Talk:Oil sands/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2

API

OK, I'm looking more, and I see that "API" ratings (a measure of density?) are important in the distinction between oil sands and heavy oil. The Athabasca area is oil sand (BTW, this seems to be the term used in industry), with API of about 8 degrees. Heavy oil, such as the Lloydminster deposit in Alberta & Saskatchewan or the Orinoco river deposit in Venezuela have an API > 10 degrees.

Can someone confirm this and update the main page?

Also, many articles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orinoco_tar_sands and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athabasca_Tar_Sands clearly state Venezuela's Oil sands are bigger than Canada's (and one of them even says 1.8 trillion) why putting 1.5 trillion as Venezuela's reserves in this article?, we need consistency people, and the sources cited clearly state 1.8 trillion for Venezuela.DamianFinol 04:04, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Addendum, another link: http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/060529/venezuela_gilded_tar.html?.v=1 and http://zfacts.com/p/218.html quoting the last one: "Canada's northern forest contains at least 174 billion barrels of recoverable heavy oil, equivalent to five years' supply for the planet... Venezuela has perhaps even more in the Orinoco River delta. By comparison, Saudi Arabia has about 260 billion barrels of more traditional crude, or 8.5 years."DamianFinol 04:10, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Canada's Oil Sands Resource and Its Future Impact on Global Oil Supply notes that there are two components to classifying oil, American Petrolium Institute (API) specific gravity, measured in degrees (see: this API gravity chart), and viscosity, measured in centiPoise (water = 1 cPo). There are several grades of heavy oil. The paper mentioned above gives the following ranges:
Medium Heavy Oil - 10 to 100 cPo, API gravity 18 to 25 degrees
Extra Heavy Oil - 100 to 10,000 cPo, API gravity 7 to 20 degrees
Tar sands & bitumen - greater than 10,000 cPo, API gravity less than 12 degrees
Note that those numbers overlap and don't quite match with the numbers on the API gravity chart in the second link. That's because the oil industry is rife with things that aren't strict standards; rather, they are treated as guidelines that different organizations and companies set and interpret differently. The relationship between API gravity, viscosity, and grade of oil is one of those things.
The oil from the Athabasca oil sands is not uniform. You can't really say that it has any one API gravity. Typically, it hovers about 8 to 10 degrees, but it occasionally gets as high as 14 degrees.
API gravity is an inverted density scale: API gravity = (141.5/SG) - 131.5 where SG = specific gravity relative to water at 60 Fahrenheit. (141.5 was chosen as a result of bad chemistry, it should have been 140 but by the time they realized they had goofed, too many people were using it so the American Petroleum Institute made it a standard). Anyhow, the Canadian industry doesn't use it, it uses density in kilograms per cubic metre. The difference between bitumen and heavy oil depends on whether the oil will flow into an oil well under reservoir conditions, and that depends a variety of things, including temperature. What is bitumen in Canada is extra-heavy oil in Venezuela. RockyMtnGuy 05:25, 17 April 2006 (UTC)
Alternate ref from US Geological Survey at [1] makes the terminology clear. If it's denser than water at 60 degrees F then they call it bitumen. Any lighter they call it oil. To whit:

Natural bitumen accumulations in the United States are generally known as “tar sands,” a generic term that has been used for several decades to describe petroleum-bearing rocks exposed on the Earth’s surface (fig. 1). Other terms for such accumulations include oil sand, oil-impregnated sand, asphaltic sand, rock asphalt, bituminous rock, and bitumen-bearing rock. Natural bitumen is defined as petroleum with a gas-free viscosity greater than 10,000 centipoises (cp) at original reservoir temperature (fig. 2). Petroleum with a gas-free viscosity between 10,000 and 100 cp is generally termed heavy crude oil. In the absence of viscosity data, oil with API gravity less than 10 degrees is generally considered a natural bitumen (Danyluk and others, 1984), whereas oil with API gravity ranging from 10 degrees API to about 20 degrees API is considered heavy crude oil. The term “extra-heavy crude oil” is used for oil with a viscosity less than 10,000 cp but with API gravity less than 10 degrees.

LeadSongDog 05:49, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
The USGS is not the definitive expert on oil sands, they just repeat what they hear. "Tar sands" is not a generic term, it is more of a colloquial term used by non-experts since the material looks like tar. Chemically speaking, "tar" is a misnomer, since tar is a man-made substance produced by the destructive distillation of organic material such as wood or coal. Oil sands contain an extremely heavy form of oil, not tar. The big global reserves are in Canada and Venezuela. Canadians call it "crude bitumen" and the Canadian definition of crude bitumen is "A naturally occurring viscous mixture, mainly of hydrocarbons heavier than pentane, that in its naturally occurring viscous state is not recoverable at a commercial rate through a well". That is the key determiner - whether it will flow into an oil well or not without heating. If it will flow, it is oil, if not, it is bitumen. In Venezuela, the oil is a little less viscous (and the ground temperature is a lot warmer) so the substance will flow into a well, and they call it "extra-heavy oil". The difference, once you throw some exotic technology at it, is academic. If you really want to make it flow, you can. RockyMtnGuy 04:58, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
The USGS cite was the best I could find in online sources. Please add your cites. There's a page for Tar (disambiguation). Viscosity isn't the only issue, density matters too. With water injected to the well, bitumen will be below the water, while oil will be above it. Even if you can dissolve or heat the bitumen you still need to get it out. LeadSongDog 12:46, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
There are better sources out there, somewhere. I will try to find on-line references. The article on Tar is accurate: "Tar is a viscous black liquid derived from the destructive distillation of organic matter" is correct, as is "Tar sand deposits contain various mixtures of sand (or rock) with bitumen or heavy crude oil rather than tar". Water and bitumen have approximately the same density. If you inject water into a bitumen well, you will end up with an oil/water emulsion which will not separate by gravity alone. It can be done with heat and chemicals, but it will be neither cheap nor quick. RockyMtnGuy 01:29, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
I just reviewed that reference again. The USGS definitely should have used the term colloquial rather than than generic, since it's just a loose usage of the language (much like the USGS use of the word generic). Heavy oil, extra heavy oil, and bitumen can all have the same density (e.g. 1000 kg/m3 = API 10). If so, differentiating them depends on the viscosity. Regardless of what you call them, if their density is the same as water they will form an emulsion with water rather than stratifying. As far as getting them out - progressive cavitation pumps seem to do the trick. RockyMtnGuy 04:30, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
Man, I love this little tidbit about API gravity. It would be great if you could work it somewhere into the 'pedia (if it isn't there already!) SaulPerdomo 04:04, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
I've suggested creation of a new bbl to tonne converter template at Category_talk:Conversion_templates#Req_for_converter_bbl_.28oil.29_to_tonne_.28oil.29

Can somebody error check/elaborate on my post please? Thanks LeadSongDog 22:22, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

billion/trillion

I think the term trillion needs to be clarified. Some confusion about what is meant might arise for in Britain we would talk about a trillion as being 1x10^18. However, this number seems to me quite large. The trillion that is persumably meant is in fact 1x10^12 which would be one billion in Britain. However, the EIA talks about a billion as 1x10^9. I am not a mathematician, so maybe I am wrong, but I still think it needs clarification.

Further, I am wondering where these numbers come from. A reference might be helpful. Also, one might want to clarify the terms reserve and deposit somehow. For reserves descibes how much oil is known to be producible, within a known time, with known techniques, at known costs and in known fields. However, as far as I interpret the article, it talks about resources: Oil theoretically present in an area. In my opinion, these terms ought to be clarified as well since it leads to significant differences in numbers and to further confusion.

Yes, I heard Brits are strange. ;-) I think a thousand million to mean a US billion and a million million for a US trillion is the way to go? I think there is a wikipedia article somewhere on experssions that are different between US and british in english. Using mathematical notation exclusively also works. I do not know where the figures come from exactly, but I recall reading similiar numbers in articles linked off of the Athabasca Tar Sands article, though those may be oil company PR numbers. Zen Master 03:07, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Well, I did a little bit of research, and found some sources for these numbers. I will add them later on along with a clarification of the reserve/resource/deposit thing. Actually, the math thing is clear since it is also given in km². However, one might want to add a little (10^9) anyway.

Just my two cents: Standard number names go ten, hundred, thousand, million and then it diverges: Europe (including England sometimes) milliard (thousand million), biljon(Miljon miljons) biljard (thousand biljon), triljon (miljon biljons). USA (and other parts of the world including England sometimes); biljon (thousand miljons), triljon (thousand biljons). THUS! Never use biljon or triljon in text since meaning is subject to interpretation) Please someone correct my hasty spelling.Seniorsag 16:44, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

See: Billion Kevlar67 04:39, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

Question

Arent these huge Tar sand mines a giant fire risk? What prevents the whole thing going up in one giant hellish inferno at the slightest spark??--Deglr6328 02:45, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

Tar sand is basically sticky mud. There is too little bitumen in the sand to make it flammable. In fact I'm not even sure if pure bitumen is flammable. Not before being refined. TastyCakes 19:25, 2 August 2005 (UTC)

Bitumen is flammable but the flash point (temperature and pressure at which it self ignites) is "very high". Very large Diesel-type like combustion engines, such as those which are sometimes used in large ships can be operated with a type of fuel which is basically solid at room temperature.

Coal is an example of this.

Article name

Is "tar sands" the best name for this article? I had only heard the term "oil sands" before, and according to Google, there are approximately 5 times more links for "oil sands." JeremyBicha 23:38, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

They were only called "Tar Sands". You can thank spin doctors for the invention of the less accurate, recent term "Oil Sands". If you found five times as many links for oil sands that shows that the spin doctors are succeeding. Personally, I think the wikipedia should stick with the more accurate term. Tar Sands contain a very heavy form of petroleum, so "tar" is a more accurate term. It is also a very dirty form of petroleum to extract and refine. Unlike other fossil fuels extracting and refining tar sands leaves large quantities of toxic tailings. I regard this as another reason to use the term tar, which implies mess. -- Geo Swan 02:22, 21 January 2006 (UTC)
I don't see it as spin--just a change in emphasis. Oil is the resource being extracted, not tar. Advances in technology have made the sands a feasible source of oil; previously they were just a curiousity.
—wwoods 18:29, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
Your note shows the success of the spin doctors. Although there may have been some minor advances in technology in tar sands extraction technology the new excitement about the resource is not due to technological advance at all. The new attention being paid to tar sands, and oil shale is due, almost entirely, to the increase in the market price for a barrel of oil. When the market price for a barrel of oil spiked it made the recovery of once marginal petroleum resources economically viable. The same holds true for oil shale, and for previously abandoned oil fields, that were economically uvialble at the lower price, and are now economically viable at the higher price. -- Geo Swan 19:28, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
That's sort-of right and sort-of wrong. The advances in technology may have been "minor", but they pushed oil-sand oil over a tipping point, because they were sufficient to reduce the production costs below the market price. And that was back in the early 2000s, when US$35/bbl seemed absurdly far-fetched.
—wwoods 23:27, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
A sidebar from the DOE's International Energy Outlook 2003, May 2003 (DOE/IEA-0484(2003)):
And the Country with the Second Greatest Proved Oil Reserves Worldwide Is . . .

Six months ago, “Iraq” was the correct completion of the above phrase. Its 112.5 billion barrels of proved oil reserves was second only to Saudi Arabia’s imposing 259.3 billion barrels. However, in the December 23, 2002, issue of the Oil & Gas Journal, proved oil reserves in Canada catapulted from an estimated 4.9 billion barrels in 2002 to an amazing 180 billion barrels in 2003. How was this possible? A methodology change by the Oil & Gas Journal now includes western Canada’s oil sands in its definition of proved oil reserves. Heretofore, oil sands were considered “nonconventional” and were not counted as proved oil reserves; however, dramatic reductions in development and production costs have brought oil sands into the realm of economic viability. With today’s technologies and oil prices, it is entirely appropriate to consider western Canada’s vast oil potential as being commensurate with “conventional” crude oils.[a]

How much is there? It is estimated that there are about 1.7 trillion barrels of oil in the oil sands of Canada, and that about 15 percent (255 billion barrels) of the total oil in place is recoverable. Canada accounts for about 75 percent of the world’s oil sand resources. Other countries and regions that have significant, but more modest, resources include the United States, China, the EE/FSU, the Caribbean Basin, and Pakistan. About 700 thousand barrels per day of Canadian oil sands are currently being produced. This supply is divided into two categories, “oil sands in situ” (often referred to as bitumen) and “oil sands mining.” These two categories reflect the method of recovery. The bitumen is extracted by injecting very hot steam into the rock formation to heat up the oil, lower its viscosity, and allow it to flow more like conventional oil. Slightly more than half (about 400 thousand barrels per day) of Canadian oil sands production is derived from the more expensive “oil sands mining” method. Those deposits that are close enough to the surface are actually mined.

How much does recovery from oil sands cost? Supply costs are expressed as “full cycle” costs. They include all costs associated with exploration, development, and production; capital costs; operating costs; taxes and royalties; and a 10-percent real rate of return to the producer. Capital costs average $5 to $9 per barrel, and operating costs average $8 to $12 per barrel. Such costs are presented as a range, reflecting the variance in reservoir quality, depth, project size, and operating parameters. The remainder of the supply cost is dominated by the cleaning and upgrading methods that are required to turn a very low quality hydrocarbon into a more conventional oil that can be accepted by a refinery. Such methods include the removal of sulfur, heavy metals, and noncombustible materials, as well as conversion to a more hydrogenated and lighter hydrocarbon. These costs are typically in the $3 to $5 per barrel range. None of the aforementioned costs include transportation to market. This past summer, Suncor Energy opened the upgrading units of its Millennium Project in Alberta with production costs around $9 per barrel. The company’s near-term goal is to lower production costs to $5.50 per barrel, which would make Suncor the lowest-cost oil producer in North America.[b]

What is the long-term outlook for production from oil sands? IEO2003 projects that Canadian oil sand production in the reference case will increase to more than 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025. The projection assumes that world oil prices will moderate in the next few years and gradually increase to over $26.50 per barrel (all prices expressed in 2001 dollars) by the end of the forecast period. The IEO2003 high oil price case (over $33 per barrel by 2025)[!!!] shows Canadian oil sand production increasing to almost 2.5 million barrels per day by 2025. The only thing that prevents Canadian oil sands production from being considerably higher (both now and in the future) is the lack of transportation infrastructure (most likely pipeline capacity) for moving production to market. The United States is expected to import almost 1 million barrels per day of production from Canadian oil sands by 2025. If potential pipeline projects from Western Canada into PADDs II and IV materialize over the next two decades, the share of Canadian oil sand production going to U.S. imports could grow substantially.

[a] ”Worldwide Look at Reserves and Production,” Oil & Gas Journal, Vol. 100, No. 52 (December 23, 2002), pp. 114–115.

[b] National Energy Board, Canada’s Oil Sands: A Supply and Market Outlook to 2015 (Calgary, Alberta, October 2000), pp. 34–40.

