Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Companies buying up cheap gas, not expensive oil sands

Bloomberg has an article about how foreign investors are buying up Canadian gas projects recently, rather than oil sands projects. It notes three of the five biggest energy acquisitions this year have been gas deals, adding to $9.8 billion. The latest example is for ExxonMobil's $2.9 billion acquisition of Celtic Exploration, a gas producer in the Montney and Duvernay.

The apparent reason for this turnaround? LNG plants scheduled to start coming on over the next few years. Gas remains cheap, and bitumen remains expensive. Read on!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Alberta government oil sands monitor

Alberta environmental minister Diana McQueen.
Picture stolen from the Edmonton Journal.

A number of big news outlets have reported on the new provincial body to monitor the environmental impact of oil sands. The body is tentatively called the Alberta Environment Management Agency and will be jointly funded by industry and government. It will be headed by Howard Tennant, a former University of Lethbridge president who headed a report that ultimately led to the agency's creation, and report to the environmental minister, Diana McQueen. Despite his protestations in that link, Mr Tennant is a scientist but teaches classes in management, to generally positive reviews.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waterloo studies find little long-distance environmental impact from oil sands development

The study area from one of the papers.
As the elevator told me this morning, two studies from the University of Waterloo have reported little water and air pollution downwind/stream from the oil sands. In this study they found no increased levels of "airborne metals" (like tiny microscopic airplanes, I assume) in the Peace-Athabasca Delta 200 km north, and in this paper they found that according to lake-bed cores various heavy metal contaminants had decreased since the onset of oilsands development.

The study was funded by Suncor, and was of course disputed by other scientists and environmentalists, the line between the two being pretty blurry in some cases. Peter Lee and Kevin Timoney, of Global Forest Watch Canada, said the data was too limited and the study area too small. Presumably they believe their more holistic and somewhat alarming paper on the subject is a better view on the matter.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Cornell students making oil sands toxin sensor

Picture of the floating biosensor, stolen from the
Cornell University Genetically Engineered Machines is a group of students from the New York university working on a sensor that detects things like napthalene and arsenic, funded by the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative. I didn't know arsenic was a concern for the industry, but on further investigation, at least some people think it is.

Anyway, the actual sensor seems pretty neat. It uses a genetically modifed bacteria (S. oneidensis MR-1) that produces an electrical current when their "metal reduction pathway" is activated, as it is in the presence of napthalene or arsenic. It's supposedly better than other "biosensors" because the results isn't through fluorescence which is difficult to read continuously and autonomously. Or something, I'm probably botching the description, so read the article if you're into accuracy.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Cenovus buys Oilsands Quest assets

Map showing Oilsands Quest's assets.
Picture ruthlessly taken from their website.
The story of Oilsands Quest is a sad one. The plan was simple - extract a bunch of oil from a huge oil sands deposit along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. Unfortunately there was no cap rock to contain steam, so SAGD was out, and they couldn't find any workable alternative. Fast-forward a few years and here we are: Oilsands Quest's assets have been liquidated, and what's left of them are being scooped up by Cenovus for $10 million.

Baytex buying oil sands property in Cold Lake

Baytex is a medium size, Calgary based oil and gas producer. They have recently bought a Cold Lake oil sands property for $120 million. Although the seller is remaining private, everyone seems to think it's the evil Koch brothers selling as part of their oil sands divestiture I wrote about in June.