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Tar sands oil arrives in Spain, more expected with the Energy East pipeline

Pathways for Canadian tar sands to Europe

Friends of the Earth Europe tells us, “The first shipment of highly polluting Canadian tar sands oil to Europe is due to arrive in Spain today. …The 600,000 barrels of oil will arrive in Bilbao and have been purchased by Spain-based multinational Repsol. It is the first major shipment of tar sands oil to the EU.”

Research by the Natural Resources Defense Council released by Transport and Environment, Greenpeace EU and Friends of the Earth Europe warns that European imports of tar sands could increase to about 700,000 barrels per day in 2020 (up from 4,000 bpd in 2012).

Their briefing note states, “New pipelines planned or under construction in North America, in combination with refinery developments in Europe, could turn Europe into a significant market for Canadian tar sands oil. …For example, TransCanada’s current Energy East tar sands pipeline could bring 1.1 million bpd from Alberta to eastern Canadian ports. It has Europe as one of the main intended destinations for the crude oil.”

They add, “This pipeline, recently proposed by TransCanada, would link tar sands production in Alberta with the ports on the Canadian East Coast. It would be able to transport 1.1 million bpd of tar sands crudes. It is clear that the Energy East pipeline project is an export pipeline and oil company executives have mentioned Europe (and in particular Spain) as a priority destination. The oil exported would be crudes, either heavy diluted bitumen or light synthetic crude oil. A number of refineries in Spain can process heavy crudes, including diluted bitumen. In addition, the Spanish oil company Repsol has existing ties with TransCanada’s key partner Irving oil.”

The groups conclude, “The growth of Canada’s tar sands industry in the coming decades depends crucially on the market access. Building new pipelines and getting access to premium markets, such as Europe, will have a major impact on investments in tar sands projects and on global GHG emissions related to the expansion of high carbon unconventional oil. …The Fuel Quality Directive [which obliges fuel suppliers to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas intensity of transport fuel by 6% by 2020, compared with 2010] is one of the key instruments to reduce future demand for tar sands and drive the fuel market in a cleaner direction.”

And they warn, “Oil from Canadian tar sands could reach up to 6.7% of the EU transport fuels consumption in 2020, which would increase the greenhouse gas intensity of European transport fuels by around 1.5%. This represents a quarter of the 6% reduction target and is equivalent to adding around 6 million cars on European roads by 2020.”

The Council of Canadians opposes the Energy East pipeline and supports the Fuel Quality Directive. Our interventions in support of the FQD have included releasing a legal opinion highlighting how the Harper government could use the Canada-European Union ‘free trade’ agreement to attack the FQD; issuing an open letter calling on the Harper government to stop its lobbying against the FQD in Europe; sending a letter to all Members of the European Parliament urging them to support the FQD; supporting newspaper ads in the UK, Netherlands and France backing the FQD; lobbying EU embassies in Ottawa; and meeting with government representatives in Paris, The Hague, London and Berlin.

Further reading
Will Energy East take the tar sands to Italy?
UK signals support for EU to import tar sands oil
TransCanada East Coast pipeline eyes tar sands exports to China, India and Europe