STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Posts Tagged ‘bitumen’

Tar Sands Threaten Groundwater

Posted by mhudema on July 28, 2008

Oilsands threaten groundwater
Conservation specialist warns steam blowout could contaminate massive Athabasca aquifer near Fort McMurray
Jennifer Yang
The Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON – Oilsands development could be putting one of Canada’s largest groundwater systems in peril, the Alberta Wilderness Association warned Saturday.

Many of the region’s oilsands projects sit directly below what’s believed to be the largest aquifer in the North American Plains region.

This immense system of underground water channels, which includes parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan, is an invaluable source of Canadian freshwater that feeds into several important waterways such as the Athabasca River.

Critics are particularly worried about oil projects taking place over aquifers that use an oil extraction method called Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage, or SAGD, commonly used in an area between Fort McMurray and Lac La Biche.

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Big Oil Worries Are High

Posted by mhudema on July 16, 2008

Technology, markets to drive rise in Canadian oil sands production
Steven Poruban
Senior Editor
CALGARY, July 16 — Production of Canadian oil sands bitumen will continue to rise in the coming decades but not without advances in processing technologies and the adoption by producers of varied strategies to market the resulting heavy crude blends.
These were some of the issues raised by speakers July 15 during the opening session of the second annual Oil Sands & Heavy Oil Technologies Conference & Exhibition in Calgary. The inaugural 2-day conference, held in July 2007, also in Calgary, drew more than 880 oil sands executives and senior personnel and more than 50 exhibitors.
Tensions were palpable at the opening session regarding one topic in particular—yet to be discussed fully by conference delegates—likely to serve as this year’s 900-lb gorilla sitting in the middle of industry’s living room: growing concerns in Canada about “finicky talk in the US about the type of oil it allows to cross its borders.
This hot-button topic has its impetus in a resolution adopted last month by the US Conference of Mayors modeled on a section in last year’s Energy Independence and Security Act that raised alarm about potential environmental drawbacks of oil sands. The resolution calls for bans on purchases for use in city vehicles of any fuel with life-cycle emissions of greenhouse gases deemed excessive (OGJ, July 7, 2008, p. 21). Canadian oil sands producers’ concerns hinge largely on such a resolution gaining serious political steam during an already strongly polarized presidential election in the US.
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Dirty Oil Raises its head

Posted by mhudema on July 8, 2008

‘Dirty Oil’ raises its head at an odd time
BY GEORGE ABRAHAM

8 July 2008

With the price at the gas pump at record highs, could there be anything like “Dirty Oil”? Yes, there might well be, going by a resolution passed by an assembly of American mayors in Miami late last month.

While the mayors appear to have been targeting the environmental impact of a mixed bag of fossil fuels, oil originating in the Canadian province of Alberta — analogous to the Abu Dhabi’s dominant share in the UAE’s exports — came in for particular mention.

“The production of tar sands oil from Canada emits approximately three times the carbon dioxide pollution per barrel as does conventional oil production and significantly damages Canada’s Boreal forest ecosystem — the world’s largest carbon storehouse,” said the resolution. As if that was not enough, the Democratic nominee for the American presidential elections, Barack Obama, came out swinging in the same week against what he called “a 19th century fossil fuel that is dirty, dwindling, and dangerously expensive.”

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Alberta’s PR Machine goes to Chicago

Posted by mhudema on June 27, 2008

The filthiest crude: like squeezing blood from a rock and a zillion times more destructive.

POSTED June 25, 9:13 PM

Four tons of forest=one barrel of oil.

The practical…whatever will most predictably and most quickly make a profit…is synonymous with the immediate. The long-term effects of the values and acts of “practical men” lie outside the boundaries of their interest. For such people a strip mine ceases to exist as soon as the coal has been extracted. Short-term practicality is long-term idiocy.
~Wendell Berry

Last week, the Energy Minister for the province of Alberta stopped in Chicago. He was on a campaign to import oil wrung from Alberta’s tar sands into the U.S., via a pipeline that would run through Illinois.
Tar sands are extensive deposits of sand, clay and silt mixed with bitumen–a viscous, oil-rich tar–that sit beneath Canada’s Boreal forest. The only way to extract this bitumen, which makes up about 10% of the concoction, is by razing forests and then open-pit mining the sand. Only a fraction of the deposit can be reached by digging; the rest is forced to the surface by pumping steam underground. About four tons of earth is mined for every barrel of oil produced. Once the bitumen is separated out from other organic materials, it must undergo an energy intensive process to be converted into crude. Five barrels of water are polluted and over 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas are consumed to process one barrel of tar sands oil. The toxic water is held in storage lagoons large enough to be seen from space, poisoning surrounding wildlife and habitats. Tar sands oil refinement emits two to five times more carbon dioxide than conventional oil processing. Firsthand witnesses of the Alberta tar sands strip mining operation have likened the scene to Tolkien’s Mordor. Environmental Defence Canada released a report on the industry entitled The Most Destructive Project on Earth.
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Residents Say NO to Upgraders

Posted by mhudema on June 19, 2008

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EDMONTON _ Plans for massive multibillion-dollar projects in an area of Alberta known as Upgrader Alley are galvanizing opposition from landowners and residents who fear they are about to be surrounded by polluters.

