alberta tar sands research paper

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Alberta Tar Sands Issues

The tar sands oil supplies in Alberta, Canada, represent the second greatest proven petroleum reserve on the globe – right behind the supplies in Saudi Arabia. The Alberta tar sands are located in the vast boreal forest of Canada, simply north of Montana, and it is estimated that nearly 179 billion barrels of essential oil are in the tar sands, according to Bridget Mintz Testa, publishing in the peer-reviewed journal Mechanical Engineering (Testa, 2008). The truly amazing volume of commodity future trading is seen as an optimistic, reliable source of power for Canada and other countries that will be adding this olive oil. The removal, production, and transportation of tar sands oil as well represents many serious environmental impacts, that is reviewed with this paper.

Technology Involved in Tar Sands Oil Production

Despite the fact that tar sands oil is in plentiful source, one of the negative aspects of the formula is that tar sands oil is certainly not easily taken out, which creates stiff problems for petrol companies which can be unlike the challenges presented when olive oil companies remove oil via traditional water wells in Texas, or Arab saudi, or consist of parts of the world. The primitive that is taken out from the tar sands can be described as low grade kind of elementary called bitumen, a “black, oily, viscous” substance that naturally arises as an organic byproduct of “decomposed organic and natural materials” (Hirst, 2013). Bitumen has been applied to myriad methods through world history; in ancient Egypt bitumen utilized in the mummification process; in prehistory bitumen was used while “a sealant, as glue, as building mortar, since incense” and even for decorative designs upon pots and buildings (Hirst, p. 1). In fact Neanderthals used bitumen to fasten ivory shafts to sharp-edged equipment in the Hummal archeological site in ancient Syria, and Native People in the Middle East used bitumen to water-resistant their reed canoes (Hirst, p. 1).

The Removal Process with the Tar Sands Mines

Mining / extracting bitumen is actually a process that features “scraping the stuff on the surface” (Testa, 31). To have the bitumen out of your ground the initial thing that has to be achieved is uncomplicated, facile, undemanding, easy, basic, simple the forest over the site to be exploited. Once the forest is logged, the next step is to scrape aside the “rich topsoil” and store that topsoil away for recycle when needed to fill in areas previously scraped away (Testa, 31). The next step is removal of the “overburden – the material that lies on top of the olive oil sands which can be less than seventy meters under the surface” but in some cases the oil sands are approximately 90 meters below the surface (Testa, 31).

In the past the bitumen was harvested applying draglines and bucket-wheels (equipment that was “the size of multistory buildings”) to research the essential oil sands that had been mixed with clay, Testa carries on. Once the petrol sands were in the huge buckets, that they traveled in “miles-long conveyor belts” that carried these to extraction features where we were holding dumped into huge piles and combined with “a witches brew of steam, water, and caustic soda, and heated to 80C (175F) (Testa, 31). The over-heated water and fierce pressure caused the bitumen to rise to the leading and the sand and clay-based sank towards the bottom. That was the first process by which bitumen was achieved. It was very expensive and energy-intensive and so the strategy was changed to what used today in Canada.

The most recently innovating strategy for cropping bitumen is by what is known as “steam-assisted gravity drainage” (SAGD), which is not in full production but is seen as a less environmentally disruptive procedure. Basically two wells will be drilled (about 200 meters deep) separated vertically can be 16 ft, Testa clarifies (32). Vapor is injected through among the wells (the steam is about 450F) for approximately six months prior to the bitumen pops up the additional well; in 18 months, Pr?va reports, the well should be expected to be approximately peak production

In the meantime, what works the majority of efficiently is actually a process where the organic oil sands are not sent directly to get extraction; instead, a “tooth crusher known as a feeder-breaker chews them in to smaller pieces” and those items are sent by conveyer to a “cycle-feeder” (a tub of “swirling water”) (Testa, 32). Tumblers (with the “same witch’s brew” because before) separate the bitumen from the essential oil sands, but the water is only 25C generally. The bitumen then is transported into a refinery where oil company doing the work, Syncrude, takes out the sulfur and adds hydrogen to convert the bitumen “to top quality, light, fairly sweet crude oil, ” Testa proceeds (32).


