From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Wed Jan 25 2006 - 10:39:37 EST



Haven't there been any technological breakthroughs in the
extraction of the oil from the sands and the refining process since
the mid-1970s?

In solidarity, Jerry

Here is an extract from website

Water hogs. But oil sands operations, which have dug huge chunks of earth out of the pine forests of Alberta, have been dogged by environmental criticism. The industry boasts that its state-of-the-art underground process, unlike truck-and-shovel mining, leaves the land largely undisturbed. Nor is there need for the giant tailing ponds where producers store water, clay, and sand waste left over from mining; one notorious Syncrude waste pond is 10 square miles. But the in situ process is hardly benign. In a province that has been wracked with drought and wildfire in recent years and that still relies on farming and fishing, residents voice concerns over the huge amounts of water used to extract oil sands. Although producers recycle much of their water, about one barrel of water is lost for every barrel of oil culled, according to the Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental group.

Also, it takes fuel to get fuel out of the oil sands. Turning water to steam consumes extraordinary amounts of natural gas--in short supply in both Canada and the United States. Canada has long planned a pipeline to bring natural gas south from the Mackenzie Delta, adjacent to Alaska; analysts figure the oil sands operations will gobble up 100 percent of that new gas. (Canada's nuclear industry suggested that a new atomic power plant could supply the necessary energy, but this idea has met a cool reception.)

Because of the large volumes of natural gas consumed, carbon dioxide emissions are at least five times as high from oil sands as from conventional oil production, according to the Canada National Energy Board. This raises hackles in Canada, which has signed on to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases (a constant source of tension between Ottawa and the more conservative Alberta government). Even though the Canadian government has agreed to concessions regarding its oil operations, many producers complain Kyoto will eventually drive up the costs of the oil sands initiatives.

Paul Cockshott
Dept Computing Science
University of Glasgow

0141 330 3125

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