Burning petroleum from even the cleanest light, sweet crude oil, or from Natural Gas, results in a certain amount of pollution. Heavy crude oil is more polluting. Some of the energy in the oil has to be spent to crack it into lighter fractions. The petroleum in the tar sands is heavier than the heaviest crude oil. More of its energy has to be spent to crack it. Cracking means the distillation tower raises the temperature of the oil high enough that the individual molecules of the longer hydrocarbon fractions are broken into two or more molecules of shorter hydrocarbon fractions.
Current extraction techniques pump water into convention oil fields to push out the oil. That is environmentally destructive, particularly in dry areas. But extracting the tar from tar sands uses more water, and when the water is used, it is still present on the surface, and it is toxic, it can't be returned to local aquifers. Further, the extraction leaves behind the tailings, the fine sand the tar was bound to, and it too is toxic. When I was a kid I felt sorry for the poor Ozark mountain people who had nearby mountains strip-mined. Extracting the oil from the Alberta tar sands will require strip-mining a vast area of Alberta.
The recent introduction of the term "oil sands" sanitizes the perception of tar sands extraction, without any change in the environmental impact. -- Geo Swan 19:28, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
The original pioneers called it "tar sands" because it reminded them of coal tar. However, tar is produced from destructive distillation of organic matter, usually coal. What is found in the bituminous sands of Canada is a partially biodegraded form of crude oil in which the lighter fractions have been devoured by bacteria. It looks like tar, but it ain't. RockyMtnGuy 05:42, 17 April 2006 (UTC)
Maybe advances in cellulosic ethanol technology will reduce the demand for petroleum enough to cut the price below $10/bbl, taking oil sands back off the market.
—wwoods 23:27, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
Don't bet money on it. RockyMtnGuy 05:42, 17 April 2006 (UTC)
  1. I think the term coal tar antedates the discovery of petroleum tar, not vice versa.
  2. Leaving aside that heavy petroleum fractions are innately more polluting than light petroleum fractions, because they have to be cracked, to make the light fractions we prefer, extracting petroleum products from tar sands is more polluting than extraction from oil wells, because it requires multiple times as much clean water, and it leaves behind toxic tailings, -- Geo Swan 19:05, 17 April 2006 (UTC)
  1. Coal tar was produced in the 19th century as a byproduct of coal gas manufacturing, before the introduction of natural gas. When the Athabasca sands were found, the Brits had quite a lot of coal tar laying around the countryside. The ancient Mesopotamians discovered bitumen, although I think they used some dead language to describe it.
  2. Keep in mind that heavy petroleum fractions are already saturating the ground in vast quantities along the Athabasca River. It's an oil spill the size of Belgium and the river cuts right through it. The whole area is already pre-polluted. When they dig it up, refine it, and sell it to the Americans, they're just moving the problem to Los Angelese's air.
  3. And the toxic tailings are biodegradable. For a really toxic pond, you have to see the abandoned copper mine at Butte, Montana. Sulphuric acid, copper sulphate and arsenic are not biodegradeable. RockyMtnGuy 14:02, 18 April 2006 (UTC)
  1. Ho'd on a moment ... if you scan the patents related to tar sand oil extraction, a significant fraction deal with removal / disposal methods for all the toxic, non-biodegradable heavy metals entrained in the oil. User:axharr 0859 EST 9 Aug 2006.
This is an article about the debate between oil sands and tar sands. Wikipedia should not attempt to use an outdated, politically aggressive name for the oil sands. Oil sands is far more used in common usage and should be used in this case.

News from The Globe and Mail Oil versus tar: Here's where it gets sticky

DAVID EBNER

00:00 EDT Monday, March 12, 2007

CALGARY -- Naming a resource: You say tomato, I say . . .

tar sand

noun geol. a deposit

of sand impregnated with bitumen.

oil sand

noun (usu. in pl.)a deposit of loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone containing bitumen.

SOURCE: CANADIAN OXFORD DICTIONARY

George W. Bush uses "tar sands," though he doesn't mean it in a bad way. Most others, from energy companies to the average Albertan, know the massive resource around Fort McMurray as the "oil sands."

The terms are roughly synonymous -- there's no underlying technical or geological difference -- but the semantic divide is wide. The use of one or the other is a political declaration, especially with debate over greenhouse gas emissions and a spotlight on the booming oil sands region of Alberta. Oil sands is the standard phrase, but critics almost always say tar sands.

"They were always called the tar sands, when I was young growing up here in the 1970s and [former premier] Peter Lougheed was working to get Syncrude going," said Brian Mason, leader of the Alberta NDP. "Industry made a deliberate decision to call them oil sands, because it conveyed a cleaner image. The language of tar sands conjured up a sticky, smelly, dirty kind of petroleum resource."

"And so they [industry] consciously changed it to oil sands," Mr. Mason said, "and we've [critics] consciously changed it back to tar sands, because that's exactly what it is. This is messy, expensive and dirty oil."

Firms working in Alberta's Fort McMurray region aren't impressed with the term tar sands. Brad Bellows, a spokesman for Suncor Energy Inc., notes that the predecessor to his company was incorporated in the early 1950s with the name Great Canadian Oil Sands.

"It's an annoyance," Mr. Bellows said. "It's a fairly shallow attempt to use a term that paints the industry as dirty. People who work in the business, invest in it and regulate it use 'oil sands.' People who like to criticize the business like to use 'tar sands.' "

Jennifer Dailey-O'Cain, a University of Alberta linguistics professor, said oil versus tar brings to mind Northern Ireland, a region Protestants call Ulster and Catholics call the north of Ireland.

"It's political," Prof. Dailey-O'Cain said. "People give away what they believe by the term they use. If you call it oil sands, you come across as supportive. If you call it tar sands, you come across as against the expansion. There's not really a good way of being neutral."

Though Mr. Mason and others such as Pembina Institute, an environmental group, argue the energy business worked to replace "tar sands" with "oil sands," the term oil sands has been more prevalent for at least a quarter century. In the 1980s, at the peak of the last energy boom, oil sands was used five times as often as tar sands and today is used roughly 10 times as often, a survey of media reports shows.

There are examples of industries that actively rebrand themselves, from canola producers discouraging the use of "rapeseed" to energy companies that produce coal-bed methane promoting themselves as extractors of "natural gas in coal."

Confusion in the sticky realm of oil and tar still reigns. At wikipedia.org, the online user-produced encyclopedia, a search for "oil sands" is redirected to "tar sands," an entry that begins: "Technically speaking, the bitumen [extracted in Alberta] is neither oil nor tar, but a semisolid, degraded form of oil." The material that miners in the oil sands strip from the land is a combination of clay, sand, water and bitumen, which is what is upgraded into synthetic oil, which is then refined into products such as gasoline. Wikipedia users have debated whether to rename the tar sands entry as oil sands but have not yet reached a consensus.

