Research Paper Samlpe: Oil Trade and Environment in Alberta

Published: 2022-04-01
Research Paper Samlpe: Oil Trade and Environment in Alberta
Type of paper:  Report
Categories:  Ecology Energy
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1816 words
16 min read

The research focuses on the effects of international trade affecting the oil fields located in Alberta, a western province of Canada. Alberta occupies an area of 660,000 square kilometers and neighbors Saskatchewan, formerly of the Northwestern territories. Alberta has a population of 4,067,175 as of census conducted in 2016 (Smith, 2010, pg. 5-25). The main crude oil refineries of Alberta are located in Edmonton, an area that is also among the most populated regions of the province. It is the recipient of crude oil from the Athabasca oil sands and other northern resource industries. The Athabasca crowd, mainly consists of bitumen, silica sand, clay minerals and water. As stated in Country profiles (2011) the deposits found in Athabasca is the most significant known crude bitumen reservoir in the world and the largest of Peace River and cold lake deposits, the three major oil grains of sand deposits in Alberta. The fields cover an area of 141,000 square kilometers and contain about 1.7 trillion barrels of bitumen. This amount of asphalt is comparable to the world's conventional petroleum reserves. Canada is, therefore, the third largest oil producing country after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) stating that the recoverable amount of oil from the Canada reserves is 10% of the deposits; that is 178million barrels (Saudi Arabia gas & oil report, 2014).

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Oil is the main export from Canada and a significant contributor to the economy of the country. Despite its vital role in the country's economy, oil mining in Alberta has been marred with controversy owing to the contributing side effects of oil mining on the environment. In the recent past, the government of Canada has not taken enough precautions to conserve the environment in oil mining areas of Alberta. Moreover, the effect of the processing of crude oil on natural resources is so massive that critics have brought notice to the Canadian government on the environmental destruction resulting arguing not enough precaution is taken by the government to conserve the environment. This research paper focuses on the effects of oil production and trade on the situation of oil sands in the areas of Alberta.

Research Scope

This paper is an analysis of firsthand as well as secondary data collected in the areas of Alberta, Canada oil sands. Primary data were obtained from interviews, surveys, observations as well as documents available on the internet as well as other organizational sources. Analysis of secondarily collected data from previous articles and other publicly available reports is also integrated into this paper. The primary focus of this paperwork;

Health effects of Alberta oil sands.

Assessment of biodiversity and environmental characteristics of Alberta oil sands area. The impacts of oil on biodiversity, especially detrimental. The governmental and other stakeholder efforts to mitigate the effects of oil in the region.

According to the finding of University of Toronto research team that studied the levels of chemicals released from the sand when oil is mined-polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)- the estimated levels that were projected to be released from the Athabasca oil sands is too low. It indicates that the health risk associated with PAH is underestimated and therefore the potential long-term effect on the environment and people. The impact of PAH was found to be two to three times higher than the estimated levels and with possible cancer-causing effects (Hall et al., 2014). The amount of PAH released to the environment is further increased by the new projects set up in the areas. The research also reported pollution of lakes of northern Alberta from the development of oil sands.

According to Pembina institute research, the number of greenhouse gases (GHG) that are released to the environment as a result of oil sands developments need to be limited. According to the report, Alberta has the highest growth levels of GHG released to the atmosphere, which are unchecked. The rapid growth of the levels of GHG is attributed to the fact that it argued to be having negligible effects or the levels from the oil sands is insignificant; Canada contributes to 1.8% of global carbon dioxide emissions and oil sands in Canada only provides 10% of that. The amount of producing carbon dioxide can therefore not contribute to a measurable difference. Although researchers argue that the impact of GHG on climate change is minimal to negligible, the amount produced by the Alberta oil sands is currently in the spotlight.

Rarer forms of cancer have been reported in areas around the Alberta's Athabasca oil sands. It is argued that this is a downstream effect of tar sands emissions of their pollution of water sources leading to consumption of contaminated or poisoned diets especially from water sources, i.e., fish, moose, and plants. The infections are from both the tar sand infrastructure and tar sands emissions. Although a direct link between the emissions is not established, it is undeniably accepted that tar sand sources are the significant sources of air and environmental pollution in most parts of the continent.

Biodiversity of Athabasca

Biodiversity is the variation among living organisms encompassing the number of different species (species diversity), gene pool variability within species (genetic difference), and the variety of interactions among living organisms in natural communities (ecosystem diversity) (Thrush et al., 2010). Simply, diversity describes the number and variability in living organisms regarding their ecological environments, genetic makeup, and species.

