Skip to main content

Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance CEO Dan Wicklum during an update conference hosted by the organization in Calgary, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. COSIA members on Tuesday pledged to halve the amount of fresh water used to produce a barrel of oil from steam-driven projects by 2022, but are delaying setting greenhouse gas-reduction goals.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The industry group representing 13 large oil sands companies is delaying an earlier commitment to set greenhouse gas-reduction goals, citing the complexity of establishing a legal framework to share new technologies.

But members of Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, known as COSIA, on Tuesday pledged to halve the amount of fresh water used to produce a barrel of oil from steam-driven projects by 2022. The commitment marks the first hard target established by the technology-sharing alliance more than two years after it was set up to blunt criticism about the rapid pace of oil sands development.

Companies are under pressure to reduce the environmental toll on land, air and water of extracting tar-like bitumen from northern Alberta. Fast-growing carbon emissions from the sector have fuelled opposition to multibillion-dollar pipelines designed to boost the value of Canadian oil, but the industry has been slow to adopt mitigation measures.

Story continues below advertisement

Steve Williams, chief executive officer of COSIA member Suncor Energy Inc., said in July that the group was "very close" to announcing long-awaited commitments to cut carbon emissions in a matter of "days or weeks."

But that effort has been delayed in part because of legal wrangling over competition laws and the use of proprietary technologies.

"That's one of the key things," Lorraine Mitchelmore, president of Shell's Canadian unit, said Tuesday. Shell is also a member of the alliance. "Land and water are easier, but GHGs are tougher, and so we're getting that legal framework in place where we can share, so that's why it's taken a little longer."

The agreement announced Tuesday aims to reduce fresh water used to produce a barrel of bitumen at steam-driven operations, from 0.4 barrels of water today to 0.2 by 2022. The alliance is also planning to establish goals covering land use and tailings from mining operations.

Mr. Williams said that oil sands companies aim to match the greenhouse gas emissions of conventional oil. New mines, such as Imperial Oil Ltd.'s Kearl operation and Suncor's planned Fort Hills project, already meet that threshold, he said.

This year, COSIA has overseen 68 projects that cost more than $200-million. "It's encouraging to see that they're taking steps in the right direction," said Amin Asadollahi, oil sands director at the Calgary-based Pembina Institute, an environmental advocacy and consultancy group. "However, from promises we would like to see results."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter