Tar sand vs. oil sands: a huge debate

by salut on Septembre 29, 2013 - 6:04pm

As we all know, tar sands have encountered huge debates through the world but how should we know if we should use the term ‘’tar sands’’ or ‘’oil sands’’? In the following text, we will define which country uses these terms and what influences them to use one or the other.

To start off, let us explain to you what each of these terms mean. ‘’Oil sands’’ is a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The oil sands are loose sand or practically consolidated sandstone containing naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay and water. This is all saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum (bitumen). On the other hand, ‘’tar sands’’ is a deposit of sand impregnated with bitumen from which the lighter portions have escaped. As you can see, there is no difference; tar sands is a better way of saying ( oil sands ). Moreover, the population would rather hear tar instead of oil when it comes to knowing the pollution it’s causing and the wars it causes.

In addition, the Canadian perspective is also important to know. The Athabasca oil sand which is also called the Alberta tar sands is the larger deposit of heavy crude oil that is located in the north east of Alberta. Like previously, the crude bitumen is a semi-solid form of crude oil, which consists of silica sand, clay, and mixture of water. The Athabasca is the biggest reservoir in the entire world. It is also one of the major oil sand deposits. For further information the oil sand deposit lies less than 141,000 square kilometres of boreal forest, and it contains more or less 1.7 trillion barrels of bitumen. This would mean that it’s more than the world’s total reserves of petroleum. The oil production advanced technology was considered to be economically recoverable. All of this requires lots of work, 20% of the bitumen is extracted using open pit mining methods. It involves excavations of the land, and they need to use hydraulic power shovels and heavy trucks. The surface mining leaves behind it toxic air, but they use techniques with vapour to make an assisted drainage, that method is called the situ technology.  As of this year, the Alberta Energy Regulator was mandate to regulate the oil, gas and the coal development. Alberta Energy Regulator wants to be more environmental as of what is everyone doing they said ; The authority to administer the public land act, the environmental protection and enhancement act and water act, with regards to energy development. Now a day everything is about the environment only to keep it the cleanest we can.

Globally talking, Europeans also have their way of presenting oil sands. As many think Canada’s oil sands are opening the door to the end of Earth, Europeans are considering a Fuel Quality Directive policy. This policy aims for a 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions before 2020 compared with the stats of 2010. Even though this objective is good, we have to keep in mind that renewable energy is not going to replace this source of energy soon.

To conclude, we can only hope that we will find an alternative to oil sands to produce energy and that government owned news (e.g. CBC) will start telling us the truth about these controversial subjects since right now they more often use the term (in this case) tar sands to talk about this issue.  

Melyssa Champagne, Alexandra Lavoie and Alexander


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