One of the main rivers in Athabasca region is Athabasca River, which forms the backbone of human development in the area. Athabasca river basin, in addition to serving various purposes necessary for human survival, is also the source of life of many aquatic animals. The river has its source at Jasper national park through Hinton, Whitecourt, Athabasca, and Fort McMurray flow into Lake Athabasca eventually. The river provides vital ecosystem as well as transportation route that contributed to trade in the Hudson Bay significantly.

The biodiversity of the Athabasca basin is described regarding animal and plant species. Coniferous species of trees are the most common in Alberta, consisting of spruce, balsam fir, jack pine, and tamarack. Apart from trees, there are several animal genera in the areas including stoneflies, Odonata and Diptera (Hanberry, Palik & he, 2012). The plants are adapted to survive the weight of snow and other environmental factors associated with the area. The species of animals in the area are so diverse. The balance in the ecosystem is dependent on the environmental element and to a considerable amount of the Athabasca River. An effect on either hurts the ecosystem and therefore biodiversity. Oil sands located in Athabasca has a significant contributing role to play in the coexistence of animals and plants in the region as well as the environmental factors. According to Athabasca Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA), the biodiversity in Canada is affected by changes in their habitat that are either natural or human-made.

Effects of Oil Exploration on Biodiversity

Oil is one of the major export products from Canada, contributing so much to the stability of its economy. Alberta region forms the major oil-producing province in Canada with three main walls. According to the EGU assembly (2014), the exploration of oil and its extraction has disastrous effects on the ecosystem and therefore the biodiversity of the affected region. In oil exploration, the procedure involves surveying of the area, clearing of seismic lines and geological excavations dynamiting. Fish and other fauna are affected by the explosion of dynamite in aquatic environments as it leads to narcotic effects and death of marine animals. Also, dynamite shooting destabilizes the sedimentary resulting in turbidity that reduces light penetration and therefore affects photosynthesis in plants. The turbidly also blocks filter feeding in animals.

Tiwari et al. (2011) argue that construction of oil pipelines fragments the ecosystem of Athabasca such as the coniferous trees. Moreover, habitat area is reduced, and the population segregated when clearing the pipeline areas. The segregation of population interferes with the breeding of the animals. Oil spillage is frequent in the Alberta sand mines from pipeline leakage and rupture, accidental discharge and refineries. The refineries also discharge hydrocarbons to the environment, including GHGs and PAH. Oil spillage and hydrocarbons have apparent adverse effects on the ecosystem. It's noteworthy that most of the oil spillage and hydrocarbon release are labeled minor and therefore neglected.

Oil interferes with the functioning of various organ systems of plants and animals. The environment created by oil spilled in the situation is not favorable for life. For instance, oil causes suffocation of aquatic organisms when dropped over water as it prevents penetration of oxygen. In crude oil lies, various toxic elements that are injurious to the body systems and can cause the death of organisms.

Oil production is associated with fires that kill local animals and plants in the affected areas in case the lights are not controlled. Such fire incidents can result in extinction, especially of endangered species that have limited distribution. Industrial constructions that occurred at Athabasca led to the migration and destruction of animal species that were dependent on the ecosystem where the plants are currently located. Also, people were also displaced and forced to move to new areas of settlement; their lives affected both socially and economically.

Efforts to Conserve Biodiversity and the Environment

Canadian oil industries have continually thrived at the expense of land, water, and air and energy conservation. The Canadian government has therefore through CanmetENERGY laboratories devised means to conserve the environment amidst industrial growth.

The greenhouse gas produced per barrel has reduced due to the employment of technologies that create more energy efficient practices while minimizing the production of GHGs. The primary mechanism employed is co-generation where steam and electricity are produced simultaneously, hence the conversion of energy that would otherwise be waste into electricity. It has reduced the level of GHGs provided by 30% compared to the levels produced in around 1990.

There have been improvements in the tailing pond technology used in oil extraction. Tailings are residues that result from oil extraction containing a mixture of water, clay, un-recovered bitumen and solvent. Tailings are dissolved in chemicals that are toxic. The residuals are stored in dams like ponds and water from the lakes recycled and reused in oil sands processing.

The government of Alberta passed a recommendation requiring that 100% of the soils are reclaimed after the oil sands have been extracted from the companies. The land is therefore returned to a self-sustaining ecosystem, and wildlife and vegetation can thrive. A lower Athabasca regional plan by the government aims at reclaiming 2 million hectares of local species as well as 4.5 million federally protected lands.

Close monitoring of oil sands water withdrawal ensured by the Athabasca River Water Management Framework securing not more than three percent of the river is withdrawn annually. The framework also monitors and controls daily and weekly withdrawals and adjusts it.

Most amounts of users in the oil sands are recycled; as much as 80 percent of the already used water is reused for mining operations. Some of the require...

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