Australia

Australia

Enviromentalists claim victory over oil -- Oil project abandoned and wind plant announced

Two Canadian oil companies have joined forces to develop Saskatchewan's first large-scale wind project. Suncor Energy, one of the country's largest oil producers, and Enbridge Inc, which operates the world's longest crude oil pipeline system, will build the 11 MW, C$20 million SunBridge Wind Power Project. The announcement comes just two months after Suncor decided to pull out of its controversial Stuart Oil Shale Project in Australia. Environmentalists are hailing it as the beginning of the end for greenhouse gas intensive industries.

Two leading Canadian oil companies, both based in Calgary, have joined forces to develop Saskatchewan's first large-scale wind project. Suncor Energy, one of the country's largest oil producers, and Enbridge Inc, which operates the world's longest crude oil pipeline system and Canada's largest natural gas distribution company, will build the 11 MW, C$20 million SunBridge Wind Power Project in the southwest corner of the province. The wind farm will consist of 17 Vestas turbines spread over four sections of land to take advantage of the best wind regimes.

The project was the winning bid in a wind power request for proposals (RFP) issued by SaskPower, Saskatchewan's provincially owned utility. SunBridge's annual output of 40 GWh will provide power to federal government buildings and to other customers in the province. The federal government has budgeted C$12.4 million over ten years to buy wind generated electricity in Saskatchewan. Construction of the project, subject to public consultation and environmental approvals, is to start this month. Suncor's Patti Lewis says the partners expect to have five or six turbines installed immediately, with the remainder up and producing power by November.

Suncor president Rick George says SunBridge is a "major step" in his company's overall plan to invest $100 million in alternative and renewable energy projects by 2005. Enbridge is also pursuing its own strategy of increased investment in renewables, says company president Patrick Daniel. "We are interested in the potential this project has for expansion, in particular, to potentially provide power for our pipeline operations in Saskatchewan."

Important signal

The SunBridge announcement comes just two weeks after Suncor decided to pull out of its controversial Stuart Oil Shale Project in Australia, a move environmentalists are hailing as the beginning of the end for greenhouse gas intensive industries. "Oil shale is dead and it is the first major fossil fuel development killed by climate change," says Greenpeace Australia's climate campaigner Corin Millais. "The days of fossil fuels are finally ending as businesses realise the financial liabilities associated with greenhouse emissions."

Suncor's John Rogers, however, says that while the emissions associated with oil shale extraction played a role in the company's decision, they "were not an exclusive factor." The company never got the equipment to work on a continuous basis at a commercial scale, he explains. "That was an issue with us."

Suncor sold its interest in the oil shale project to its Australian joint venture partners, Southern Pacific Petroleum and Central Pacific Minerals. The project, located in Queensland, is pioneering a technology designed to commercialise Australia's more than 30 billion barrels of oil shale deposits. Suncor also says it wants to focus its resources on its Canadian operations.

The company is nearing completion of its C$2.8 billion Project Millennium, an expansion of its Alberta oilsands operation that will more than double production to 225,000 barrels per day. This project has also come under fire from environmentalists because of greenhouse gas and environmental impacts.

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