Sun Rise - Rick George’s book on the oil sands
December 01, 2012
Rick George a small town Colorado boy who made good. He took the helm of a broken down oil sands plant in 1991 and two decades later turned it into one of Canada’s preeminent corporations with a market cap of $50 B.
Rick George’s book “Sunrise: Suncor, the oil sands and the future of energy” is well worth the read, if for no other reason than to get a better understanding of the oil sands and their importance. A few interesting tidbits:
- Sun Oil by the 1990s was tired of operating the money losing Great Canadian Oil Sands plant. GCOS, the original Ft.McMurray oil mining operation, was prone to shut-down and maintenance headaches. George rolled up his sleeves and tacked the bitumen extraction problems head on. Revolutionary was the decision to move away from giant bucket-wheel excavators to smaller more mobile equipment.
- Putting together the IPO to get Sun Oil and the Ontario government out of the ownership mix. Eventually, Suncor grew from being a $1B U.S.-owned company to a $50 B oil giant from 1991 to 2012.
- The attempted merger with Petro-Canada that fell apart in the late 1990’s due to intransigence by the Petro-Canada Board. A decade later in 2009, the merger went through.
- Betting on the huge $3.4 B Millenium oil sands project when prices were shaky and the industry was pulling back. The bet paid off.
- The amount of bitumen in the oil sands is staggering—1.75 trillion barrels of oil, representing 75% of North America’s oil reserves. Interestingly, the recovery ratio, the percentage of oil recovered from the bitumen keeps going up while the required energy use keeps going down.
- Perspective on the oil sands themselves and the environmental impact.“Bitumen has soaked 140,000 square kilometers for millions of years.” Yet ” ...only 0.02% of the boreal forest has been disturbed by open mining, and every site will be returned to its near original condition.” (p.67)
- About 1% of the Athabasca River’s flow is used by oil sands producers. This compares to 37% of the North Saskatchewan River consumed by the City of Edmonton; 65% of the Oldman River consumed by Calgary.
- The Canadian Energy Research Institute forecasts that the oil sands industry will generate $775 B in royalty and tax revenues for governments over the next 25 years (from 2010 to 2035).
Rick George’s book is well worth the read. It’s passionate and grounded in reality. Mr.George is not afraid to go after the darlings of the environmental movement using facts and devastating logic. It’s a fantastic story about Canada’s most important company in a crucial industry.
- a)Rick George, "Sun Rise: Suncor, the oil sands and the future of energy", Toronto:Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. 2012.