Talk:Oil sands

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"Oil sands" vs "Tar sands" vs "Bitumen deposits"[edit]

Previous discussion about the article name are archived here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Beagel (talk) 07:57, 8 June 2014 (UTC)

I seem to recall past discussion about NPOV problems with the article title. "Oil sands" is a highly-contentious, value-loaded term being relentlessly promoted by the oil-industry lobby in a major environmental debate. While "oil sands" occasionally appeared in the past, "tar sands" was the common term until about a decade ago — it was the term (in positive contexts) in all my Canadian school textbooks in the 1970s and 80s, and was common in newspaper stories — but it has also become a value-loaded term, and now the environment lobby prefers it because of negative associations with "tar". So basically, using the title "Oil sands" or "Tar sands" is the rough equivalent of using a title like "Baby killing" or "Women's right to choice" for the Abortion article. For the sake of NPOV, could we move back to something neutral like "Bitumen deposits", and redirect the oil lobby's preferred term "Oil sands" and the environment lobby's preferred term "tar sands" to that? David (talk) 18:08, 24 May 2014 (UTC)

I'm trying to avoid political stands and political labeling as much as possible in this article. The whole issue is politically loaded, but the problem with the term "tar sands" is that it is scientifically incorrect. I have a degree in chemistry, among other things, and I'm a stickler for scientific accuracy. Although they look the same, "tar" and "bitumen" are chemically different substances - your 1970s school textbooks were wrong (not an unusual thing, unfortunately). "Tar" is a man-made substance produced by the destructive distillation of organic material like wood or coal (or manufactured by an oil refinery), whereas the "bitumen" in the oil sands is a naturally occurring form of extremely heavy oil. There is a fundamental difference in that coal-tar is a class 1 carcinogen and very toxic, whereas crude bitumen is non-carcinogenic and not particularly toxic at all. If you want to see a really good example of genuine tar pollution, see the Sydney Tar Ponds in Nova Scotia, where the Canadian government has spent about half a billion dollars trying to clean up an old coking operation for the Sydney Steel Mill. For political reasons, some environmental groups (and some US oil industry lobby groups) like to confuse the issue to make the oil sands operations seem much hazardous than they actually are, whereas the oil industry would like not to be confused with the old coal and steel industries and their practices.
They didn't have bitumen mines back in the 1800s and early 1900s, but they did have extensive dumping of tar into pits around city coal-gas operations and steel mills, which is where the misnomer "tar sands" came from. To clean up a genuine tar pit is an environmental nightmare. OTOH, cleaning up a bitumen mine is a relatively simple process like reclaiming an old coal mine. There is an old abandoned coal mine across the road from me that has been reclaimed. It is now an urban park with paths, picnic tables, an artificial lake, and dog-walking area, and it looks really nice. The same can and will be done with the bitumen mines because the oil companies are on the hook for cleanup costs.
There is also the issue that Venezuela has vast oil sands too, except the Venezuelans like to call the contents "extra-heavy oil". I thought this article should cover the Venezuelan oil sands too, since they are similar to and somewhat larger than the Canadian oil sands. However, Canada now probably produces more "extra-heavy oil" than Venezuela does, except Canadian governments don't have a category called "extra-heavy oil". They arbitrarily deem it to be "bitumen" if it is produced inside a designated oil sands area, and "heavy oil" if it is produced outside an oil sands area. It's basically all the same stuff, though. Husky Oil deals with bitumen from their Cold Lake oil sands operation by running it through a heated pipeline to their Lloydminster heavy oil upgrader, and running both "bitumen" and "heavy oil" through the same processor. Then they blend it with other 19 other kinds of oil and condensate and sell it to the US as Western Canadian Select - a "conventional heavy oil". RockyMtnGuy (talk) 12:39, 25 May 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the detailed reply, RockyMtnGuy. Given that "oil sands" is both politically charged and imprecise, and "tar sands" is both politically-charged and scientifically-incorrect, would you agree with renaming the article to "Bitumen deposits", keeping redirects from the other terms? David (talk) 15:12, 29 May 2014 (UTC)
In this case the correct term should be "bituminous sands". However, the problem is that while bituminous sands is a more correct name (and scientific one), oil sands or tar sands are the common names per WP:COMMONNAME. More detailed discussion is archived here. Beagel (talk) 15:35, 29 May 2014 (UTC)
That is true, "oil sands" and "tar sands" are the most common names, and not many people would understand "bituminous sands". The early explorers called it "bituminous sands" because they took the odd scientist along on their expeditions to catalog what they found, and at that point in time production of coal tar had not become common. The later commentators were more familiar with the coal tar that had started to be produced in large quantities by coal gas manufacturers and steel mill coking ovens. However, the way the Canadian oil industry is developing now, the distinction between oil and bitumen is becoming more vague. Oil companies are starting to sell their production as a blend from various sources, like Western Canadian Select, which is considered a "conventional heavy oil" despite the fact it is a blend of 19 different types of bitumen, condensate, and crude oil. I haven't mentioned it in this article, but there is a new pilot project being started to upgrade bitumen to heavy oil by just reducing the viscosity, which further blurs the distinction between oil and bitumen. The process will allow it to flow through pipelines like oil, but it will still have the same density and chemical characteristics as bitumen. As I said, the demand in the US is now for crude bitumen, not synthetic crude oil. The process has been patented by some oil companies, but this is just a pre-emptive patent to keep the Patent trolls off their backs. They will license it to anybody for free or possibly a bottle of scotch.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 21:29, 29 May 2014 (UTC)
