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Tar sands quagmire - Jan 21

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Conoco, Total to expand oil sands project

David Ebner, Globe and Mail
A major new oil sands project by international players ConocoPhillips Co. COP-N and Total SA is the latest sign of recovery in northern Alberta, a driver of the Canadian economy that had been waylaid by soaring construction costs and a steep drop in the price of crude.

Conoco of Houston and Paris-based Total said Tuesday they are expanding their Surmont project south of Fort McMurray, Alta., to 110,000 barrels a day from a current capacity of 27,000, buoyed by results from the first phase that was completed in 2007. The companies didn't disclose a price, but based on recent industry costs the investment will likely be about $1.5-billion.

Since the financial crisis, oil sands development has proceeded slowly, as some companies retrenched after a period in which they were faulted for expanding too quickly. Today, new projects are considered more carefully, and the Surmont expansion joins a small group that is going ahead, including Suncor's Firebag and Imperial Oil Ltd.'s Kearl...
(21 Jan 2010)

Shell faces shareholder revolt over Canadian tar sands project

Terry Macalister, Guardian
Shell chief executive Peter Voser will be forced to defend the company's controversial investment in Canada's tar sands at his first annual general meeting, after calls from shareholders that the project be put under further scrutiny.

A coalition of institutional investors has forced a resolution onto the agenda calling for the Anglo-Dutch group's audit committee to undertake a special review of the risks attached to the carbon-heavy oil production at Athabasca in Alberta.

Co-operative Asset Management and 141 other institutional and individual shareholders raise "concerns for the long-term success of the company arising from the risks associated with oil sands."

Shell, which will hold its AGM in May, has been one of the lead companies in moves to develop oil reserves that are either mined or sucked out of the ground using expensive and energy-intensive techniques. BP and Total of France are also engaged in the sector.

...But Catherine Howarth, chief executive of FairPensions, which has ­coordinated shareholder opposition to the tar sands investments, described the move as historic. "All (shareholders) are united in ­registering concern with the risks involved in Canadian oil sands. We expect that Shell's 2010 AGM could prove a watershed in the history of corporate accountability," she said.
(18 Jan 2010)
Note the last paragraph! -KS

Alberta to study pace of oil sands growth

Nathan VanderKlippe, The Globe and Mail
Alberta's new Energy Minister says his government needs to examine ways to moderate the pace of oil sands development, signalling a shift away from policies that favour unconstrained oil patch growth.

For years, the province has resisted calls to slow the frenzy of activity around Fort McMurray. But Ron Liepert, who was named to the energy portfolio in a provincial cabinet shuffle Wednesday, says he wants to make sure future oil sands development does not again overstretch the capacity of the province's infrastructure.

“I believe we have an opportunity to sit down as cabinet and have that discussion and say, ‘As this thing starts to crank up again, are we going to change our policy of come-one, come-all into the development of the oil sands?'” he said Thursday in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

“That's a discussion we need to have,” he said.

Although he gave few details as to how he would do it, environmental groups said his comments mark a dramatic change in Alberta's attitude toward the oil sands...
(14 Jan 2010)

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