Oil from Tar Sands Will Deplete Natural Gas and Water Supplies, Accelerate Global Warming

Posted on October 19, 2005. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Jeff Riggert, who holds an M.S. Land Resources with Certificate in Energy Analysis & Policy, circulated the following article via e-mail and it’s worth posting to a broader audience:

Tar sand, also referred to as oil sand or bituminous sand, is a combination of clay, sand, water and bitumen. Tar sands are mined for the oil-rich bitumen which is refined into oil. Conventional oil is extracted by drilling traditional wells into the ground whereas tar sand deposits are (to date) mined using strip mining techniques.

To refine tar sand, hot water (typically heated with natural gas) is added to the sand, and the resulting slurry is piped to an extraction plant where it is agitated. The lighter oil rises to the surface, where it is skimmed from the top. The combination of hot water, agitation and skimming ‘cracks’ the bitumen from the clay. Bitumen is much thicker than traditional crude oil, so it must be either mixed with lighter petroleum (either liquid or gas) or chemically split before it can be transported by pipeline.

It is estimated that around 80% of the Alberta tar sands are too far below the surface for the current open-pit mining. Underground mining techniques are being established to extract the oil. This process requires drilling into the formation, and then massive injections of steam into a deposit. The steam “cracks” the bitumen underground, liquefying the tar-like petroleum, and channelling it to extraction points where it can be pumped to the surface. This type of extraction requires a traditional oil well working in tandem with a steam injection machine. Major disadvantages of this process include the need for a huge local water source, the energy required to boil the water, a large waste water disposal problem, as well as potential environmental damage (groundwater pollution) below the surface.[1]

The extraction of tar sands oil generates two-and-a-half times as much greenhouse gases as conventional oil production due to the large amounts of energy needed to extract, upgrade and refine the bitumen.[2] Tar sands projects have already had all-in production costs above $20 a barrel.[3] In contrast, Saudi Arabia (No. 1 in oil reserves and the world’s least-cost supplier) has a production cost as low as $2 per barrel.[4]


[1] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Tar sands [Categories: Fossil fuels, Petroleum]

[2] Sierra Club of Canada News Release, “North American Oil Addicts to Get Help.” Friday, April 22, 2005

[3] “China invests in Canadian oil sands.” Reuters News Service, April 12, 2005 4:35 EST

[4] http://www.gravmag.com



    A statewide nonprofit dedicated to promoting economically and environmentally sustainable energy policies and practices in Wisconsin.


    Subscribe Via RSS

    • Subscribe with Bloglines
    • Add your feed to Newsburst from CNET News.com
    • Subscribe in Google Reader
    • Add to My Yahoo!
    • Subscribe in NewsGator Online
    • The latest comments to all posts in RSS


Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: