Alberta Tar Sands
Not all barrels of oil are created equal. Some take more energy and more water to get out of the ground than others, and tar sands, aka bituminous sands or extra heavy oil, are at the "extra dirty" end of the spectrum. So it's not exactly good news for the environment to learn that a significant portion of the strong demand for oil in the next 10 years will be met by hydrocarbons from Alberta.
Oil Production Forecast
Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) has released a report predicting that the province will go from 1.32 million barrels of raw bitumen per day in 2007 to 3.2 million barrels per day in 2017 (and who knows, if oil prices stay high, they could ramp it up even more quickly).
Environmental Defense has a report on Alberta's tar sands (which we mentioned in: Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth). It doesn't paint a rosy picture:
- 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.