(In The Globe and Mail, tar sands generally appears only in quotations or in opinion columns, though that's not always the case. And the newspaper, which has an extensive style book governing many matters, doesn't have an oil-sands-tar-sands rule. In a news story in the paper last month, the headline used "oil sands" while the first paragraph went with "tar sands.") Meanwhile, Mr. Bush has referred to oil in northeastern Alberta as tar sands, though unlike critics, his aim wasn't to denounce a resource that the United States has identified as an important part of its energy future. "We appreciate the fact that Canada's tar sands are now becoming economical," Mr. Bush said in 2005. Murray Smith, former Alberta energy minister and now the province's envoy in Washington, said Mr. Bush's use of tar sands probably goes back to the days of fellow Texan T. Boone Pickens, an oilman who took an early interest in the oil sands.

"I think it became a familiar Texas term," said Mr. Smith. "It was transformational. Nobody laughed at the resource any more." As for tar sands, Mr. Smith doesn't care what people say -- as long as they're talking about Alberta. "What irks me is when I don't hear about it enough," he said with a laugh.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tar This suggests that the word "tar" is often a misnomer. Tar sands is a specific example, since the "tar sands" do not actually contain tar, but bitumen. Oil sands is more accurate, and is used far more often. Is there any statistics on how often people searching for oil sands are redirected to tar sands vs. actual tar sand searches? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 216.59.243.90 (talk) 19:06, 12 March 2007 (UTC).

The legislation that governs these deposits are the Oil Sands Conservation Act, the Oil Sands Conservation Regulation, etc. While we can engage in debate about what they should or should not be called based on our beliefs about appropriate energy sources and methods, it seems to me NPOV requires calling these deposits as the law names them. Or, phrased another way, to choose a name contrary to that contained in a 20 year old law is not NPOV. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 199.85.19.2 (talk) 16:03, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

Percentage discussed

I have a question about the percentages discussed: If Canada sits on 32% of the world's oil, Venezuela sits on 34% of the world's oil, and the entire Middle East (combined) shares 33% of the world's oil, then, unless I'm screwing up my math: the rest of the world is sharing 1%??? I don't think so. These numbers seem way, way off.

Just a guess. The "proven reserves" are estimated to be 20% or less of the total volume. Perhaps the claims that the tar sands holding a comparable amount of oil to the reserves in Arabia are counting both the proven and estimated reserves? Perhaps, after a century of extraction, the proven reserves in Arabia and the actual reserves are close to equal. I'd like to know how much of Arabia's oil have already been extracted. We have to compare like with like. -- Geo Swan 19:28, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
The middle east only became a serious producer arout world war 2 didn't it? You might be able to find out how much oil has been extracted from the middle east, but numbers as to how much is left are going to be sketchy at best. I think estimating the amount in the oil sands is easier since they just do a volume calculation of a huge area. A large portion of that huge number is too deep to mine like they (mainly) do now, although SAGD may be able to. TastyCakes 02:10, 18 April 2006 (UTC)
There was production pre-WWII (hence the German tanks rumbling around North Africa) but the really big fields in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were only put on production in the 40's and 50's. Prior to that, Texas was the world's biggest producer.
There have been thousands of gas wells drilled right through the Athabasca oil sands into the underlying gas fields. The Alberta government has all the drilling cores from these wells. Estimating the size is a simple matter of pulling a representative sample of cores from the Core Lab, measuring the bitumen content, and plugging it into a computer. Their estimates are extremely conservative - for instance, they assume that only 20% of the oil in place can be recovered, whereas the oil companies claim they can get three times that much.
80% of oil sands are too deep to surface mine. Every Canadian oil company that is halfway serious has a SAGD project in production or on the drawing boards. RockyMtnGuy 14:53, 18 April 2006 (UTC)

in 'Devoping Alberta's Oil Sands' by Paul Chroksy he says that alberta has 1.75 to 2.5 trillion barrels of oil and saudi arabia has 250 and iraq has 112 so...

In-situ extraction

The article says a bit about "in-situ extraction", where bitumen is extracted by underground steam injection rather than by open-pit mining. The article describes this as a possible future technology.

Things are further along than that. The Long Lake Project (http://www.longlake.ca) is a rather large in-situ extraction operation that's been under construction for several years. (9 minute streaming video of the construction project: http://www.nexeninc.com/files/streaming/opti512k.html) Long Lake should start to extract bitumen in late 2006, and start upgrading it to oil in 2007. Long Lake produces asphalt as a byproduct, which is (somehow?) used to generate the gas burned to produce the steam used to power the operation. The whole operation is thus supposed to power itself, without natural gas inputs, once it's fully operational. Projected output is 60,000 bbl/day for 40 years.

Something about this should go either in Tar Sands or Athabasca Tar Sands. Which? --Nagle 05:29, 11 March 2006 (UTC)

I'd say Athabasca. I'm pretty sure there has been a SAGD project before though, called Firebag or something. Can't remember which company... TastyCakes 02:12, 18 April 2006 (UTC)
I added a section on in-situ techniques, including references to nine of the larger SAGD projects under development in the Athabasca, Peace River and Cold Lake oil sands (including Suncor's Firebag River project). RockyMtnGuy 19:28, 27 April 2006 (UTC)


This thing about the "Closed-Loop Solvent Extraction" seems a bit like an advertisement because of its very recent development and claims on process efficiency. These in particular: "utilizing a patent-protected, proven, closed-loop solvent extraction technology", and "leaving the ecosystem in better-than-original condition". Either someone took it from the company's press release without much thinking, or someone put it up for promotion. Further, "zero solvent loss", as in not at all, it almost impossible anywhere, and especially in a very large scale operation; "oil recovery rate of 99.9%" and "average cost of $12.50 USD per barrel", I doubt that these are obtained at the same time. 99.9% recovery of anything is very good, but usually not necessary in production scale. I suggest the tone be modified, or the section removed since it is not an evaluation of the technique's merrits and makes no specific mention of being tested in tar sand deposits. David 67.169.202.49 08:22, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

Heavy Oil In Carbonates

Anyone know of any heavy oil production from carbonate reservoirs?

