UK consumers are unknowingly users of fuel from tar sands, study says

10/5/2010 GuardianPetrol refined from tar sands crude oil has been imported into Europe, Greenpeace study shows.British motorists are unwitting users of diesel and petrol derived from the tar
sands of Alberta, Canada, where carbon-heavy production methods make extraction
particularly damaging to the environment, Greenpeace claims.

The environmental group is calling for action by the European commission to
strengthen fuel-quality directive regulations to restrict the import of
petroleum products made in a carbon-intensive way.
The move comes as the tar sands producers appear to be trying to use the BP oil
rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as a public relations tool to promote their
industry over deepwater drilling.
In a report out on Tuesday Greenpeace says that it has spent time tracking tar
sands crude over 12 months and believes that considerable quantities are now
being exported to Europe, via refineries in the southern states of the US.
While City investors have begun to question the role of companies such as BP and
Shell in the tar sands business, British environmentalists – and consumers –
have tended to believe that Alberta crude is used only in North America.
But the Greenpeace report, entitled Tar Sands in Your Tank: Exposing Europe’s
role in Canada’s dirty oil trade, comes to different conclusions.
“The reach of tar sands crude is wider than previously thought. In fact,
petroleum products derived partly from tar sands crude oil have been regularly
entering the European Union’s petroleum supply chain,” it concludes.
The environmentalists believe this practice will become more widespread. One
company claimed to be at the centre of the trade, the US refiner Valero Energy,
plans to increase supplies at its Port Arthur refinery significantly via a
controversial new pipeline from Canada to the US Gulf coast, where the BP-leased
Deepwater Horizon rig sank, causing a huge oil leak.
Greenpeace also believes that BP has refined at least one consignment of tar
sands crude at the Texas City plant on the same coast, which is a regular
location for exporting diesel to Europe.
The rival oil producer ExxonMobil is also handling Canadian tar sands at its
Baytown refinery near Houston and has exported at least one diesel shipment to
Europe over the period studied, according to Greenpeace.
The green group admits that it cannot ultimately prove that any particular
consignment derived from Canada ended up in Britain or Europe, given that
refined diesel or petrol is of a uniform quality, but it says that the weight of
evidence firmly points in this direction.
Exxon said that it could not comment on tar sands refining or exporting.
“The crude oils we process at our refineries come from a variety of sources
around the world,” said a spokesman. “However, what types of crude are processed
at each refinery, how much, and when are all details that we do not discuss
publicly as a matter of practice.”
Valero confirmed that it was part of a project to expand the Keystone pipeline
from western Canada down to the US Gulf Coast. “Once the Keystone pipeline
expansion is complete in 2012 or 2013, Valero expects to be one of the largest
recipients of heavy crude oil from the project,” a company spokesman said. He
added that much of that oil would be refined at Port Arthur, which is geared up
to process heavy crude.
Valero also confirmed that its refineries were exporting diesel to Europe, but
said that: “Exports of gasoline [petrol] from the US to Europe are rare, since
Europe usually has an oversupply of gasoline.”
BP, which is investing heavily in tar sand production and upgrading refineries
near the Great Lakes specifically to refine this crude, had no comment to make
on any existing exports.
Glen Schmidt, chief executive of Laricina Energy, part of the industry lobby
group In Situ Oil Sands Alliance, told the Edmonton Journal in Canada that while
there were sometimes failures with conventional oil and tar sands projects, “the
damage would be much smaller and more modest than with offshore spills”.
Similarly an editorial in the Calgary Herald said: “Anyone assessing the risks
associated with drilling offshore versus the oil sands is going to be looking at
things much differently today than he would have last week. All of a sudden it’s
a choice between risks that are quantifiable versus those that are

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