-May after a massive wildfire threatened the area, and the shutdown of oil sands operations is costing businesses about a million barrels a day. The oil sands are Canada's largest source of CO2 emissions. 2007). Together, the companies pump out 2.6 million barrels every day, virtually all of which is shipped to U.S. refineries., Next page: Aggregate Mining in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Mining tar sands is one of the most expensive ways to produce crude oil in the world, and with the International Energy Agency assessing 21st-century peak oil … ( Log Out /  Solar and wind products are created because of oil energy technologies. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. 1. Potential impacts from withdrawal of water from the Athabasca River have been addressed in Alberta’s “Athabasca River Water Management Framework” (AENV 2007), which was designed to protect the ecological integrity of the Athabasca River during oil sands development by setting maximum withdrawals under various natural flow conditions. This water is then mixed with chemicals and toxins and must be stored in tailings ponds which themselves are toxic, “The Alberta Energy Regulator says 122 waterfowl died on tailings ponds operated by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Syncrude and Suncor in the northern Alberta Oil sands”. Phase 1 was implemented on July 1, 2007, and requires operators to reduce water withdrawals during environmentally sensitive periods. However, some uncertainty regarding the quality of water in these lakes and the suitability of these lakes as aquatic habitat remains. The Alberta oil sands are the largest deposit of bitumen in the world and the third largest reservoir of crude oil (once the bitumen is refined). Oil sands mining is currently the largest consumer of water from the Athabasca River basin, with approximately 2% of the average annual water flow in the Athabasca River allocated to oil sands projects (AENV 2007). As the study shows, exploiting those “abundant natural resources” is no good for the planet, or the people. FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps helped repair the country. As a nonprofit, we rely on reader support to help fund our award-winning journalism. Oil sands development consumes large amounts of water and energy—currently, two to five barrels of water (natural sources and recycled water) are required for every barrel of oil produced by mining—and produces byproducts such as contaminated tailings. Some of the potential impacts on aquatic ecosystems are described below. Are Pennsylvanians as obsessed with fracking as Trump and Biden think? How the US could lead on climate change — in 8 simple steps, The aptly named East Troublesome Fire brings red skies, evacuations to the Rocky Mountains. ( Log Out /  Source: David Dodge, Copyright © 2005 The Pembina Institute. Emissions of sulphur and nitrous oxides from oil sands projects can lead to acidification of regional lakes and waterbodies when these acid-forming substances are deposited in waterbodies or on soils or the snowpack. There are several pros and cons of oil energy that must be considered carefully so we can maintain its positive effects while reducing the negative effects. Tailings ponds have been known to leak, and this leakage has made its way into the Athabasca river. Please enable and refresh the page. We already knew that Canadian tar sands oil is particularly damaging for the climate, but a new study reveals that the fuel is especially bad for human health, too. The input of these waters—rich in organic matter—can lead to changes in dissolved oxygen levels and changes in stream temperature, both of which can have negative impacts on fish and other aquatic organisms. That’s 4 billion litres a year”. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your account. If… Is it time to revive it? Emissions of acidifying substances can be minimized through plant design and use of appropriate technologies. Oil sands development consumes large amounts of water and energy—currently, two to five barrels of water (natural sources and recycled water) are required for every barrel of oil produced by mining—and produces byproducts such as contaminated tailings. Smog is particularly hazardous to both human and environmental health, and can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory problems. Concentrations of sediment can also increase if higher discharge resulting from these or other input waters erodes or suspends stream sediments. © 1999-2020 Grist Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved. Dear Gen Z, to protect your right to protest, you must exercise your right to vote. Site preparation, which can include site clearing, removal of the overburden, removing or diverting streams, draining wetlands, and altering natural drainage patterns; Extraction of groundwater and draw-down of aquifers linked to surface waterbodies; and.

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