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ConocoPhillips joins a growing list of energy companies winding down operations in Canadian tar sands oil fields...or not.

Fossil Fuels

Yet Another Big Oil Company Quits Canadian Tar Sands Oil, Or Not

ConocoPhillips joins a growing list of energy companies winding down operations in Canadian tar sands oil fields…or not.

It looks like the long honeymoon with the world’s most notorious “carbon bomb” is winding down. ConocoPhillips has just announced that it will join a growing list of major oil companies that are selling off Canadian tar sands oil assets. It looks like the company doesn’t see much of a future in Canadian tar sands oil…or does it?

ConocoPhillips Quits Canadian Tar Sands Oil, Sort Of

The newly announced move from ConocoPhillips involves the sale of its interest in the Foster Creek Christina Lake oil sands partnership to the Canadian company Cenovus.

The deal also shifts ownership of most of ConocoPhillips’s Canada Deep Basin natural gas operations, for a total of a cool $13.3 billion.

However, ConocoPhillips is not quite ready to slam the door entirely shut on Canadian oil sands. Here’s a snippet from the press release:

ConocoPhillips Canada will retain its operated 50 percent interest in the Surmont oil sands joint venture and its operated 100 percent Blueberry-Montney unconventional acreage position.

For that matter, the FCCL operation will continue with or without ConocoPhillips.

And, ConocoPhillips continues to maintain an equity interest in Cenovus.

On the bright side, ConocoPhillips does recognize the settled science on climate change. Here’s the official statement from its website:

We recognize that human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, is contributing to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere that can lead to adverse changes in global climate. While uncertainties remain, we continue to manage GHG emissions in our operations and to integrate climate change-related activities and goals into our business planning.

Okay, so they do hedge a bit over those “uncertainties.” And, the company’s greenhouse gas management is heavily concentrated on natural gas and carbon capture.

Oh well, baby steps.

Another Oil Company Quits Oil Sands, Sort Of

Royal Dutch Shell is another major oil company that is kind of sort of quitting the oil sands business. CleanTechnica reported this move last week:

…the company announced that it was taking a giant step back from tar sands oil fields including the Athabasca Oil Sands Project [AOSP], which it has been operating as a joint venture with Chevron and Marathon.


Before you break out the bubbly, keep in mind that the asset sale was just one feature in a more complex arrangement that will continue Shell’s interest in ASOP.

Oh well, more baby steps.

ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Statoil are also making moves out of Canadian oil sands, so there’s that.

Like ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil has begun to talk the climate change talk, but the company is leaning almost entirely on natural gas and carbon capture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

So far it looks like Statoil has made the most significant commitment to ditch Canadian oil sands in favor of renewables.

The company’s huge wind buys include a winning bid to develop an offshore wind farm near New York City, a high status location that provides the company with a solid profile for its renewable energy ventures.

Shell is another one to watch. Back in 2015, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden stated that he has “no hesitation to predict that in years to come solar will be the dominant backbone of our energy system, certainly of the electricity system.”

Shell sent some mixed signals about solar last year, but it also established a new wind energy division, so there’s that.

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Photo (cropped): by Lars Plougmann via, creative commons license.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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