I believe there is one in Egypt, anybody know of any others?

Shell EP Americas (A different division of Royal Dutch Shell than Shell Canada) recently spent around half a billion dollars to buy 10 leases in the Carbonate Trend of northeastern Alberta, immediately outside the Athabasca oil sands. There's oil (bitumen) trapped in carbonate rock there, but nobody knows how to get it out. Presumably Shell has some ideas, but they aren't sharing them... RockyMtnGuy 19:20, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

Misc

Somebody seemed to screw up the article. Could somebody else fix it?

Looks fine to me right now. This is why people should sign comments with at least the date. SaulPerdomo 04:04, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Oil Sands

In keeping with political correctness, Canada has renamed its "tar sands" to be "oil sands". Recommend making the primary article "oil sands" and have teh redirector go from "tar sands" to "oil sands". DLH 14:38, 16 November 2006 (UTC)

I second your proposal. I suggested this same idea a year ago, but we did not reach consensus. Actually, Geo Swan seems to have been the only major one to disagree. Since Google indicates that Alberta and Venezuela both predominantly use the term "oil sands," I think tar sands should be listed as a secondary name, not the primary. Furthermore, the three major articles (including Athabasca & Orinoco) already use the term oil sands too frequently to be consistent. JeremyBicha 01:00, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Both potential titles are NPOV. Which is unfortunate. I say we go with the industry, but its quite controversial by the environmental groups etc./ --74.104.48.172 20:52, 25 March 2007 (UTC)

The early explorers thought the material extracted from the sand looked like pine tar, so they called them "tar sands", which is a misnomer. In chemical terms, it is not really tar, it is actually a substance known as bitumen, and they are technically speaking "bituminous sands", a phrase which would mean nothing to most people. Bitumen is an extremely heavy, semisolid form of oil so "oil sands" is more correct. The Venezuelan material is somewhat lighter, so they call it "extra-heavy oil" rather than bitumen. But it is really extremely heavy oil rather than tar. The distinction is important because it is a lot easier to upgrade heavy oil to light oil than convert tar to oil. RockyMtnGuy 04:31, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

The legislation that governs these deposits are the Oil Sands Conservation Act, the Oil Sands Conservation Regulation, etc. While we can engage in debate about what they should or should not be called based on our beliefs about appropriate energy sources and methods, it seems to me NPOV requires calling these deposits as the law names them. Or, phrased another way, to choose a name contrary to that contained in a 20 year old law is not NPOV.

"Business Model"

Someone added a section "Business Model : a crash scenario for the Athabasca Oil Sands". The title is inflammatory, and the content doesn't really add anything. Propose deletion. Pete Tillman 01:43, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

Deleted section, Pete Tillman 21:13, 10 January 2007 (UTC)

Early optimism fading?

I've edited this section to remove scary adjectives & tried to make it encyclopedic & NPOV. It's still a hodgepodge -- maybe best just to cut it & save the sourced material?

Other opinions? Cheers, Pete Tillman 19:24, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

It reads reasonably well now, although I think the title "early optimism fading?" is unnecessarily negative. Also, it certainly shouldn't be included in the "As oil source, by location" supercategory. -- Autumninjersey 02:30, 15 February 2007 (UTC)

Zapped as sub par. When US, China, and loads of other countries come a callin, I think I will follow their lead, not the grbg. that was in that section. It may be possible to put some of the info into this article without the pov, but is was not even close to being backed up as it was presented. As an Albertan, it was offensive to me. Prove it, or at least word it as speculation, without the tree hugger rhetoric. I'm not questioning good faith, only knowledge and understanding. As long as oil is over $40, the money will keep rolling in, and if you disagree, you need to prove it. We who disagree with that section can certainly prove how rich Albertans are getting, so the owness is on the other side. Dreams and wishes of scientists won't cut it either, cause they have to implement that stuff, and they don't have the power to do so, at least not right now. Talk to me in a few years, maybe we can revisit it. Jeremy99 11:20, 6 March 2007 (UTC)

Extraction rates

Could be worth mentioning that although there may be large reserves of tar sands, their extraction rates are quite low in comparison to conventional oil. From what I've read, estimates of the extraction rates are between 3 million and 5 million barrels per day [2] which is quite small compared to the 85 million or so BPD the world currently uses. It's only that on reading this article at present, people may get the impression that tar sands are some kind of magic solution to peak oil and what ever else. G-Man * 22:02, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

Well, there are a lot of Athabasca projects in the pipeline, so production may rapidly increase, "if all goes well". One of the bugaboos/bottlenecks often cited is the price/supply of natural gas to heat the tar. An obvious alternative is to build one or more nuclear power-plants as a source for steam and hot water. This approach would substantially decrease the greenhouse-gas emissions of the tar-sands plants as well. Whether this would be politically acceptable in Alberta, I couldn't say. Not likely to be "coming soon"....
Cheers, Pete Tillman 22:33, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
That doesn't solve the water problem though. I havn't heard any solutions proposed to that. G-Man * 22:53, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
One thing northern Canada doesn't lack is water. Though I don't know about the local supply near the Athabasca plants. Cheers, Pete Tillman 23:35, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
Certainly the oil sands plants use a lot of water, but Northern Canada has a LOT of water. The Athabasca is one of the biggest rivers in Canada and oil sand plants currently use about 1% of its flow. Proposed future developments combined with current ones could use as much as 3% of the flow. To put it in perspective, contrast this with the Colorado River, which as a result of withdrawals by Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, etc. etc. is now 100% utilized. It doesn't reach the ocean any more. So, given that the U.S. is completely using up some of its rivers, I don't see that Canada has a problem yet. RockyMtnGuy 04:13, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

