Last month, Bev Yee, Alberta’s deputy minister of environment and parks, passed a ministerial order reducing the amount of emissions allowed for bitumen mining in Alberta.
Prior to Yee’s order, “oil sands mining bitumen” was restricted to 0.2056 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for every cubic metre mined. Or, in other words, 205.6 kilograms.
This limit was set in July 2020, under the UCP government’s new Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Regulation.
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Yee’s order reduces that amount to 194.9 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per cubic metre of bitumen mined, a reduction of 10.7 kilograms.
As of 2020, the Alberta Energy Regulator forecasted that Alberta would mine about 266,500 m3 per day in 2022. If that forecast ends up being accurate, and mining companies follow the new benchmark, it could result in a reduction in CO2 equivalent of about 2,852 tonnes.
A Government of Alberta website claims that oil sands operations emit roughly 70 megatonnes every year.
Assuming that number is still accurate, this new reduction implemented by Yee, will amount to a reduction of about 0.004%. Granted, that emissions number is for oil sands operations as a whole, only a portion of which would include just the direct mining of bitumen.
For example, Yee’s ministerial order also set new benchmarks for bitumen upgrading, which refers to the processing of bitumen to create a feedstock for further refining.
Last June, she had set the benchmark to 2.994 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. The new benchmark is 2.874 tonnes, a reduction of 120 kilograms.
But given that emissions are in the megatonnes and the reductions are in the kilograms, even combining the two changes won’t be enough to alter total emissions by a significant amount.