06 November 2012

Tar Sands - The Most Destructive Project on Earth

The Tar Sands "Gigaproject" is the largest industrial project in human history and likely also the most destructive. The tar sands mining procedure releases at least three times the CO2 emissions as regular oil production and is slated to become the single largest industrial contributor in North America to Climate Change.

The tar sands are already slated to be the cause of up to the second fastest rate of deforestation on the planet behind the Amazon Rainforest Basin. Currently approved projects will see 3 million barrels of tar sands mock crude produced daily by 2018; for each barrel of oil up to as high as five barrels of water are used.

Human health in many communities has seriously taken a turn for the worse with many causes alleged to be from tar sands production. Tar sands production has led to many serious social issues throughout Alberta, from housing crises to the vast expansion of temporary foreign worker programs that exploit non-citizens. Infrastructure from pipelines to refineries to super tanker oil traffic on the seas crosses the continent in all directions to all three major oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.

The mock oil produced primarily is consumed in the United States and helps to subsidize continued wars of aggression against other oil producing nations such as Iraq, Venezuela and Iran.

Environmental Defense released a new report on the Alberta Oil Sands, calling it the most destructive project on Earth:

Oil sands mining is licensed to use twice the amount of fresh water that the entire city of Calgary uses in a year. At least 90% of the fresh water used in the oil sands ends up in ends up in tailing ponds so toxic that propane cannons are used to keep ducks from landing.Processing the oil sands uses enough natural gas in a day to heat 3 million homes.The toxic tailing ponds are considered one of the largest human-made structures in the world. The ponds span 50 square kilometers and can be seen from space. Producing a barrel of oil from the oil sands produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil.

Oil sands, tar sands or more technically, bituminous sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The oil sands are loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone containing naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, and water, saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially tar due to its similar appearance, odor and color). Natural bitumen deposits are reported in many countries, but in particular are found in extremely large quantities in Canada. Other large reserves are located in Kazakhstan and Russia. Total natural bitumen reserves are estimated at 249.67 billion barrels globally, of which 176.8 billion barrels , or 70.8%, are in Canada.

Oil sands reserves have only recently been considered to be part of the world's oil reserves, as higher oil prices and new technology enable profitable extraction and processing. Oil produced from bitumen sands is often referred to as unconventional oil or crude bitumen, to distinguish it from liquid hydrocarbons produced from traditional oil wells.

The crude bitumen contained in the Canadian oil sands is described by Canadian authorities as "petroleum that exists in the semi-solid or solid phase in natural deposits. Bitumen is a thick, sticky form of hydrocarbon, so heavy and viscous (thick) that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons. At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses". The World Energy Council (WEC) defines natural bitumen as "oil having a viscosity greater than 10,000 centipoises under reservoir conditions and an API gravity of less than 10° API". The Orinoco Belt in Venezuela is sometimes described as oil sands, but these deposits are non-bituminous, falling instead into the category of heavy or extra-heavy oil due to their lower viscosity. Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil differ in the degree by which they have been degraded from the original conventional oils by bacteria. According to the WEC, extra-heavy oil has "a gravity of less than 10° API and a reservoir viscosity of no more than 10,000 centipoises". 

Making liquid fuels from oil sands requires energy for steam injection and refining. This process generates 12 percent higher the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of final product as the "production" of conventional oil.

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