In recent years, BP has spent a lot of money trying to convince the world it had moved ‘Beyond Petroleum’. But having recently downsized its renewable energy programme, the only thing left that’s green about this huge multinational corporation is its famous logo. With its entrance into the Tar Sands, it’s safe to say that Beyond Petroleum has gone Back to Petroleum…

The Sunrise Project
In 2007, BP took the decision to move into Tar Sands in a big way. In partnership with Husky Energy, a Canadian company, it announced the ‘Sunrise Project’, an extraction project that could produce 200,000 barrels per day by 2012.

Sunrise will use so-called SAG-D (Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage), where water is superheated into steam with vast amounts of natural gas, then injected deep into the earth to “melt" the oil from the sand and clay.

When the financial crisis hit and the price of oil crashed in 2008, BP put the project on hold. The final decision as to whether to go ahead will be made in the second part of 2010, but every indication is that BP intends to now dive head first into the gloopy black stuff.



Other potential BP projects

In February 2010 it emerged that Sunrise wasn’t the only filthy card up BP’s sleeve. The company was in talks to pay about $1.2 billion for a majority stake in Value Creation, a failing Canadian company that has massive Tar Sands reserves. Then, in March, BP sealed a deal with Devon Energy, which would involve the US company coming in and running a Tar Sands extraction project on BP’s behalf. A week later, it emerged that BP had won the bid for Value Creation.
The final investment decision has not been made on any of these projects yet, however. There is still time for BP to back down.


Pipelines and refineries

BP already operates many pipelines and processing facilities vital to the Tar Sands infrastructure. Sunrise will involve piping Tar Sands bitumen to BP’s Toledo refinery, in Ohio, USA. This refinery has been opposed by local communities for excessive flaring, emissions and concerns about health.

In Whiting, Indiana, BP owns the oldest refinery in the US. The company is applying to upgrade it to take on Tar Sands bitumen. BP itself predicts that this expansion would entail a 21 percent increase in fine particulate matter, which is known to cause cancer and aggravate asthma. As a result, local communities are strongly against it.