Tar sands are an increasingly common—but expensive and dirty—source of oil. Pembina Institute Tar sands also known as oil sands are a mixture of mostly sand, clay, water, and a thick, molasses-like substance called bitumen. Bitumen is made of hydrocarbons—the same molecules in liquid oil—and is used to produce gasoline and other petroleum products. Extracting bitumen from tar sands—and refining it into products like gasoline—is significantly costlier and more difficult than extracting and refining liquid oil.
What matters is not the number of people who reside here, but the number of Tar sands in alberta oil tanks that do. There are about seventy-five now, and more on the way, plus four underground salt caverns converted to oil storage.
The rows of gleaming tanks, some topped with geodesic domes, seemed like a constellation of religious temples. As I crested a small rise, the Hardisty Terminal appeared on the horizon. A inch diameter pipeline conveys a black torrent of the stuff: It fills tanks that are as large as feet across and three stories tall, operated by a host of petroleum collection, processing, and transport companies, including Gibson Energy, Enbridge, and TransCanada.
Most oil and natural gas pipelines are buried, and few people give much thought to the hidden cargo of freight trains. But lately, spills, derailments, and spiraling alarm over climate change have dramatically heightened the profile of energy infrastructure.
The Keystone XL pipeline, proposed in the waning days of the Bush administration, is now a household name in the United States, thanks to environmental activists who made it a political symbol. The same is true of the Athabasca tar sands in Canadian households.
Not only are the tar sands central to North American energy policy, they are potentially the largest source of new carbon emissions in the world. So the construction of new infrastructures is no longer a local or regional concern, but a global battleground — real and symbolic — for a coalition of native peoples, environmentalists, landowners, and concerned citizens.
Whether Canada is a petrostate — whether its governments are dominated by energy companies — is an open question, but the oil economy is a dominant political issue. No one knows where the bottom is.
Open-pit tar sands mine near Fort McMurray. About a tenth of that, buried beneath 57, square miles of boreal forest — roughly the size of Florida — is recoverable, though costly to exploit. It takes two tons of tar sands to produce a barrel of crude oil.
Two tons, in other words, for me to drive from Montana to Hardisty. It would be hard to place such riches further away from major markets. Because of the remote location and unconventional nature of its crude, Canada must build an energy infrastructure unlike any other in the world.
The tar sands produce extremely heavy oil, a solid substance with a natural consistency like toffee. It comes in granules, each smaller than a grain of rice, mixed with sand, clay, and water, which must be mined and separated.
Most of the sands are found deeper than feet below the surface, and so a layer of overburden, the boreal forest, must be stripped off. While there are similar heavy crude deposits elsewhere, notably the Faja Petrolifera del Orinoco in Venezuela, they have not been extensively tapped because of the capital required.
It takes two tons of Alberta tar sands to produce a barrel of crude oil, and one barrel of oil to make 19 gallons of gas.
Two tons of tar sands, in other words, for me to drive from Montana to Hardisty. The steam liquifies the buried bitumen, which can then be pumped out of the lower well.
Alternatively, shallower deposits can be strip-mined, loaded onto ton trucks, and hauled to a nearby processing facility, where the soil, clay, and water, are separated from the tar.
Both methods are energy intensive, which accounts for the higher carbon footprint. The unconventional crude is then ready for its long journey to special refineries on the Gulf Coast.
The exact formula is a trade secret. The first leg of its journey brings it to the Hardisty terminal or a smaller tank farm near Edmonton, where it is staged and blended. Existing pipelines deliver about 1. Railroads can handle additional volume.
By the end ofrail is forecast to haulbpd, up fromtwo years ago.
But that still gets you only halfway to the projected volume. TransCanada officials agreed to show me the works. Bachorcik said that despite uncertainty about the price of oil and the fate of the pipelines, things in Hardisty were still humming.
New tanks rising in several locations attested to that.Canadian tar sands are different than U.S.
tar sands in that Canadian tar sands are water wetted, while U.S tar sands are hydrocarbon wetted. As a result of this difference, extraction techniques for the tar sands in Utah will be different than for those in Alberta.
The Peace River oil sands located in northwest-central Alberta are the smallest of the three major oil sands deposits in Alberta. The Peace River oil sands lie generally in the watershed of the Peace River, the largest river in Alberta. The top layer of muskeg and earth (right), and the underlying tar sands (left) after the removal of the muskeg, at the Syncrude tar sands operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta, on September 17, Oct 13, · With oil prices falling precipitously, capital-intensive projects rooted in the heavy crude mined from Alberta’s oil sands are losing money, contributing to the loss of about 35, energy.
T. Boone Pickens, a legendary Texas oil tycoon, was working Alberta's traditional oil rigs back in the '60s and remembers how he and his colleagues thought mining for oil sands was a joke. Oil sands, also known as tar sands or crude bitumen, or more technically bituminous sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit.
In addition to the three major Canadian oil sands in Alberta, there is a fourth major oil sands deposit in Canada.