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On unconventional” hydrocarbon deposits  

Tar sands oil extraction 'spreading rapidly'
The successful development of Canada's tar sands has triggered a rush
by Shell and other oil companies to set up similar operations in
Russia, Congo and even Madagascar, a new report reveals.Soaring crude
prices and a growing shortage of drilling sites have encouraged the
energy industry to look at a series of "unconventional" hydrocarbon
deposits threatening vulnerable environment and communities in places
such as Jordan, Morocco as well as the U.S., Friends of the Earth says
in a review called Tar Sands: Fuelling The Climate Crisis.
The revelations came a day before Shell's annual general meeting and
on the day Ceres, a coalition of a investors and environmentalists,
launched its survey warning that Canadian tar sands extraction could
pose an even bigger risk to an oil company share price than the U.S.
rig disaster, which knocked $30bn off the value of BP.Tar sands and
oil shale are considered by green groups to be more damaging than
normal oil operations because extraction is highly carbon and
water-intensive."Tar sands — bitumen that is extracted and upgraded to
produce synthetic crude — has been heavily criticised for its poor
environmental and social outcomes, locally and globally. Canada is
currently the only major centre of production but investment is
expanding, including by European oil companies such as BP, Shell,
Total and ENI," the Friends of the Earth report says.
The group wants the European Union to use its fuel quality directive
to take into account the different carbon footprints of oil-based
fuels entering the EU by assigning them a value to represent the
strength of their greenhouse gas effect. Otherwise "it will encourage
the global expansion of tar sands, putting vulnerable communities at
risk, and will slow progress towards the EU's wider climate and energy
goals."BP is developing tar sands in Alberta and also in Venezuela,
the world's second largest reserves after Canada, where it is active
on the Petromonagas block and is also considering the Ayacucho 2
block.Shell, which led the charge into Alberta, has been working with
Tatneft to produce tar sands crude at the Ashalchinskoye field in
Tatarstan, in the Russian Federation. ENI of Italy has signed an
agreement with the energy ministry in Congo-Brazzaville to invest in
tar sands, although it says it will not use the methods being employed
by others in Canada.
BP and Shell contest claims by Friends of the Earth and others that
tar sands are up to five times as carbon-intensive to exploit as
normal crude. Shell says it hopes to mitigate the impact by using
carbon capture and storage techniques, although the technologies are
unproven on a large scale.Oil shale, a rock containing kerogen from
which synthetic crude can be extracted, is in abundant supply in
Jordan. Shell finalised a deal last year to operate on the AzraQ and
Al-Jafr blocks via its Jordan Shale Company.A spokesman for Shell said
its operations in Jordan were at an early stage and claimed that
although tar sands made headlines they were a small part of the
company's business. "They make up 2.5 per cent of our overall
production and even after planned expansion in Canada they will only
make up 4 per cent," he said. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010
Terry Macalister ………….from the pages of THE HINDU newspaper

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