Oct 14, 2011

Tar Sands vs. the Environment 2

Completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline means the end of peak oil. At first this might sound like a good thing. However, the Keystone XL Pipeline would connect an incredibly large amount of the world's dirtiest oil to the petroleum refinery capital of North America.
Map shows proposed pipeline from the tar sands
in Alberta, Canada to the refineries on our Gulf Coast.
That might also sound good -- we need jobs, but the Alberta, Canada "tar sands" contain an oil resource which emanates from "bituminous sands." Bitumen as in "asphalt." The two words are synonyms. At room temperature bituminous sands have the consistency of cold molasses. They're gooey. They don't flow. Tar Sands Oil must be cooked out of these clods before it can be refined. Lighter hydrocarbons must be added to the cooked oil before it can be pipelined. Think of deriving oil from asphalt.

According to the tar sands industry, from extraction to refinement to consumption tar sands oil creates 1.1x to 1.45x more greenhouse gasses than current oil (lighter crude). If the blizzards, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires that have plagued our country this year don't have you concerned about greenhouse gasses, please think again.

But here's the deal: Alberta's tar sands contain 8x the oil production capacity as Saudi Arabia. The tar sands industry estimates there are TWO TRILLION BARRELS of this gooey stuff in Alberta, ready for refinement. The Keystone XL Pipeline would connect those barrels of tar oil to an area of the Gulf Coast already refining +5M barrels of oil per day. (See my homemade graphic below.) This area has more petroleum refinement infrastructure in place than any other area in North America. (And it's next to the ocean!)

Graphic shows amount of barrels produced per day 
and rank of various refineries.
Info provided by US Energy Info Admin
(see "Ranking of US Refineries" 1/2 down page).

The empowerment of this pipeline means green lighting a multi-trillion dollar industry who's core business proposition is burning the world's heaviest crude at massive scale for many more decades.


Original of this article.
Part 1 of this article. 

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