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BCSEA Webinar: Energy Return on the Pipeline to China

May 22 2012 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

How much energy does it take to extract and ship a barrel of oil from the Athabasca to China ? Is it worth it ?

When the oil from the tar sands is scooped out of the ground, processed, piped across BC, and loaded onto a ship to China, how much energy is used up in doing so, and how does it compare to the energy in the oil?

Join Chris Peter (P. Eng, LEED AP, O&M) of C.J. Peter Associates Engineering in Prince George to lead us through his calculation of the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) on oil extracted from the tar sands in northern Alberta and shipped to China through the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Mathematically, EROI is the ratio of the amount of usable energy acquired from a particular resource to the energy expended to acquire that energy.

In this case, the energy calculations include

  • the natural gas used to melt the bitumen underground (steam assisted gravity drainage),
  • the addition of hydrogen at the refineries,
  • the energy needed to pump the bitumen to the coast,
  • the energy needed to ship it to China,
  • the energy needed to ship diluent liquids from Australia to Alberta so that the bitumen can be pumped in the pipeline.

Is the EROI worth the risk of piping the oil across BC and then shipping it in tankers through BC's rough ocean waters ?

Chris Peter’s area of expertise lies in energy efficient design for cold climates. He has been actively involved in building systems energy modelling since development of the early software programs in the 1980’s.

Since 1994, Chris has been principal of C.J. Peter Associates Engineering, a mechanical engineering firm in Prince George, B.C.specializing in design and modelling of energy efficient mechanical systems and facilities throughout northern B.C.

Norm Jacob studied Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo (1973-79).  He participated in the some of the first building energy modelling of commercial office buildings for Olympia & York in New York, London, Toronto and Calgary (1988-82).

Norm completed a B.Sc. in Natural Resources Management (1999) in forestry at the University of Northern BC and
M.Sc. in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (2003). His M.Sc.thesis in silviculture was on height to diameter ratio for which it was important to develop thresholds - thus he appreciates E. Mearnes specification of a threshold of 8:1 below which knowledge of EROI is crucial.  Norm worked in various areas of forest science research (2003-2009) before returning to energy conservation.

Norm is grateful to have stumbled across the simple concept of EROI as a tool for assessing the non-sustainability of so many of our pipe dreams. 
He is 58 years old and helps raise three children in Prince George.