From the archived discussion, it looks like there's a lot of evidence that "Oil Sands" fails WP:NPOV. The problem is that there are two WP:COMMONNAME choices, "tar sands" and "oil sands", and that each represents a political stand in the debate. Picking either one is a huge NPOV vio. Is this a case where COMMONNAME falls apart? David (talk) 21:54, 30 May 2014 (UTC)
It's really re-flogging a twice-dead horse to go through all this again because it was discussed to death before. My objection to the use of "tar" is that it is scientifically incorrect. Bitumen is really just a dense, semisolid form of oil. Tar is a chemically different substance from oil. And, there is also the matter of national dialects. "Tar sands" is an Americanism. Europeans, Australians, and Canadians are more familiar with the term "bitumen" than Americans are.
From the European web site Eurobitume - what is bitumen? "Bitumen is an oil based substance. It is a semi-solid hydrocarbon product produced by removing the lighter fractions (such as liquid petroleum gas, petrol and diesel) from heavy crude oil during the refining process. As such, it is correctly known as refined bitumen. In North America, bitumen is commonly known as “asphalt cement” or “asphalt”."
Common misunderstandings
"Petroleum bitumen is often confused with tar. Although bitumen and coal tar are similarly black and sticky, they are distinctly different substances in origin, chemical composition and in their properties. Coal tar is produced by heating coal to extremely high temperatures and is a by-product of gas and coke production. It was widely used as the binding agent in road asphalt in the early part of the last century, but has since been replaced by refined bitumen."
"Naturally-occurring bitumen, sometimes also called natural asphalt, rock asphalt, lake asphalt or oil sand, has been used as an adhesive, sealant and waterproofing agent for over 8,000 years. But it occurs only in small quantities and its properties are quite different from refined bitumen."
The last part is true except for "occurs only in small quantities". In Canada it occurs in enormous quantities. Not so much in Europe. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 01:27, 31 May 2014 (UTC)
RockyMtnGuy — I think you might be confused about what I'm suggesting. I'm not suggesting that we rename the article to "tar sands." I think that would be as much of an NPOV vio as the heavily-marketed oil-industry term "oil sands" is. David (talk) 02:06, 31 May 2014 (UTC)
Well, the Canadian oil industry and Alberta government have always used either "bitumen" or "oil sands" because they wanted to make clear they weren't selling "tar". The oil companies were also producing real "tar" and "refined bitumen" from their oil refineries, as well as "crude bitumen" from their mines and "synthetic crude oil" from their upgraders, and they wanted to keep clear which was which. The American oil industry and American government used "tar sands" instead because they were trying to promote their "oil shales", which as I always like to point out, contain neither oil nor shale just as the "tar sands" contain no tar. Until about 10 years ago the general public used "oil sands" and "tar sands" more or less interchangeably because people were generally unfamiliar with crude bitumen. It was the environmental lobby that made the issue divisive, and that is a recent development of the last decade or so.
As an historic note, the first (unsuccessful) oil sands company was called The International Bitumen Company in 1927, and after it went bankrupt, the new owner changed the name to Oil Sands Limited in 1941. After a few more ownership and name changes it closed in 1958. The second (unsuccessful) oil sands company was called Northern Oil Sand Product in 1930, and later Abasand Oils. You can take tours of both the old plants which are now Provincial Historic Sites. The third (and first successful) company was called Great Canadian Oil Sands in 1963, and opened its first mine in 1967. It is now Suncor Energy, the biggest Canadian oil producing company. See Oil Sands Pioneers on the Alberta History web site and The Oil Sands Story (1960s, 1970s & 1980s) on the Suncor web site. I should put some of this stuff in the History section of the article because none of it is there. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 16:05, 31 May 2014 (UTC)
Oh, and I'd like to add that Canada uses the American term "asphalt" rather than the European term "bitumen" because companies don't want to baffle the public with the difference between "refined bitumen", a product used to pave roads, and "natural bitumen" or "crude bitumen", an extremely dense and viscous grade of crude oil which accounts for most of Canada's oil production these days. You can use the latter to pave roads (I've seen it done), but asphalt (aka "refined bitumen") is a better product for the job. And, as if this is not too much information, Husky Oil has a "heavy oil refinery" on the Alberta/Sask. border which takes crude bitumen and turns it into asphalt. Not a really difficult process.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 17:17, 31 May 2014 (UTC)
The term "oil sands" comes from a PR effort by Canadian companies. WP shouldn't be echoing (what some might call) propaganda. I would prefer the article be renamed "Bitumen (deposits/sands(?))", with redirects from "Oil sands" and "Tar sands". petrarchan47tc 03:00, 1 June 2014 (UTC)
Do we need a formal vote on this? It's been a long time since I've messed around with Wikipedia processes. David (talk) 01:40, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
yes we do. Such a move would inevitably be seen as a POV push, for the simple reason that it is. We've been over it ad nauseum, see the archives of this page. To override that will take a clear consensus that is quite unlikely to emerge. LeadSongDog come howl! 05:58, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
