Tar Sands
Natural Gas
Global Warming
According to Petroleum Economist, "Although tar sands occur in more than 70 countries, the bulk is found in Canada in four regions: Athabasca, Wabasca, Cold Lake, Peace River; together covering an area of some 77,000 km2".(1) In fact, the reserve considered to be technically recoverable is estimated at 280-300 Gb (billions of barrels), larger than the Saudi Arabia oil reserves [optimistically] estimated at 240 Gb. The total reserves for Alberta, including oil not recoverable using current technology, are estimated at 1,700-2,500 Gb.

Alberta's oil sands comprise one of the world's two largest sources of bitumen; the other is in Venezuela.

Companies in the tar sands business:

See the website of the Alberta Provincial Government. (They use the term "oil sands." Sounds better, doesn't it?)

"Bitumen makes up about 10-12 per cent of the actual oil sands found in Alberta. The remainder is 80-85 per cent mineral matter - including sand and clays - and 4-6 per cent water."
In other words, Alberta is fast creating an environmental disaster with the 88+% of water and minerals being exposed to the biosphere in the refining process.

Canada Pays Environmentally for U.S. Oil Thirst, Huge Mines Rapidly Draining Rivers, Cutting Into Forests, Boosting Emissions, by Doug Struck, Washington Post Foreign Service, Page A01 [2006 May 31]

"FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta -- Huge mines here turning tarry sand into cash for Canada and oil for the United States are taking an unexpectedly high environmental toll, sucking water from rivers and natural gas from wells and producing large amounts of gases linked to global warming.

"The digging -- into an area the size of Maryland and Virginia combined -- has proliferated at gold-rush speed, spurred by high oil prices, new technology and an unquenched U.S. thirst for the fuel. The expansion has presented ecological problems that experts thought they would have decades to resolve....

"The river used to be blue. Now it's brown. Nobody can fish or drink from it. The air is bad. This has all happened so fast," said Elsie Fabian, 63, an elder in a native Indian community along the Athabasca River, a wide, meandering waterway once plied by fur traders. 'It's terrible. We're surrounded by the mines.'"

oil Canada’s Oil Sands: Opportunities and Challenges to 2015, Canadian National Energy Board [2004]

"The primary purpose of the report is to provide an objective assessment of the current state of the oil sands industry and of the potential for growth. In addition, it identifies and discusses the major issues and challenges associated with further development and, in this regard, the report is intended to further the public dialogue."

The end of the oil age, by Richard Heinberg [2003 Fall]

" Oil sands are likewise reputed to be potential substitutes for conventional oil. The Athabasca oil sands in northern Alberta contain an estimated 870 billion to 1.3 trillion barrels of oil -- an amount equal to or greater than all of the conventional oil extracted to date. Currently, Syncrude (a consortium of companies) and Suncor (a division of Sun Oil Company) operate oil sands plants in Alberta. Syncrude now produces over 200,000 barrels of oil a day. The extraction process involves using hot-water flotation to remove a thin coating of oil from grains of sand, then adding naphtha to the resulting tar-like material to thin it so that it can be pumped. Currently, two tons of sand must be mined in order to yield one barrel of oil. As with oil shale, the net-energy figures for oil sands are discouraging. Geologist Walter Youngquist notes "it takes the equivalent of two out of each three barrels of oil recovered to pay for all the energy and other costs involved in getting the oil from the oil sands.

"The primary method used to process oil sands yields an oily wastewater. For each barrel of oil recovered, 2.5 barrels of liquid waste are pumped into huge ponds. In the Syncrude pond, 14 miles in circumference, 20 feet of murky water floats on a 130-foot-thick slurry of sand, silt, clay, and unrecovered oil. Residents of northern Alberta have engaged in activist campaigns to close down the oil sands plants because of devastating environmental problems, including displacement of native people, destruction of boreal forests, livestock deaths, and an increase in miscarriages.

"Replacing conventional crude with oil sands to meet the world's energy appetite would require about 700 additional plants the size of the existing Syncrude plant. Together, they would generate a waste pond the size of Lake Ontario. While oil sands represent a potential energy asset for Canada, they cannot make up for the inevitable decline in the global production of conventional oil."

See also Oil Shale.
© 1994-2011 • Ecotopia
contact info