The Gulf oil spill is still continuing to dominate news surrounding the oil and gas industry and the coverage isn’t going to stop anytime soon. At the time of writing oil was still spilling out of the Macondo well, the Obama administration were fighting for a moratorium to ban exploration and drilling below depths of 500 ft for six months and Europe’s energy commissioner was also calling for a deepwater moratorium. Banning future deepwater exploration and drilling will of course cut potential accessible global oil reserves, so, could this be the big break the Canadian oilsands have been waiting for?
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‘The oilsands are an immense resource, second only to Saudi Arabia in recoverable oil reserves. They are the sixth largest source of new supply additions in the world since 2000.’ These facts from the IHS Cera Special Report Growth in the Canadian Oil Sands: Finding the New Balance clearly indicate that there is a relatively untouched fortune in oil in Alberta and British Columbia. Yet, there are several areas of concern that need to be addressed before major production begins. As surface mining and in situ thermal processing are used for oil recovery, there are high CO2 emission levels and large amounts of wastewater. So, environmental concerns have a big impact on the development of oilsands projects. However, companies are already beginning to develop what they hope will be cost effective technologies to help reduce carbon emissions. GE is in partnership with the University of Alberta and Alberta Innovates Technology Futures to develop a US$ 4 million CO2 capture project utilising nanotechnology based on naturally occurring zeolites and the technology can also be used as a potential filter for contaminated water (for the full story visit the Processing sector at www.energyglobal.com). The return on financial investment is also a big factor. In order for oilsands projects to be economically feasible and produce a good return on investment, oil prices need to be in the range of US$ 60 – 85 /bbl. During the economic global crisis especially, oilsands projects were not attractive due to the significant drop in oil prices. However, the Macondo spill has pushed prices up meaning that, at the moment, oilsands investments are the most viable they have been for many, many months. While there is an atmosphere of contention surrounding the oilsands, I do believe that they will come to play an increasingly important part in the future global oil industry.
Turning away from the oilsands, the Regional Report in this issue from Nancy Yamaguchi provides an overview of India’s hydrocarbon and product market (pp. 10). The annual Contractors Directory (pp. 43) is also featured in this issue and there is a focus on compressors (starting pp. 75) ready for the Turbomachinery Symposium and Short Courses in Houston, Texas, USA from 4 – 7 October 2010.