Yes, the politics behind the naming continue to get thicker. I said on the Athabasca oil sands talk page that "bituminous sands" is the most accurate description of the Athabasca sands, but it is a geologists' term that is not understood by the general public. Also, "Oil sands" is supposed to be a generic article on oil sands. "Bituminous" only applies to the Athabasca sands, and smaller deposits of natural bitumen elsewhere in Canada and around the world. The Venezuelan Orinico sands and the Canadian Cold Lake sands contain extra-heavy oil rather than bitumen. If you include the Venezuelan sands, most of the world's oil sands contain extra-heavy oil rather than bitumen. There is also the problem of national differences in language. The word "bitumen" is commonly used in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere around the world as a synonym for what North Americans call "asphalt". There would be the problem of explaining to Europeans that the Athabasca sands contain "natural bitumen", whereas the stuff everybody paves roads with is "refined bitumen" from an oil refinery. Some countries used to pave their roads with coal tar, but asphalt is a much better product for the purpose, being much less toxic, more durable, more waterproof, and much cheaper as the oil refineries produced it from the bottoms of the distillation stack, whereas coal tar was previously more common as a by-product of coal gas production before the coal gas industry was driven out of business by natural gas. The environmental lobby, however, prefers to use "tar sands" because they would like the unwashed proletarian masses to believe that it is as toxic as coal tar (a class 1 carcinogen). In reality it is about as toxic as the asphalt cities use to pave streets and individuals to pave driveways - i.e. not very hazardous. The dispute is mainly about political POV rather than the facts, so we're unlikely to come to a successful consensus. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 16:08, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
The good news is that the people in this discussion aren't trying to promote politically-charged terms; they're trying to avoid them. Both "tar sands" and "oil sands" are hopelessly tainted because they're rallying cries and marketing terms for opposite sides in a very public and contentious environmental debate; since all of us seem to want something neutral, surely we can come up with a good option. David (talk) 21:50, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
Yes, we need another formal discussion about this. That some in the past have concluded that using an oil company PR term is fine and dandy is quite irrelevant. Usually I expect to find the scientifically correct term used on WP, and redirects from the common name. For instance, Google "Prozac". petrarchan47tc 22:31, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
The scientifically correct term is "oil sands". The trouble with sources such as you have been quoting is that they do not check their facts, and they make facts up when they don't know them. I call them "usually unreliable sources". I prefer to go to the original scientific and historical sources, where you will find that the original oil sands companies used either, "bitumen" or "oil sands" in their name. They started using "oil sands" as early as 1930. The fact is that, if you do a chemical analysis on the substance in the sands, you find that it is crude oil, rather than tar. That is important because they are chemically quite different substances. The oil sands contain crude oil very high in asphaltenes, which is why it looks and acts like asphalt, which is refined from the heavy ends of crude oil. Asphalt looks and acts like tar, but is chemically quite different, and coal tar in particular is toxic and an environmental hazard. It has its uses, but they do not include making gasoline. The trouble with sources such as the ones you cite don't know this, so they say, "looks like tar, must be tar." That's not very scientific. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 01:53, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
Also, I see that Wikpedia editors have recently merged the bitumen and asphalt articles, which further complicates the issue. If you click on bitumen, it redirects you to asphalt. It points out that the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles really contain natural asphalt/bitumen rather than tar, which is true. It is a very big natural asphalt/bitumen seep. The reality is that crude oil comes in a number of grades: light oil, medium oil, heavy oil, extra-heavy oil, and semi-solid oil (a.k.a. natural asphalt/bitumen). The vast Canadian and Venezuelan oil sands contain either extra-heavy oil or semi-solid oil, or both. They are also both associated with nearby very large deposits of conventional heavy oil. This is probably news to most Americans and Europeans, but I think we need to clarify it in the article. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 17:28, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
I don't accept the argument that "oil sands" is a neutral, scientific term derived by independent scientists. To keep this whole topic so muddled that "oil" is all anyone can come up with seems by design. And ridiculous. There must be an encyclopedic term for the subject of this article. And "oil" sands is not it. petrarchan47tc 01:44, 5 June 2014 (UTC)
We're also up against the limitations of CommonName. Are you thinking of coining a new term, or of content forking the article? As far as I've seen, nobody is suggesting that heavy oil or extra heavy oil should be called either tar or bitumen. Unconventional oil is even less specific, taking in everything from shale oil to deep drilling to GTL. I'm not aware of another viable naming option for the present article scope.LeadSongDog come howl! 20:48, 5 June 2014 (UTC)
From the article: "Oil sands, tar sands or, more technically, bituminous sands" - more technically should be the default position in this case, and frankly, technical terminology seems more encyclopedic in any case. As for common name, there is ample evidence in RS that the increase in the use of "oil sands" over the more historic term "tar sands" was by design. The press in Cananda was told to switch to using the former. But historically, both were interchangeable with "bituminous sands". There is a lot in media about this controversy, and it is no secret that this name change is a prime example of 'green washing'. We should immediately switch to the most neutral term so as not to take part in a PR campaign by either side. The POV-terms are also innacurate - it is neither oil nor tar, but rather sand wrapped with bitumen and sometimes water. petrarchan47tc 09:42, 6 June 2014 (UTC)
As far as I can tell, "oil sands" is the official term in Canada. I did a little digging back in history, and found that companies were objecting to the term "tar sands" as early as 1910, and the Canadian federal and provincial governments accepted "oil sands" as the official term a decade or two later. So much for the "before 1960 everybody called it tar sands" theory. "Tar sands" is mostly an Americanism, accepted as a popular colloquialism to humour (humor) the Yanks, whereas "bituminous sands" is more of a Britishism and Canada was a British colony until... I don't know, pick a date. We didn't revolt we just kind of wandered away. Since this is basically a Canada-related article I think we should go with the official Canadian government recognized term, "oil sands". I can't speak for the Venezuelans since I don't speak Spanish, but I imagine they would be in favour (favor) of "oil sands", too.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 06:09, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

