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Canada’s energy big picture - Senate report

July 20, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources has published a 74 page report on Canada’s place in the new energy world order.

In regard to the oil sands on page 46 it states:

“Canada’s oil sands have been referred to as the largest industrial project in the world. At 174 billion barrels, they represent the third largest oil reserve in the world, after those in Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. As technology evolves, this reserve estimate could rise to over 300 billion barrels. Over the next 25 years, oil sands development could contribute up to $4.7 trillion to Canada’s gross domestic product, creating tens of thousands of jobs per year. The oil sands initially began as an innovative and technical solution for extracting crude oil from bituminous sands in the 1960s. As time advanced, so too have technologies and awareness of the environmental impact of industrial development. Since 80 percent of the oil sands are too deep to be mined, much of the oil sands resource is only recoverable through in situ drilling techniques. But regardless of how it is produced — by mining or in situ — great amounts of water and natural gas are needed. This aspect of the oil sands has been capturing global attention, but many witnesses have pointed out that this attention is widely disproportionate to the actual impact of the oil sands on the environment.

The fact is that only 602 km2 had been disturbed by mining operations as of March 2009, and even a full build-out would affect just 4,800 km2, as was clearly stated by the Royal Society of Canada in its report, Environmental and Health Impacts of Canada’s Oil Sands Industry. To put this number in perspective, 4,800 km2 is about two-thirds the size of greater Toronto metropolitan area. The James Bay Hydropower Project permanently flooded 9,715 km2.”

In regard to the North’s oil and gas potential the report states on page 58:

“Though Northern Canada, defined as regions above the 60th parallel, accounts for roughly 40% of Canada’s total land mass, much of the landscape and seabeds have yet to be geologically mapped out and explored. This region includes the continuation of the oil and gas rich Western Canada Sedimentary Basin up to the Beaufort Sea and into Canada’s Arctic offshore basins. It is estimated that the North holds up to one third of the potential for conventional oil and natural gas in Canada.”

In regard to the North’s regulatory challenge it states on page 60:

“Resource development is seen as a critical economic driver that can raise living standards in the North. Land claim settlements have led to immediate improvements in resource development conditions, particularly in the Yukon and Nunavut. The removal of redundant environmental regulatory barriers as well as the settling of remaining land claims in the Northwest Territories could help to unlock enormous resource wealth and lift its economic prospects.”


The report is well written albeit somewhat vague and motherhoodish. The appendices contain summaries comparing the provincial energy policies and strategies. It was unanimously approved by the Conservative and Liberal members. The opposition NDP has no members in the Senate.