Canada to EU: Don't penalize oil sands

Canada’s minister of natural resources has warned officials of the European Union against “discriminatory treatment” of fuels made from products of Canadian oil sands.

The minister, Joe Oliver, met in Brussels with European Commission officials including Gunther Oettinger, commissioner for energy, and Antonio Tajani, vice-president of the EC responsible for industry and entrepreneurship.

The EC’s proposed Fuel Quality Directive assigns fuels derived from oil sands an especially high value in calculations of “greenhouse gas intensity,” the key parameter in proposed controls on vehicle fuel. The proposal would penalize European refiners for running heavy feedstock from Canada.

Although Canada exports no oil to Europe, environmental groups are campaigning against oil-sands products, which they say contribute disproportionately to emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and global warming.

Oliver and the oil sands industry dispute that argument, which has been advanced to oppose the border crossing of the Keystone XL pipeline between Alberta and the Texas Gulf Coast (OGJ Online, May 6, 2013). A statement by Natural Resources Canada said GHG emissions and chemical properties of oil sands crude are similar to those of other heavy crudes produced elsewhere in the world and consumed in Europe.

“While we do not object to real, tangible measures to reduce GHG emissions for transportation fuels, we do object to discriminatory treatment currently contemplated in the FQD, singling out Canada’s oil sands–derived fuels without sound scientific justification,” Oliver said the statement. “Canada continues to seek and expect an approach that is science-based and provides fair and equal treatment.”

He pointed out that Canada has aligned its GHG program with that of the US and estimated the country is halfway toward its goal of cutting emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020.

Oliver said GHG emissions per barrel of oil produced in the oil sands fell by 26% between 1990 and 2011.

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