Company just announced it wants to build nuc. reactor, implement ways to cut GHG and use little water, seems this stuff should be added when it gets a little farther along. I just read it on mytelus, but can't remember what company, or was it Global National report, they are up in Ft. McMoney right now. Dead tired, start getting grumpy when on this thing too long, maybe someone else can find it, or I'll do it in a bit, up to you guys. Jeremy99 11:26, 6 March 2007 (UTC)

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. would dearly love to sell a Candu reactor to an oil sands company, but I don't think that the economics are there. There are a variety of cheaper ways to generate process heat. The only way it would work is if the Canadian government subsidized the cost to reduce it below alternatives, so I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to happen. RockyMtnGuy 04:13, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
Its still in cbc archives [3]. No problem with the economics. For 10% more capital ($3bn on a $30bn project) they'd get 30% more oil (compared to burning bitumen for energy). Better yet, their permits to take water don't get wasted on fuel bitumen. The issue will be lead time on the regulatory approvals. The oil biz wants product in 5-10 years from investment. That's very fast for nukes.LeadSongDog 04:34, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
The government of Ontario lost tens of billions of dollars on its Candu reactors, so I think the government of Alberta is still looking at them with a jaundiced eye. In other words, if someone offered them a double-your-money-back guarantee, they might go for it. If not, not. And they'd want the guarantee money paid in advance into a Swiss bank account, in small unmarked American dollars.... RockyMtnGuy 05:05, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

See now that no one has been on here this month but me, although maybe some changes have been made, I guess I will do it in a few days, if I can find where I saw it. That may mean I will have to read the rules and ways to operate, so I can include references. Should have read that stuff a while ago, but just didn't feel like it. Lazy bastard. LOL-born out of wedlock, so I guess it is encyclopedic language to call myself a bastard. OK now past grumpy to plain cookoo. Jeremy99 11:32, 6 March 2007 (UTC)

Does a barrel of oil from tar sands need at least three barrels of water?

According to EBSCO, they state that a barrel of oil from tar sands needs at least three barrels of water for production. EBSCO[4] is an online encyclopaedia, available to registered users. Hence, it may not be accessible to everyone. --Mayfare 01:27, 12 April 2007 (UTC)

I'd say that factoid is probably incorrect. There are ways to reduce the amount of water required. However, there is a lot of water available in the oil sands area, so companies have little incentive to reduce consumption. RockyMtnGuy 04:16, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
Furnished ref on and corrected factoid (c.f.). Now reflects that 3bbl water are used to extract 1bbl bitumen in-situ. Could also add 10bbl water/bbl bitumen for surface mining ops. Note this doesn't address upgrading, just extraction (or as the industry terms it 'production') LeadSongDog 03:59, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
According to the National Energy Board, oil sands mining requires 2 to 4.5 m3 per m3 (or bbl per bbl, your choice) while in-situ production requires 0.2 m3 per m3. This is because in-situ projects recycle 90 to 95% of their used water. So the factoid is definitely wrong. RockyMtnGuy 04:45, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
Cites? LeadSongDog 07:01, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
I put them into the article along with the data and some more recent information. RockyMtnGuy 03:02, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. Compare Athabasca Oil Sands#Environmental impacts. I've noted that the NEB reference is heavily quoting or paraphrasing from the Pembina Institute's Troubling Waters, Troubling Trends, as was Jeff Simpson's Globe and Mail article. Problem is both were less than rigorous with their reading, at times conflating surface mining with SAGD extraction. I don't even have much confidence that the Pembina numbers are adequately traceable.
That's true, there's a general lack of rigor in the environmental analyses I've seen. Checking the Pembina Institute's numbers against the Suncor and Syncrude Web sites, I find that in 2006 Suncor used 2.4 m³ water per m³ of synthetic crude oil produced, while Syncrude used 2.29 m³/m³. Shell's usage was even lower because they were using up stored water. These companies have been tightening up their operations in recent years. So, instead of a range of 2 to 4.5 m³/m³, I would say a range of 2 to 2.5 might be more accurate for mines, and the above-mentioned 0.2 for in-situ projects.
As far as total water consumption is concerned, Suncor used around 60 million m³ and Syncrude 33.9 million m³, which sounds like a lot, except that according to Alberta Environment the flow of the Athabasca River is something like 20 billion m³ per year. That makes Suncor's usage roughly 0.3% and Syncrude's 0.17% of total flow. Elsewhere in Alberta Environment's data I see that the total allocation to all oil sands projects is roughly 1.8% of Athabasca flow. Comparing that to other rivers in Alberta, I see that the total water allocation on the Bow River through Calgary is 18%, and on smaller rivers of Southern Alberta like the Oldman, Waterton, Belly and St. Mary's it's a whopping 70%. That makes me think people are looking in the wrong place for a water problem. It's in the arid south of the province, not in the soggy north. RockyMtnGuy 04:29, 18 August 2007 (UTC)
Let me toss one word into the discussion. "Solvex". This is an in-situ process that does not use water to extract bitumen, it uses solvents instead. You do not necessarily have to use water, it depends on what process you decide to use. The key economic parameter is cost - which method is cheaper. The key determiner in the Athabasca Oil Sands is that the Athabasca River, which is one of the biggest rivers in North America, runs right through the middle of the oil sands, so they tend to use lots of water. Back to you. RockyMtnGuy 04:22, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

Global Warming Issues

The article skips over most of the contended environmental impacts of extracting oil from tar sands. I'm no expert in that field, which is why I came here. But I think that this aspect should be addressed in a NPOV manner as I know that there is a feeling in some quarters that exploiting the tar sands would be disastrous environmentally due to the amount of carbon allegedly released in the mining process. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 74.12.87.155 (talk) 20:12, 4 May 2007 (UTC).