And, I'd like to point out that if I wasn't bogged down in this fruitless debate, I could be looking up more citations for the article instead.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 06:19, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

It seems clear from all of the sources I'm finding, including the first sentence in this article - it's "bituminous sands".
  • pdf The term tar sands, also known as oil sands (in Canada), or bituminous sands, commonly describes sandstones or friable sand (quartz) impregnated with a viscous, extra-heavy crude oil known as bitumen (a hydrocarbon soluble in carbon disulfide). Significant amounts of fine material, usually largely or completely clay, are also present. The degree of porosity varies from deposit to deposit and is an important characteristic in terms of recovery processes. The bitumen makes up the desirable fraction of the tar sands from which liquid fuels can be derived. However, the bitumen is usually not recoverable by conventional petroleum production techniques (Oblad et al. 1987; Meyer 1995; Speight 1997)
  • pdf "Bituminous sands" appears to be used interchangeably or as a substitute for "tar sands" in various reports in the early 20th Century and occasionally more recently than this up to the modern day. "Oil sands" is an older term that was first applied to Pennsylvania crude (Ashburner, C.A., 1878, The oil sands of Pennsylvania) which is a very low-sulfur, low-viscosity crude oil.
Less technical terms have become POV-laden and should really not be used. petrarchan47tc 10:06, 6 June 2014 (UTC)
The first document you reference is a US government site about US Oil Shale and Tar Sands, both of them misnomers, so they use "tar sands" mostly. They treat "oil sands" as a synonym, and if you read it carefully, you will find they refer to both the "Athabasca tar sands" and "Athabasca oil sands", but never "Athabasca bituminous sands" although they do say that "bituminous sands" is a synonym, too. The US has tar/oil sands of its own, and they are trying to promote them. The only company interested at the moment is U.S. Oil Sands Inc., which happens to be a Canadian company. The Utah tar/oil sands they are trying to develop are much more problematic than the Canadian oil/tar sands, and the open-pit mine they are developing is on a mountaintop overlooking a lush green valley in semi-arid Utah. Good luck with that once the environmentalists find out about it. The US federal government can't stop it because it is on Utah state lands. If you read an article about it in a Canadian newspaper or magazine, e.g. Calgary-based company plans first U.S. oil sands project not only do they translate American spelling such as "color" and "sulfur" into Canadian "colour" and "sulphur", but they also translate American "tar sands" into Canadian "oil sands" for consistency's sake.
The second document is a somewhat superficial study of the occurrence of the three phrases. It misses the fact that Canadian companies started to object to the name "tar sands" as early as 1910 and used ether "bitumen" or "oil sands" in their names starting in the 1920's. Canadian governments signed on to the "oil sands" name as being official a decade or two later. The US government used "tar sands", the Canadian government used "oil sands", and both governments used both terms interchangeably until recently. The major change came a decade or two ago when some of the environmental groups turned it into a political issue about the toxic "tar sands", following which Canadian governments and companies hardened their position and insisted it was the nontoxic "oil sands". The press also picked sides, with the larger mainstream papers calling it "oil sands" and the leftist publications calling it "tar sands". Nobody called it "bituminous sands". The third document is from a paper trying to find the nonexistent middle ground between "tar sands" and "oil sands" by picking "bituminous sands", which few people use any more and which is not completely correct, either.
The reference to "oil sands" in Pennsylvania is geologist shorthand for "crude oil trapped in a sandstone reservoir", which is what they mostly were in Pennsylvania and later Texas. Most Canadian conventional oil is trapped in limestone or dolomite, so it is somewhat disconcerting to hear an American geologist call them "sands", which they sometimes do. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 18:47, 6 June 2014 (UTC)
The solution to being "too political" isn't to default to one political term (the oil industry's) over another (the environmental movement's); it's to choose a non-political term. David (talk) 12:03, 7 June 2014 (UTC)
Nothing complicated about it. Now to start an RfC, or what type of process is required? Perhaps Sunray has an idea. petrarchan47tc 23:14, 7 June 2014 (UTC)
wp:RFC is self-explanatory. Just be clear what the question is, as I intimated above.LeadSongDog come howl! 04:34, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
Since my name was mentioned, I may as well speak up. I am tired of this debate. As I believe I have said before on this page, it is usually better to call something what it is. Calling the bitumen deposits of the Athabasca Region "oil" is without a doubt a classic case of spin. Nevertheless, it has been a most successful PR campaign. Two things strike me when I think of initiating an RfC: 1) The fossil fuel interests will fight hard to keep the name oil sands, and 2) a Google search of the terms "tar sands" and "oil sands" will show the latter to be far more often used. What is wrong with our lead sentence? "Oil sands, tar sands or, more technically, bituminous sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit." Seems to me to be pretty inclusive. The lead goes on to describe bitumen as a "dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum... referred to as bitumen or colloquially tar..." Not bad, I say. Let's look at the possible result of an RfC: Either: 1) the lead sentence stays as is, or 2) the terms tar sands and oil sands get reversed in order with the latter appearing first. Until a lot more folks wake up to the smoke (literally) being blown by the oil patch, we may as well accept the euphemism oil sands. Sunray (talk) 05:38, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
Clarification: this article IS NOT about Athabasca Oil Sands. Beagel (talk) 07:47, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
I'm very tired of this debate, too, but Sunray is correct, "...dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum... referred to as bitumen or colloquially tar..." pretty much defines it. Since this is a generic article on "oil sands", rather than "Athabasca oil sands" or "Canadian oil sands", I would have to change that to "...extra-heavy oil, bitumen, or colloquially tar..." The Venezuelan government has the largest oil reserves in the world in the Orinoco oil sands, but they call it "extra-heavy oil" which is technically correct since it is not bitumen but is heavier than "heavy oil". Canada probably produces more "extra-heavy oil" than Venezuela does, but there is no such category in Canada. If someone finds extra-heavy oil in a designated "oil sands" area, the governments deem it to be "bitumen", and if they find it outside they deem it to be "heavy oil". It's completely arbitrary. Husky Energy produces "bitumen" in the Cold Lake oil sands, but then ships it to Lloydminster via a heated pipeline and feeds into its Lloydminster heavy oil upgrader. Is there any difference between Cold Lake bitumen and Lloydminster heavy oil? Not really, a chemical analysis on both is about the same. It's just that the Cold Lake oil is colder and the Lloydminster oil is hotter. It goes through the same upgrader and then is blended with about 17 other different kinds of oil to make the benchmark crude oil Western Canadian Select (WCS), which is deemed by Canadian and American authorities to be a "conventional heavy oil". Unconventional is the new conventional in the Canadian oil industry. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 16:15, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
It is a stain on Wikipedia, and completely embarrassing that this site is being used as a free ad space for Big Oil Canada. In the US, it is still referred to as tar sands. Why should Canada determine the wording for all English-speaking WP readers? We have ample evidence in RS that this name change was non-organic and is Canada-specific. I guess we're at the point of acknowledging that Wikipedia content is determined by those who simply wear everyone else down, not by those who fight to present unbiased facts. petrarchan47tc 06:02, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
Tinfoil hat conspiracy theories notwithstanding, the research I did into historical sources indicates that Canadian companies started objecting to the phrase "tar sands" as early as 1910 because coal tar is decidedly more toxic than natural bitumen, and Canadian governments began changing their nomenclature a few years later. The US continues to use "tar sands", but they don't produce any, despite having fairly large deposits of it, so their industry has no reason to object. If it was a major industry, trust me, they would object because it is chemically inaccurate. The organic hydrocarbons in the sands are not tar. Tar is a man-made substance. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 22:52, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
No one here is arguing that we change the name to Tar Sands. petrarchan47tc 23:44, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
Tar, or asphalt, can be man-made or can be produced by natural processes—as in the case of the LaBrae Tar Pits or the Athabasca bitumen deposits. Sunray (talk) 05:04, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
