Can Alberta’s oil sands replace Arabia’s?
Interesting article and good comments on this site.
» EnergyPulse: “But despite the promise, it is far too early to bid farewell to the Middle East. Alberta’s oil sands may be close geographically but they fall short of providing a viable solution to America’s growing oil needs.
There are two main methods to extract oil from sands. One requires surface mining– meaning the removal of hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile ground, ruining everything on it in the process–to reach the underlying oil sand. About two tons of sands must be mined to produce one barrel of crude oil. Using current technology and at today’s oil prices, only about 20% of the Alberta’s oil sands can be mined this way and even that at an enormous cost to the surrounding area.
The majority of the sands are located in deeper layers, 75 yards and below, and can be recovered by a different method without removing tons of ground or the sand itself. The method entails either heating or diluting the bitumen, making it liquid enough to accumulate in a well and then be pumped to the surface. However, this technique poses severe groundwater contamination problems due to leakage of the diluting materials.
The main drawback of oil sands is that the energy required for both extraction methods is so huge as to offset the amount of energy the extracted oil ultimately yields. The many trucks, shovels and other heavy equipment needed to remove tons of ground — enough to fill Yankee Stadium every two days — in order to expose the oil sands and then haul the sands away “