Canada’s oil sands are too dirty to be produced, and should probably stay in the ground.
That has long been the sentiment of environmental groups, but it is also gaining acceptance even among some of the largest oil companies in the world.
“A lot of fossil fuels will have to stay in the ground, coal obviously … but you will also see oil and gas being left in the ground, that is natural,” Statoil’s CEO Eldar Saetre told Reuters in an interview. “At Statoil we are not pursuing certain types of resources, we are not exploring for heavy oil or investing in oilsands. It is really about accessing the most carbon-efficient barrels.”
Meanwhile, Statoil is under pressure at home on another front: its Arctic wells in the Barents Sea have come up dry, capping off a highly disappointing drilling season.
If heavy oil and oil sands are to be left unproduced, then a lot of oil will need to stay in the ground. According to the USGS, about 70 percent of the world’s discovered oil reserves are in the form of heavy oil and bitumen. Much of that comes from Venezuela – one of the last places in the world that an oil company wants to do business in these days – and Canada.
Last year, Statoil abandoned Canada’s oil sands, selling off its assets to Athabasca Oil Corp. But Statoil is hardly alone in the exodus. ConocoPhillips unloaded a whopping $13.3 billion of oil sands assets to Cenovus Energy earlier this year. Shell sold off $4.1 billion in oil sands assets to Canadian Natural Resources. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil wrote off 3.5 billion barrels of oil sands from its book in February, admitting that they were unviable in today’s market.
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