Saturday, October 10, 2015

Tar or Oil Sands

By Anton Antonio
October 11, 2015

Canada, aside from dumping its garbage in the Philippines, is very proud of its tar or oil sands as one of its primary energy source.  Something doesn’t spell right in this statement, isn’t it?  Wanting to understand this source of pride from the Canadians, I did a quick research on this much ballyhooed product.  Please read…

“Oil sands, tar sands or, more technically, bituminous sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit.  Oil sands are either loose sands or partially consolidated sandstone containing a naturally occurring mixture 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.  The estimated worldwide deposits of oil are more than 2 trillion barrels; the estimates include deposits that hace not been discovered.  Proven reserves of bitumen contain approximately 100 billion barrels, and total natural bitumen reserves are estimated at 249.67 Gbbl worldwide, of which 176.8 Gbbl, or 70.8% are in Alberta, Canada.  Oil sands reserves have only recently been considered to be part of the world’s oil reserves, as higher oil process 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 the National Energy Board of Canada as “a highly viscous mixture of hydrocarbons heavier than pentanes which, in its natural state, is not usually recoverable at a commercial rate through a well because it is too thick to flow.  Crude bitumen is a thick, sticky form of crude oil, so heavy and viscous (thick) that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons such as light crude oil or natural gas condensate.  At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses.  According to the study ordered by the Government of Alberta and conducted by the Jacobs Engineering Group, emissions from oil sand crude are 12% higher than from conventional oil.”  (Wikipedia)

The use of oil sands, tar sands or bituminous sands is, however, without environmental and health impacts.  Serious concerns on (1) the considerable amount of water needed to mine  oil sands, (2) the fragmentation of wildlife habitat, (3) increased risk of soil erosion or surface run-off events to nearby water systems, (4) green house gas and other air emissions from production activities, (5) mercury contamination, (6) the release of natural gas via flaring or venting in the oil extraction process, (7) the emission of organic substances with potential toxicity to human and the environment, (8) the increased release of hydrogen sulphide, (9) he clearing of vast areas of forest lands prior of actual extraction, (10) the carbon dioxide emissions from oil sand which is 20 to 22% higher than average emissions from petroleum production, (11) the high deformity rates in fish embryos exposed to tar sands, and (12) the increased incidents of cancer cases in areas near tar sand mining operations.  With the multifarious problems, issues and concerns attributed to this energy sources, I seriously doubt the righteousness of utilizing tar or sand oil.

Thoughts to promote positive action…

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Wikipedia, (2015). “Oil Sand”.  Retrieved on October 11, 2015 from

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