Some fear toxic emissions will foul the air. Others say existing petroleum and chemical plants northeast of Edmonton are already belching too many harmful substances.

Still others are using the term “cancer alley” for the portion of Sturgeon County where the sprawling upgraders that transform gooey bitumen into synthetic oil are being built.

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Upgraders not welcome

Posted by mhudema on June 18, 2008

Oil sands upgrader processing strategy under fire

CALGARY — A report cautioning against the construction of more upgraders in Alberta is reopening the question of how best to process Alberta’s hard-to-handle bitumen once it’s extracted from the oil sands.

Crude from Alberta’s oil sands is too heavy for most refineries to process, and can’t travel down a pipeline without being diluted with a lighter petroleum product. Alberta argues the best way to get the bitumen to market is by processing it in an upgrader – a vast industrial complex that removes the heavier parts – allowing output to be received by more refineries and ensuring that valuable processing work stays in the province.

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Alberta Should Say No to Upgraders

Posted by mhudema on June 17, 2008

Alta shouldn’t approve Edmonton oilsands refineries without greener rules: report

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By: John Cotter, THE CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON – Alberta should not approve as many as six more oilsands upgraders near Edmonton until the province has a solid plan to limit the huge amount of fresh water they will use and to better manage the pollution they will produce, a new study says.

The Pembina Institute’s Oilsands Fever report, released on Monday, says nine bitumen upgraders are expected to begin operating just northeast of the capital between 2015 and 2020.

Together they would consume 10 times as much water as the City of Edmonton each year and spew 45 megatonnes of greenhouses gases – the equivalent to an amount produced by 10 million vehicles, the report says.

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Mordor of the North

Posted by mhudema on April 14, 2008

The War in the Mid-West

Morgan Maher

The Athabasca Oil Sands, located in northern Alberta, within boreal forest and peat bogs, covers 141 thousand square kilometres (54,000 sq mi) – an area larger than England – and represents a southern edge of the taiga. The world’s largest biome, the taiga stretches across Alaska, Canada, Sweden, Finland, inland Norway, Siberia, Northern Minnesota, Upstate New York, New Hampshire, Maine, northern Kazakhstan and Japan.

The taiga (Russian for “forest”) is comprised mostly of conifers like fir, spruce and pine. These plants are of immense ecological importance as they sequester carbon, regulate the earth’s climate, and prevent desert encroachment, mud slides, and flooding. Conifers have existed for over 300 million years, twice as long as the flowering plants.

This matters little to the Albertan and Canadian governments. Less than 8% of the taiga enclosed in Alberta’s provincial boundaries is protected from development while more than 50% has been allocated to logging companies for clear-cutting.

When the government introduced its 30 year plan to clear-cut sections of forest in Kananaskis, a grass-roots project called Tag-a-Tree sprang up whereby pieces of wood with the message “Save Kananaskis” were hung on trees in the surrounding area. Ironically, as the project and local awareness gained momentum, the District Conservation Officer threatened to charge people; apparently it is a crime to hang a piece of wood, in the woods, with a message on it saying, “save the woods.”

In addition to mass clear-cutting, the northern Alberta tar sands project (“ground zero for global warming”) rages on. The oil in these tar sands is not found in conventional wells; it is mixed in with the soil. Every barrel of oil produced means approximately forty-five hundred pounds of earth has to be dug up and separated. The extraction process used in this area, which some are beginning to call “Mordor,” requires one barrel of gas and up to eight barrels of water to extract two barrels of crude oil. Every year, 359 million cubic meters of fresh water is taken from the Athabasca River–enough to serve a city of one million people for two years. This water cannot be returned to the rivers, so it goes into artificial lakes, called “tailings ponds” or “byproduct ponds,” which are full of dead water, carcinogenic hydrocarbons, and toxic trace metals like mercury, cadmium and arsenic, all with an oil slick on top. Each cubic meter of crude oil extracted results in three to five cubic meters of tailings that need to be stored. Many of these toxic lakes are so vast that they’re visible from space.

The most dangerous ingredient in these waters is naphthenic acid. Repeated exposure to naphthenic acid can cause liver problems and brain hemorrhaging in mammals. Higher concentrations pose even greater health risks. Another component, alkyl-substituted polyaromatic hydrocarbon, kills or deforms birds, so oil companies fire air guns around the tailings ponds to scare the birds away.

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