Friday, October 15, 2010

The Tar Sands: a Waste of Water

I've talked a lot about the enormous GHG emissions of the tar sands. However, the tar sands are also depleting our clean freshwater. The great majority of the tar sand sare located in the Athabasca region. It just so happens that the Athabasca watershed is situated in the same place. Naturally, bitumen, which IS the tar sands, needs to be refined, with a heavy use of water. It takes four barrels of water to produce every barrel of oil from the tar sands. This water is drawn from Canadian rivers.After the transformation of bitumen into oil, the water, along with many other "leftovers" of the process is dumped into tailing ponds that look something like this:
These tailing ponds are often quite close to the freshwater supply. Chemicals could easily leak into the drinking water of communities further downstream. Yet nothing is done about the waste and pollution of water that the tar sands cause. What we need is environmental taxes, to make sure that the polluters don't get away with wasting and leeching chemicals into our drinking water. Wasting and polluting water should not be tolerated, especially when the world will need more as we move into the future. Water should be used in a smart way, and not polluted. The tar sands are a prime example of those who waste water and it doesn't look pretty either.
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  1. This is where the industry has made major improvements Happy Wanderer.
    It's unfortunate the environmentalists don't credit the industry, as they should.

    '..Oil sands projects in northern Alberta continually recycle about 90 per cent of the water they use.
    It takes an average of two to three barrels of water to produce one barrel of bitumen from a mine, and almost all the water involved in that process is reused/recycled.

    Devon Canada Corporation's Jackfish project is one oil sands project that uses only brackish (salty undrinkable) water to create the steam needed to separate oil from sand.

    In several places in Western Canada, companies are using carbon dioxide (CO2) instead of water to enhance recovery of oil from older wells. EnCana Corporation is using this technology in its Weyburn project...'

  2. Trust Wilson to parrot an oil industry website. If any one of the major tailing ponds fails it would be the entire MacKenzie basin, the third largest watershed in the world, that would be ruined.

    Yes the industry does recycle the water but so what? It's the volume of the water they extract (free of charge) and what they do with it afterward that is relevant. The recycling bit is just a canard.

    Likewise the brackish water saga is incomplete and misleading. It completely ignores the end disposition of that water. Saltwater cannot be released into the surface environment without serious impacts. It would actually be better than they took freshwater.

    Typical Wilson bullshit.


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