A recent study has discovered that the pollution from Canadian tar sands is significantly greater, up to 6,300%, than what has been previously reported.
A recent study has revealed that the harmful pollutants released from the Canadian tar sands, which are already considered one of the most polluting forms of fossil fuel, have been significantly underestimated.
A study published in Science revealed that air pollution from the extensive Athabasca oil sands in Canada surpassed the industry-reported emissions at the examined sites by an astonishing 1,900% to over 6,300%.
Experts stated that this indicates that the harmful reactive pollutants emitted by the oil sands are on par with those from all other human-caused sources in Canada, posing significant health risks.
Senior energy strategist for Greenpeace Canada, Keith Stewart, stated that the recent findings on the harmful air pollution from oil sands operations have confirmed the long-standing concerns of Indigenous communities living downwind. He believes that it is the responsibility of governments to demand that these companies use a portion of their profits to address the negative impact they have caused on public health.
The province of Alberta is home to the Canadian tar sands, which are also known as oil sands. This site is enormous and covers a larger area than England. It is considered one of the largest industrial projects in the world and has experienced high levels of oil production this year.
The tar sands contain a type of oil known as “bitumen”, which is dense and challenging to obtain. The extraction process requires a significant amount of water, comparable to the daily usage of a small city. Additional water and energy are necessary to refine the oil for commercial purposes, and the production of greenhouse gases per barrel can be up to 30% greater than traditional oil.
A recent report, released on Thursday, uncovers the extent of air pollution resulting from the process. By utilizing aircraft to assess pollutants, it discovered numerous organic compounds being emitted during the process that are not detected by conventional methods of monitoring air pollution. This has severe impacts on human health.
For many years, the Indigenous people living in the area have expressed concerns about the negative effects on their health caused by the emission of toxic air from the oil sands industry.
According to Jesse Cardinal, a member of the indigenous-led organization Keepers of the Water, the report affirmed what numerous communities have been enduring for a considerable length of time.
According to the report, the conditions experienced by residents in these areas are extremely severe, to the point where they are unable to open their windows due to the harmful effects on their lungs. Despite being told that everything is within acceptable limits, this statement confirms the reality of the situation.
The scientists studied the release of pollutants from both surface mining and extraction of bitumen from deeper deposits.
They emphasized the significance of managing waste after extraction, specifically through methods such as “tailings processing” which involves allowing hazardous sediment to dry.
John Liggio, a researcher involved in the study, stated that new measurements of total reactive organic chemicals were taken on a research aircraft. These measurements revealed that emissions were underestimated by a significant amount, ranging from 1900% to over 6300%. These underestimates were not only observed at surface mining sites, but also at in situ extraction facilities, which account for more than 50% of production and are expected to see an increase in emissions.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Canada has been reached out to for a statement.