Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Oil Sands

Okanagan River Parkway Penticton

Some of the birds we have to keep out of the Tailing Ponds at Fort McMurray

Canada Geese

Female Hooded Mergansers
In Northern Alberta is a fairly new boom town called Fort McMurray which has arisen to serve the massive oil industry there. Huge deposits of tar mixed with sand were discovered a few years ago. This is the world's second largest reserve of oil after Saudi Arabia. The engineers have finally figured out efficient ways of separating out liquid oil from the sand. The tar isn't liquid. So by using pipelines they can transport the more liquid bitumen extracted from it to market. Unfortunately it is a long way away from markets and has to be refined first. So there are two proposed future pipeline routes, one through the USA to the Gulf of Mexico, and another West through Canada to Kitimat. Both routes are running into various environmental problems. These are huge projects, totalling about 12 billion dollars. Obviously, environmentalists are opposed because of carbon and heavy metal pollution caused by extraction and usage of oil, and spillage from ruptured pipelines, quite apart from oil tankers breaking up. Obviously also the oil industry is in favour of these projects because of all the jobs and money in the bank. The environmentalists are pretty well agreed that if we don't stop using oil and other fossil fuels it is game over for the world by about 2050, when the food supply will start to run out for its nine billion residents, as it will be too dry and hot to grow enough food, if climate change continues at the same rate. There is no point in having money in the bank if one can't buy enough food! Tomorrow's post will be definitely more cheerful, promise!

1 comment:

Filip Demuinck said...

Heavy article. We have already started with hybrid cars but we need to do more. How can the major countries like the US, China and India be convinced? However, don't forget the nature always finds a way to adjust itself. If its going to take us humans into account, that is another question.