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Oilsands' Carbon Emissions Rising

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The intensity of oilsands carbon emissions — the amount of greenhouse gases created per every barrel of oil produced — increased by two per cent between 2009 and 2010, according to an industry report.

The 2010 Responsible Canadian Energy progress report by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) also found that overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the oilsands rose 14 per cent in the same time period as the number of oilsands operations expanded.

"The increase in total GHG emissions is a result of the significant increase in both mining and in situ production, both of which require more fuel — for mine trucks, in situ steam production and upgraders," read the report.

The document offered the same explanation for the increase in intensity.

CAPP's Responsible Canadian Energy program is an industry effort to offer common measurement tools to all companies.

The report covers GHG emissions, water use and worker safety. It also breaks down data for the oilsands, other western Canadian oil sources and Atlantic Canada.

An overall rise in emissions is not surprising given increased development of the oilsands resource. The report found the number of oil wells and mines rose by eight per cent and six per cent, respectively.

But the revelation that emissions intensity increased is surprising.

The industry takes pride in the fact that GHGs per barrel have dropped over time. It has been quick to trumpet the fact that between 1990 and 2009, the intensity in a barrel of oilsands bitumen declined by 29 per cent.

The 2010 two per cent increase marks a small chink in that record.

The industry report says the oilsands industry is doing a better job on the use of fresh water, though. With the exception of the total amount used by in situ operations, fresh water statistics for both intensity and overall use were down year over year in 2010.

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