Unconventional Oil: A Challenge for Local Communities

Dossier: Unconventional Oil - A Challenge for Local Communities

Oil on water

Introduction: Extreme oil extraction

With conventional oil production in decline, the global oil industry is investing heavily in dirtier and riskier forms of oil and also in unconventional resources, such as tar sands, and oil shale. All are difficult and costly to produce, usually more carbon intensive than conventional oil and may have calamitous long-term impacts on the local environment. By Christopher Walker


The Orinoco Belt

Venezuela already overtook Saudia Arabia as the country with the largest oil reserves in the world and 2012 is likely to be a crucial year for the climate, as the country aims to ramp up production of huge reserves of tar sands-like crude in the eastern Orinoco River Belt. But economical exploitation comes with huge environmental concerns.

By Sarah Wykes

Republic of Congo

ENI and the exploration of oil

The huge 1,790 km square tar sands concession includes savannah, tropical rainforest and wetlands that are home to endangered bird species.The history of oil production in the Republic of Congo does not provide an encouraging scenario for future tar sands extraction. Testimonies by communities impacted by oil report intimidation by both the government and the oil companies.
By Christopher Walker

Video: Tar Sands - Republic of Congo


A target for exploration and extraction

Madagascar is increasingly a target for extractives exploration and extraction.  Despite its unique eco-systems – the island is a biodiversity hotspot – extractive industries are regarded as one of the strategic pillars of the country’s future development.  By Christopher Walker

Video: Tar Sands - Madagascar

Trinidad and Tobago

The Parrylands-Guapo Fields

In 2009 Trinidad and Tobago awarded a license to Petroleum Co. of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd. to explore tar sands at Parrylands-Guapo fields, which are thought to contain 2 billion barrels of oil. An Institute of Energy and Mining has recently been established that will "cater for the specific needs of what, in effect, will be an entirely new part of the local oil industry". By Christopher Walker


Locking up the Future - Unconventional Oil in Africa

What price our future energy?
This short briefing gives an overview of three investments in unconventional oil in Africa currently in prospect in the context of debates about the need to mitigate global environmental threats and ensure sustainable development.

Marginal Oil: What is driving oil companies dirtier and deeper?


This paper is a document that describes the drivers behind marginal oil investments and gives an overview of existing and potential projects across the globe. It contains important analysis that should be public knowledge and will productively feed the ongoing debate, from Cancun to Durban to Rio and beyond.


The race for access to and control of scarce fossil resources, strategically important metals, land, genetic resources, and water not only causes environmental degradation but also human rights violations. It is plain to see that the scope for democratic action is becoming ever more limited. How shall we use and share our natural resources? Who is to decide? For us, those are core questions on the road towards a just and sustainable resource policy, be it in Germany or internationally.

Community Protocol Tool Box and Project Report

The NGO Natural Justice and its regional partners, with the support of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, have jointly assisted a number of communities to develop community protocols in the context of extractive industries. You can download them and the project report here.