You might want to actually read the article and sources for La brea tar pits. The material there is not tar! but asphalt (the USEng spelling of bitumen). Compare coal tar or pine tar. The similarities are quite superficial. To understand why Canadian governments and public need to make the distinction consider the real stuff, at the Sydney tar ponds. LeadSongDog come howl! 14:49, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
As various WP articles indicate, asphalt, bitumen, pitch and tar are all synonyms. Tar tends to be a more colloquial usage, but each term refers to a "sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum" produced by either natural and manmade processes. Sunray (talk) 18:15, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
You've been around long enough to know that we don't treat WP as a reliable source. Or a wp article written in Canadian English to endorse the conflation of tar with bitumen would require very high quality sourcing per wp:REDFLAG. LeadSongDog come howl! 21:59, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
"A Boolean search of the ISI database yielded some structure of evolution in frequency, but not context, in which "tar sands" versus "oil sands" appears in the technical literature. Working backward from the present to the opening of the Suncor plant, the following trend appears: no fewer than 30 science research and review articles (not policy articles) occur in which the western Canadian petroleum reserves were referred to as "tar sands", exclusive of the term "oil sands", between 2009 and 2013. A search for the term "oil sands" in the same context yielded about 3 times as many citations over the same 3-year period. Over the period ranging from 2000-2008, "oil sands" is used about 10 times more than "tar sands" in scientific articles. For the decade 1990-2000, "oil sands" was used about 5 times more frequently, and for the decade 1980-1990, "oil sands" was used 3 times more frequently than "tar sands". Prior to 1980, references to either terms are rare. The bibliometric analysis of this trend shows that:
  • 1. The term "tar sands", though in the minority compared with "oil sands", is rebounding in use compared to "oil sands" over the past 3 year period to ratios used in the first decade when both terms began to appear in the peer-reviewed scientific literature in reference to the western Canadian reserves.
  • 2. Both terms appear in articles that would seem to target extraction industry readership versus those that target environmental readership. Neither term seems to be the particular domain of either readership tar gets, at least among scientific journals.
  • 3. Editors of individual journals of record may differ (and some dogmatically so) about what is 'proper', but clearly both are still in use, both are accepted in the literature writ large, and both are perfectly acceptable scientific terms."
From A Brief Etymology of 'Tar Sands' v. 'Oil Sands' Terminology by Eben Rose (please do read the entire PDF): petrarchan47tc 23:44, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
I had already read that PDF from end to end. The takeaway message I got from it was, "Over the period ranging from 2000-2008, "oil sands" is used about 10 times more than "tar sands" in scientific articles." It just confirmed my impression that "oil sands" is the most commonly used term in the scientific literature. The rest is just tap-dancing around the issue. We can only have one official name on Wikipedia, but the rest can have redirects to it. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 03:54, 10 June 2014 (UTC)
Agreed, the usage is clear: Oil sands is much more commonly used. I must say, though, the Wikipedia articles on the subject do a fairly good job of providing definitions for a contested subject. Sunray (talk) 15:28, 10 June 2014 (UTC)
My argument was never that "oil sands" is not currently the most commonly used term. It's that WP shouldn't be using it in this case for a variety of aformentioned reasons. That Canadian journalists were told to switch to that term is not a "conspiracy theory". It came up several times in the research I did. But so far every source and comment I've added to this conversation has been batted to the floor like a fly. So I'm not going to go digging up any more refs, and I'm not giving this any more of my energy. petrarchan47tc 23:33, 12 June 2014 (UTC)
It was in the mid-1990s that the oil industry made a concerted effort to rebrand them as the "oil sands", so it's not surprising that in the 2000s, the scientific literature (much of which is funded by the oil industry or the sympathetic Alberta & Canadian governments) has switched predominantly to the industry's preferred term. David (talk) 18:06, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
Beagel (talk) 21:11, 14 June 2014 (UTC)
"The tar sands, or more properly the oil sands, of the McMurray area constitute probably the largest potential oil field in the world, and it has been the dream of many oil technologists to find an efficient and economic process of separating the oil from the sand in such a condition that it will be readily processed in a modern refinery into gasoline, Diesel and fuel oil, and road oils."
L. C. Drummond, Secretary-Manager of the Alberta and North-West Chamber of Mines,
Published in The Pre-Cambrian , December 1939
It's 75 years later, but now we have efficient and economic ways of extracting the oil from the sands and turning it into gasoline and diesel fuel. I think the promoters of the phrase "tar sands" are just trying to deny that technological advance ever happened. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 14:25, 15 June 2014 (UTC)
Have you ever heard of Monsato's "Roundup"? What about the anti depressant "Prozac"? If the common name rule is so immutable, why do we not have a WP page for these? Because unlike the common "oil sands" term, these common names come with baggage. So supposedly-independent editors fought tooth and nail to keep Roundup under "Glyohosate", and Prozac under "Fluoxitine". Besides the fact that the common name rule is flexible and dependent upon where the big money rests (rather than anything encyclopedic, neutral, or just plain fair), we have the "IGNOREALLTHERULES" rule for cases such as this. It is a proven fact that the common name in the case of "oil sands", though delightfully clean and baggage-free, came about in a corrupt fashion. If Monsanto and Prozac can ignore the rules in favor of an unrecognizable term, we can certainly use some common sense and forgo the common name in this instance. In the US, there is "oil shale", which further confounds this mess, and it turns out that bitumen is legally NOT oil in the States, and transporters are therefore not required to contribute to the oil spill cleanup fund. petrarchan47tc 21:45, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
Do you actually read these articles before you invent tinfoil-hat theories about the naming of them? If you did, you would find that Roundup (proper noun, capitalized) is Monsanto's trade-marked name for glyphosate (common noun, uncapitalized); while Prozac (proper noun, capitalized) is Eli Lilly's trade-marked name for fluoxetine (common noun, uncapitalized). Monsanto and Eli Lilly own their respective trade-mark names, but since Monsanto's patents expired in 2000, anybody can make glyphosate as long as they don't call it Roundup, and since Eli Lilly's patents expired in 2001, anybody can make and sell fluoxetine as long as they don't call it Prozac. If you misuse their trade names in articles, Monsanto and Eli Lilly's lawyers will be in touch with you because they don't want to lose their trademarks the way Bayer saw their trade-name "Aspirin" turn into the common noun "aspirin" in the US. That legal ruling didn't apply in Canada, so you will see the drug marketed as "aspirin" in the US, but as "acetylsalicylic acid" in Canada. Other than that, your preconceptions about the chemistry of Roundup and Prozac are unfounded, too. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 13:46, 15 June 2014 (UTC)
Petrarchan47 is correct that Prozac and Roundup are the common names. WP uses the chemically correct names because WP cannot afford a legal fight with Eli Lilly and/or Monsanto - but if one asked the average person what Prozac or Roundup was, one is far more likely to get a correct answer than if they were asked what fluoxetine or glyphosate was.
Petrarchan47 is also correct in that those names come with baggage - as do the names oil sands and tar sands. Although oil sands is more scientifically correct, it doesn't come with the baggage that comes with tar sands - and that baggage more readily describes to many people (like those unfamiliar with the details of producing a refinable crude) what is necessary to obtain a refinable crude.
Oil sands also better describes the Venezuelan deposits - but development in the Venezuelan oil sands is a fraction of that in Canada's ("Oilsands are found in several places around the world. Canada and Venezuela have the largest of these petroleum deposits, and Alberta’s oilsands are the most developed." http://www.pembina.org/oil-sands/os101) "...the vast Orinoco bitumen deposits have seen only a portion of the development as Canada's tar sands have." http://www.tarsandsworld.com/venezuela — Preceding unsigned comment added by Marcerickson (talkcontribs) 18:12, 23 November 2015 (UTC)
Also, comments like "Do you actually read these articles before you invent tinfoil-hat theories..." are personal attacks on editors and are not allowed under Wikipedia's Terms Of Use.Marcerickson (talk) 18:15, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── There is a discussion related to use of this term at BP's article. Beagel (talk) 16:21, 16 July 2014 (UTC)

