Sci Station Canada

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Alberta's Heavy Oil: The Trillion-Barrel Tar Pit

My colleague in Trek Science, Cyndi Jo has passed on yet another interesting lead. this month has an article entitled The Trillion-Barrel Tar Pit which extols the virtues of extracting the "Heavy Oil" beneath Alberta. It all sounds financially sound, especially as the industry is expecting technological breakthroughs that will make it's extraction even more economical.
I wonder at the lack of environmental monitoring, though. My google searches came up with little other than industry statements and university courses.
In fact the only Web Article I have found so far has been a rather dated piece on from Oct. 2002 that starts off "When Canada signs the Kyoto Protocol on climate change...". Well, we all know that that will never happen! The author's concern was that ...
"The problem is that it takes almost as much energy to produce tar sands as it generates. Indeed, it almost takes as much energy to mine, process, refine, and upgrade the bitumen oil out of tar sands as the oil-energy that would be produced from the tar sands."
"In the process much more carbon dioxide emissions are generated getting the tar sands oil out than would be the case with conventional oil. There are estimates that 5 to 10 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions come from processing tar sands as it does processing conventional oil."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that one side or the other is right or wrong. It's just that I would feel a whole lot more comfortable with the industry if it had a strong, independant environmental watchdog watching it's every move. It keeps 'em honest.


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