Whenever you hear the peak oil deniers tout the hundreds of years of supply in North America, remember the pictures in the story below. I’m not an environmental nutjob and I think we should convert oil sands into oil because we have no choice. But oil sands are not going to save us from the impact of peak oil. After seeing what it takes to turn oil sands into oil, you’ll understand why the EROEI is so low for this natural resource. The breakeven price for oil sands to be profitable is in the range of $80 to $90 per barrel. Don’t count on gas prices to ever go back to $2.50 a gallon like Romney is promising.
These Pictures May Give You Nightmares About The Canada Oil Sands
Canada’s economic boom depends on tearing up 54,000 square-mile of pristine Alberta wilderness.
Development of the world’s third largest oil supply is proceeding rapidly. It already represents a $3.5 billion annual paycheck to the Canadian government and 75,000 immediate jobs.
But many are aghast at the project, which is also the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas in Canada.
When you see the pictures, you may feel the same. We’re not saying the project is good or bad. We’re just saying the scale and severity of what’s happening in Alberta will make your spine tingle.
Business Insider sent me to Alberta in early May, when there was still ice on the ground and a bite in the air. I took these shots, trying to stay warm, from about 1,000 feet up, out of the window of a small plane.
The following pictures show oil mining, where the sand is dug from the ground and the oil’s separated through a lengthy and messy process. There are drilling sites in the oil sands, and those are highlighted in the photo essay at the end of this one.
To get a look at the oil sand mines, we rented this Cessna 172 which the pilot was allowed to bring down to 1,000 feet — from there, through the open window and with a long lens we were able to see what really goes on in one of the most controversial places on the planet
The Alberta oil sands are spread across more than 54,000 square miles but we’re taking a look at just a small part of that — the red line is an approximate outline of the entire deposit — the green is where we’ll be flying
But thousands flock here to make real money in the oil sands — where creating synthetic crude begins in the strip mine
This is how the oil sands have been harvested since 1967
There were only two companies working the sands in 1998 and local officials were concerned even those would be forced to close — there are more than 10 times that number here now
That’s because in the late ’90s oil prices rose, the Canadian government restructured its royalty system, and new technology caused a huge boom
From small companies to conglomerates like Shell — each outfit starts off the same way
First they clear the trees from the land
Then they scrape away the shallow layer of leafy, peaty topsoil called muskeg
Then the trucks and shovels come in to scoop up the oil sand — that shovel is electric, runs on 15,000 volts — and scoops up 90 tons in one load — it takes about 2.5 tons of sand to produce one barrel of oil
The Cat 797 dump trucks are the largest in the world and and can haul 1 million pounds in a single load — more weight than a fully loaded Boeing 747
They’re so large people say they can drive over a Ford F-150 like it’s a ‘speed bump’ — with this shot from outside a mechanic’s shop it’s easy to see what they mean
Robert Johnson — Business Insider