Sunday, April 23

endless oil supplies?

At our Easter gathering last weekend, Danielle told me about a documentary, she had seen on TV, which discussed the 'new' oil reserves in Canada.

I understood that the documentary suggested these new fields along with new extraction technology, was going to help counter the suggested soon-to-be, or maybe already-present, shortfalls in oil production over consumption.

I thought I should do some research, since I had only limited information to offer.

A no-apologies introduction to this subject
For all the people touting tar sands as a solution to the pending apocalypse of Peak Oil, a little experience with reality [could] help them understand that the books on energy are as cooked as the books of Enron, WorldCom and Halliburton. When business tells you there's plenty of oil it is [worth asking whether this might be] to protect the financial markets. Source

From the Sierra Club

"Tar sands oil is to conventional oil what crack cocaine is to ordinary cocaine powder. More harm to global climate through increased greenhouse gas emissions, more destruction of boreal forests, more toxic tailings and more air and water pollution." said Elizabeth May, executive director of Sierra Club of Canada. Source


Alberta's tar sands could hold more than 300 billion recoverable barrels of oil. The term "tar sands" refers to a thick oil called bitumen that is mixed in with sand, clay and water. Unfortunately tar sands oil generates two-and-a-half times as much greenhouse gases of conventional oil production due to the massive amounts of energy needed to extract, upgrade and refine the bitumen.


Originally dug out of open pit mines, there is but companies are now moving away from these huge pits; a new technique allows them to inject steam directly into the soil to melt the tar enough so that it can be pumped back to the surface.

To generate the steam, they burn natural gas, and this is one of the main reasons why Canada has so much trouble meeting its obligations under the Kyoto treaty, and why this source of oil generates between two and three times the greenhouse gases to obtain. Source

Probably the best source of information on the subject of global energy is EnergyBulletin.net. There is a wealth of information available under clear categories on the left hand menu. Start here

There are now a number of agreements that seem to have been reached across many areas of science and industry...
  1. Oil, coal and gas are non-renewable and limited resources.
  2. The burning of these contributes to greenhouse gases, and these are impacting on our environment.
  3. Peak oil is a fact What is harder to pinpoint and therefore where agreement is impossible to achieve, is whether peak oil has occurred already, or if it will happen at some future date.

This last point seems a little irrelevant given the established increasing difficulty and financial and environmental cost of obtaining oil from these 'new' sources. Oil will never be as cheap as it has been in the past. This is beginning to impact on our lives and will do so more with each increase in cost.


Being aware of these changes, it begs the question, how can we reduce our consumption - directly and indirectly - of oil and other non-renewable fuels?

2 comments:

BrettBum said...

What would your take be on the shale deposits in the US Rocky mountain area?

Again an extraction problem? anything else?

James Samuel said...

Maybe you could inform me? What do you understand about those deposits? Are the "owners" claiming they are large enough to SIGNIFICANTLY push out the date when Oil consumption and extraction ratios reach the crisis point? And if they are, and we continue to consume like there was no tomorrow, what does that do to the environment / atmosphere which we depend on for our continued living?