That was a very interesting discussion on the BP article talk page, and I learned a lot. Among other things, I learned that in 2008 the Rockefeller Brothers Fund put together a $7 million dollar per year campaign, the Tar Sands Campaign, to
  1. Stop/Limit Pipelines and Refinery Expansions
  2. Force Tar Sands Water, Toxics, and Land Reforms
  3. Significantly Reduce Future Demand for Tar Sands Oil
  4. Leverage the Tar Sands Debate for Policy Victories in the US and Canada
  5. Generate Unity Around the Fuels Endgame and Sell it to Decision-Makers
As a part of this initiative, the Rockefeller Brothers (RBF) involved a number of other organizations:
  1. The Pembina Institute, an energy/environment think-tank
  2. The Tides Foundation
  3. The National Resources Defense Council
  4. Corporate Ethics International
  5. The Sierra Club
  6. Greenpeace
And guess what, all these "charities" are being audited by the Canada Revenue Agency for political activities. They are complaining that this is politically motivated, but the main point from the CRA's perspective is that under Canadian tax law, charitable organizations are not allowed to engage in political activities, of which "stop the tar sands" would be an example - neither in Canada nor in the US. If they're going to do this kind of thing, they shouldn't put the details on the Internet because it will bring the tax auditors down on them like a pack of wolves. If you've ever experienced a tax audit, you will know what I mean. Charities can't "force reforms" or "sell" things to "decision makers" and be a charity at the same time. Greenpeace has already lost its "charitable" status due to illegal political activities and their lawsuits over it have failed in court. Tax rules are rather hard to dodge as Al Capone found out. Also, if it's illegal under Canadian law, it's illegal under US law, and the CRA and IRS share information, so the RBF and the Tides Fund can expect a visit from the IRS auditors sometime in the future.
From my perspective, the interesting thing is that John D Rockefeller founded both Standard Oil and Chase Bank. And his descendants no doubt still own billions of dollars in shares in ExxonMobil (a merger of Standard Oil of New Jersey and Standard Oil of New York) and Chase Manhattan Bank. The organisations that RBF funds have been trying to stop the evil Canadian oil companies and banks from building pipelines and tanker terminals while ignoring ExxonMobile's much more extensive pipeline system and tanker fleet, and the contribution of their bank to the "world financial crisis" that somehow didn't involve Canada very much. On the Wikipedia BP article, I noted that RBF sent aboriginal Canadians (who lived nowhere near the oil sands) to London to complain that BP, Shell, and the Royal Bank of Scotland were destroying their lifestyle by funding the "tar sands", but didn't mention that BP, Shell, and RBS are direct competitors of ExxonMobil and Chase Manhattan Bank which the Rockefellers own large pieces of. Just so you know that the fix is in.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 16:06, 5 August 2014 (UTC)

