Canadian Tar Sands

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  • Canada Tar Sands
    • Background
      • Has 73% of all global stocks.
      • Three major deposits in Alberta
        • Athabasca
        • Cold Lake
        • Peace River
      • Tar sands are extracted by opencast mining.
        • Extracted material is crushed and mixed with water, and bitumen is separated before it can be used.
      • Tar sands can be pumped out
        • High-pressure steam is injected underground to separate the bitumen from the sand.
    • Key Players
      • Governments
        • Alberta regional government and Canada's national government promote tar sands for energy security and economic development
        • With the third largest proven reserves of oil, Alberta will try to meet global demand, while ensuring sustainable and responsible extraction.
      • Oil Companies
        • Local and international companies (e.g. Syncrude/ Suncor, Shell, Exxon, Mobil, and BP.
        • Will have a positive impact on economies of Alberta and Canada.
      • Environment pressure groups
        • Greenpeace called for an end to the 'industrial-isation of indigenous territories, forests and wetlands in Northern Alberta'.
      • Local communities
        • Benefits
          • New jobs (in area where employment is low) and local businesses benefit from trade.
        • Costs
          • Pollution in Athabasca River, atmospheric toxins and increased incidence of rare cancers and auto-immune diseases.
          • Disruption to traditional ways of life.
          • Gambling, substance abuse and crime have risen.
          • Housing crisis, as thousands of workers have been shipped in.
    • Costs
      • Only viable when the price of crude oil exceeds US$40 a barrel.
        • Costs US$10-20 a barrel to extract bitumen from tar sands, compared to US$2 for conventional oil. (2015)
      • Energy-intensive. Takes 1 barrel of conventional oil to make 3 barrels of oil from tar sands.
      • Takes between 2-5 barrels of water to produce every barrel of oil.
      • About 1.8 million tonnes of toxic wastewater are produced every day.
      • Produces lots of waste - takes 2 tonnes of mined tar sands to produce one tonne of oil.
      • Adds to GHE
      • 470 km2 of Alberta's woodlands taiga forest has been removed.
    • Benefits
      • Provides an alternative source of oil.
      • By 2030, it could meet 16% of North America's oil needs.
      • Offers energy security for Canada, and the USA.
        • 28% of Canada's oil is used in Canada.
        • 70% is exported to the USA.
      • Serve as fuel stopgap, until more renewable and cleaner energy sources become viable.
      • Protection for the environment is in place to ensure mining companies are required to reclaim land disturbed by extraction.
      • Earns vital revenues for local and national economies.


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