If Canada's government were to take the position of insisting a primary refinery be constructed by the oil company consortiums, such that it could produce all the condensate required for shipping and extraction processes, we could address all four of these concerns.
There are already start up companies which have perfected the method of extracting the oil from the sands using condensate. Condensate, being a petroleum product already, could easily be recovered during the process unlike the water being used today. Today we use water as it was the first method tried and proven between 1913 and 1930 by Sidney Ells, RC Fitzsimmons and Dr. Karl Clark. Eighty years later we have better methods, we only lack leadership.
If the refinery was substantial enough Canada could become a net exporter of condensate as well as many other refined products. The tailings ponds of mixed water and oil residue would become a thing of the past, or at least greatly reduced. The product being exported would be less corrosive in any potential pipeline and a potential environmental spill would have less impact as refined petroleum products float and will dissipate much quicker than the raw bitumen which sinks and remains for many decades where it is spilled.
The last issue the JRP should be looking at is the shipping of the product. And the full subscription of the proposed pipeline must be considered in a serious manner. If Canada owned the pipeline and managed the sales at the Port in Kitimat Canadians would find a much greater economic benefit and control of their own resource. If Canada wished to become a real world leader and reverse the growing international perception of being a gross polluter, another shipping arrangement could be considered.
Just as above ground fuel storage facilities today are legislated to be double skinned with a monitored internal vacuum, the refined oil product could be shipped by rail in the same manner. All of these sealed , double skinned vacuum protected, rail containers could be loaded onto container vessels for international destinations in the same fashion other products are shipped by container. Canada could set a new standard for shipping, reducing the threat of environmental harm on land and water, at the source right through to the destination.
The bonus for Canada from this method of "containerized' shipping is no one entity would control the market. A purchaser could buy the quantity as they require it. Both small and large buyers/refineries would be able to take advantage of Canada's resources. This would make the market unlimited rather then the exclusive limited market being proposed by pipeline proponents today. What is in Canada's best economic interests?
This would take real leadership; a leader much like Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to portray himself as. The new Premier of Alberta has already lampooned the concept of constructing a refinery in Alberta stating they already have enough jobs. This statement alone seems somewhat ludicrous as the claim for the construction of the pipeline is about the great influx of new jobs. A refinery would be permanent jobs, 10's of thousands. But even more so, a refinery would open up the possibility of extracting the oil from the sand in a much more environmentally acceptable manner and substantially reduce the opposition to all of the activity in the Northern Alberta region.
The only question now is does Canada possess real leaders? If Canada looked forward to the future and offered a real tangible alternative, Bono and Robert Redford might arrive to shake the Prime Ministers hand. Today Canada looks foolish on the world stage. Travellers are even removing the Maple Leaf from their apparel.
When a solution to all the issues is simple yet comprehensive it is a wonder why the resistance is so pervasive.
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