I want to question the reasoning behind Wiki’s edit change to the word 'Oil' in substituting for the word 'Tar' that I discovered in a search made using the colloquial ‘Tar Sands’ that now redirects to it’s new main-title “Oil sands.” [Tar] Sands processing has up to a 20% higher Greenhouse Gas impact than Crude [Oil] processing. Using the word “Oil” might be considered an attempt to soften public perceptions. (i.e. the use of the term, “Clean Coal Technology.”) Understandably, Industries who want to market product typically want to make what they sell sound more appealing. I can see why the Fuel producing Industries don’t like the word “Tar” associated with their product; being that it is associated with a 20% more ‘unclean’ than Crude-Oil, greenhouse-gas producing processing method. I am also disappointed by the placement of a quote from Fatih Birol, the chief "economist" for the "International Energy Agency" (I.E.A 69.137.71.90 (talk) 17:39, 6 February 2015 (UTC) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_sands#Greenhouse_gas_emissions ...in which quote he is spouting his own statistics that are unverified by any 'cited' scientific studies. Dr. Birol is a Dr. of Economics and not an Ecology Scientist. To quote the last sentence in that edit-portion: "Dr. Birol acknowledged that there is tremendous difference of opinion on the course of action regarding climate change, but added, “I hope all these reactions are based on scientific facts and sound analysis." I believe that his quoted reactions and opinions (which are unverified by any 'cited' Scientific studies) are biased by his association to the Tar Sands Processing Industry. As a 'Economic' representative for the International Energy Agency (I.E.A.) he is referring to Tar Sands production from an 'economic/profitability' aspect and not concerning facts about how Tar Sands processing has an impact on Global Climate Change which has citable 'Scientific Community' support. Tar Sands processing has a negative impact on Global Climate Change. A Heading should be created perhaps: "Economic Profitability Impact and Considerations" for that sort of content. Also in regards to the Dr. Birol article; Citing the 'article of origin' after quoting from that very article is really no different than saying: "yeah, I'm saying this and it's TRUE because somebody posted what I had said "here" 69.137.71.90 (talk) 17:39, 6 February 2015 (UTC)in a Facebook post comment the other day. Show me the Beef!§State of Perplexity.