Since 1970 the production of oil via tar sands in Canada has skyrocketed to nearly one particular, 400 barrels per day (Illustration courtesy


, 2010, Schindler)

Oil Tar Sands – Pros

The necessity for new energy sources has grown combined with population and with industrialization throughout the world. Every single industrialized land needs oil for the production of electricity and other uses, so the huge deposits of oil in the tar sands in Alberta is a significant potential source for that much needed oil. “The world wants energy by responsible (oil) producers, inches according to Diana McQueen, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Useful resource Development to get the Region of Alberta (Hall, 2013). “Developing tar sands is important to Alberta, ” McQueen said, “but what’s equally important is our environment” (Hall, p. 2).

To the issue of moving oil via tar sands through piping intended for solution crude oil, McQueen said that “Basically, by the time tar sands keep the plant gateway, they’re a diluted hefty oil that meets pipe specs, inch she ongoing. “Is this fair to say to other countries that they can can’t have what we possess? ” the lady asked. “Alberta has walked up to the dish, ” she concluded (Hall, 2).

The Government of Alberta published a pamphlet referred to as “Albert’s Oil Sands: Prospect. Balance” which can be basically a promotional review of why the tar sands oil is important not just to Alberta but for other places on the globe. “Fossil energy sources continue to be the dominant sort of energy – accounting to get 86% of energy consumption throughout the world” (Podlubny, 2008). One of many criticisms with the Alberta tar sands (the oil businesses and Alberta’s government want to call it “oil sands” than “tar sands”) is that the sprawling boreal forest is being injured; the government’s response is usually that the boreal forest covers 381, 000 rectangular kilometers (147, 000 sq . miles) nevertheless the “entire minable area inside the oil sands covers several, 500 sq . kilometers (1, 350 sq . miles), less than 1% in the boreal forest area” (Podlubny).

As to problems about the carbon footprint created through the production of tar sands oil, the government understands that “more energy is necessary to produce a clip or barrel of olive oil than typical oilbut the gap is definitely closing for instance , per barrel or clip of oil, carbon dioxide exhausts have been lowered by 45% since 1990” (Podlubny). Actually in 2007, Alberta became the initial territory or state or perhaps nation to “legislate necessary greenhouse gas reductions for large industrial facilities. “

Additionally , Alberta’s Water Management Framework has located “strict limits” on industry water use, and during periods of low river stream (on the Athabasca Riv, which is used pertaining to water requirements in the process of separating the oil from your sand) “water consumption is limited to the equivalent of 1. 3% of twelve-monthly flowand Industry is doing the partup to 90% in the water employed (in the process) is definitely recycled” (Podlubny).

The tailings ponds – a great concern to ecologically concerned agencies because of the volume of birds that die once landing in the oily fish ponds – are constructed of “groundwater monitoring and seepage capture features, ” the Alberta authorities insists. The ponds will be “closely monitored to ensure virtually any seepage is definitely minimized therefore there are not any impacts to surface water” (Podlubny). The sediments within the banks of the Athabasca Riv do acquire “natural contaminants” but it is not due to bitumen development, the government claims; rather this kind of contamination is usually caused by the naturally dripping tar sands. In addition , “Stringent testing offers consistently demonstrated there has been zero increase in concentrations of impurities as olive oil sands creation has progressed” (Podlubny).

Regarding mercury contaminants, the Alberta government claims that the water entering Pond Athabasca features contained a “maximum of eight parts per trillion, ” which can be well under the guideline of 13 parts per trillion. Arsenic, too, is below guidelines, the government explains.

The American Petroleum Institute says that endorsement of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring tar sands essential oil south through the U. T. heartland and into Tx, could enhance domestic strength security and “reducereliance on energy solutions from fewer stable regions” (API).

Precisely what is the Newest Procedure to Remove Bitumen from the Fine sand?

In the diary Chemical Anatomist an article explains the latest method – which is being analyzed early in 2013 – for separating bitumen from the tar crushed stone. Instead of heavy steam being pumped into the

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