Ref for history, nomenclature, etc[edit]

Have a look at Bitumen and Petroleum in Antiquity from the Brill Archive. It looks like a useful source for these sections. LeadSongDog come howl! 21:32, 26 May 2015 (UTC)

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Oil from expensive oil extraction: never to be used[edit]

According to Robert Litterman (Kepos Capital), the expensive oil dug from oil sands, undersea deposits, ... will never be used, due to the fact that only 1/3 of all fossil fuels can actually be mined any more, due to the 2°C limit. As such, only 1/3 of those deposits is still financially of value, and the rest will have no value any more. Things are hence becoming a race to mine everything, at the lowest cost, and expensive oil extraction methods will hence fall out of the boat.

Seems important to add this info to the article, so please do.

That's just his opinion, rather than fact. Litterman is a former New York investment banker at Goldman Sachs and a member of the board of the World Wildlife Fund so his opinion may be somewhat skewed. He is now promoting shorting coal companies, which may or may not be a good investment strategy. In my experience New York investment bankers and the WWF know little or nothing about oil so I try to avoid their advice on the subject.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 21:15, 9 December 2015 (UTC)
I agree and also think that citing such articles is prohibited crystal ball gazing. Governments might decline to implement 2°C limits or changes in technology & energy prices could result in effective use of remaining deposits. No one really knows.--Rpclod (talk) 14:33, 10 December 2015 (UTC)
I think it's valid to include the best information available about what the likely consequences for hydrocarbon extraction would be if measures to limit global warming to 2°C were implemented. Probably the best academic research now available on this subject (published in one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed academic journals) is already cited and summarized in the last two paragraphs of Oil sands#Production forecasts. Layzeeboi (talk) 17:14, 10 December 2015 (UTC)
If you want the best information available, here's a document published by the Canadian government: Oil Sands GHG Emissions. Bottom line: Canada accounts for about 2% of global GHG emissions, and oil sands account for 7.8% of Canada's emissions, or less than 0.1% of global GHG emissions. As in other countries, burning coal - mostly to generate electric power - accounts for most of Canada's GHG emissions and much more than the oil sands. Globally, China, the US, and India are prodigious coal-burners and account for over half of global GHG emissions. That's the biggest source of GHG, and what Litterman is talking about. From the Canadian perspective it is more effective to meet its GHG targets by shutting down its coal-burning power plants and steel mills, and converting them to wind, hydro and nuclear power than to shut down the oil sands - especially from a government revenue standpoint. Canada accounts for over 40% of US oil imports these days and it is a huge source of export and tax revenue. Canada has lots of alternatives to coal but the world has few alternatives to oil. Just a reality check based on the data.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 20:55, 11 December 2015 (UTC)

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