At this point in time I think it is pretty much impossible to have a rational discussion about climate change. Once the politicians get hold of a scientific debate, intelligent thought goes out the window. This phenomenon was analyzed at some length in a book called "Groupthink - Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes" by Irving L. Janis. It is an analysis of how groups of otherwise intelligent people can delude themselves if they become overly politicized. He cites the CIA invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs with a force of 1,400 men against Castro's army of 250,000; the complete surprise of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor even though U.S. intelligence had cracked all the Japanese military codes and knew the Japanese were going to attack somewhere; and the belief by Nixon's advisers that the Watergate scandal would just kind of fade away. In more modern times, both space shuttle crashes have been cited as the result of bad decision making caused by Groupthink. Personally, I think the climate change debate has also gotten into the never-never land of Groupthink. Al Gore's book "An Inconvenient Truth" is an example. It was riddled with technical errors, and unlike the movie, if you had been there and seen the reality, you could take a hard look at the data and say "Hey, wait a minute, that's wrong!" One classic moment is where he explains how the pine beetle is killing the spruce trees. No, Al, the pine beetle is killing the pine trees. The spruce trees are doing really well because the pine trees are dying off and making room for them... RockyMtnGuy 05:16, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

Energy efficiency?

Can someone provide data about the energy efficiency of the extraction processes? How many calories in natural gas do you have to burn for the production of steam to produce one calory in heavy oil? This data would be extremely important to judge if tar sands are actually a source of enenrgy or if they are rather a way to transform gaseous fuel into liquid fuel.

According to the Alberta Department of Energy website, mining takes about 0.5 gigajoules of natural gas to produce 1 barrel of oil and in-situ production between 1 and 1.25 gigajoules of natural gas to produce one barrel of oil. According to the Wikipedia article on barrel of oil equivalent, that barrel contains about 6.1 gigajoules of energy. So, dividing the latter by the former gives an energy multiplier of about 12:1 for mined oil and between 5:1 and 6:1 for in-situ oil. Some people argue otherwise, but I think they're mathematically challenged - or just intellectually dishonest. All the big oil sands companies are in the gas business, as well. They wouldn't burn natural gas to produce oil unless they came out ahead on the deal. If they didn't they'd just sell the natural gas directly and skip the capital costs of the oil sands plants. RockyMtnGuy 03:25, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

The word "tar" is chemically incorrect

This is a subject that is starting to bug me: People trying to correct oil to tar whenever it occurs with respect to these bituminous sands. The most correct term is bitumen. Bitumen is a very heavy form of oil that will not flow under reservoir conditions, but can be persuaded to flow with heat or solvents. Tar is a man-made product produced by destructive distillation of organic materials such as wood, coal or oil. The difference is important, because a modern refinery designed for the purpose can refine crude bitumen directly to gasoline or diesel fuel, whereas tar is something that might come out the back end because they couldn't do anything else with it.

The original explorers apparently called the sands tar sands because they had never seen crude oil (or gasoline), but they had seen pine tar and coal tar. The term tar sands is still used colloquially to describe the oil sands, but it is technically incorrect and I don't think people should be encouraging misapprehensions on Wikipedia. There's enough idiotic nonsense about common chemicals proliferated via the internet as it is. RockyMtnGuy 14:13, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

See Alice in Wonderland on the meaning of words. Anyhow, I've tweaked the intro a bit to mitigate the confusion.LeadSongDog 15:33, 28 August 2007 (UTC)
World Energy Council's "Survey of energy resources" has named relevant section as "Natural Bitumen and Extra-Heavy Oil".Beagel 05:27, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
Oops. I should have said "See Humpty Dumpty. LeadSongDog 06:31, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
I would prefer than Wikipedia be less like Through the Looking Glass and more like an encyclopedia. In any case, there is no tar in the tar sands. As the survey mentioned by Beagel says, it is actually an extremely heavy form of crude oil, and is present in vast amounts. However, the survey is somewhat out of date, since about $150 billion in oil sands development projects have been announced since it was released. One would normally expect the oil price increases since 2004 to bring more conventional oil onto the market, but since that hasn't happened one can draw the implication that there isn't much conventional oil left in the world, and the major oil companies are turning to non-conventional sources. We'll see. RockyMtnGuy 07:19, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Humpty's point was that the nature of the English language is malleable. He's right, as the spindoctors prove daily by their existence and their work. I'm agnostic on the question, but I don't want to see an edit war over it. Comparing the page hits for google searches on "bitumenous sands", "bitumen sands", "tar sands" and "oil sands", the clear winner is "oil sands" by a 3:1 margin over "tar sands", but right now that's the title of the page. There is room for (a comparitive) sub-article(s) on the chemistry, the terminology, public perception and the word usage by different advocacy groups. Anyone care to start it?LeadSongDog 16:38, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
English is malleable, but from my perspective this is a technical issue, not a political one. Tars are man-made substances, bitumens are naturally occurring ones. The difference between crude bitumen and crude oil is rather arbitrary - if it flows it's oil and if not it's bitumen. However, you can always make bitumen flow if you heat it, so the distinction really depends on the temperature of the reservoir. If you want an example of a more misleading phrase, try oil shale. The stuff in the shale is not actually oil, it's a waxy substance called kerogen. You can convert it into oil, but it's a more energy-intensive and difficult process than extracting and refining bitumen, which is why you won't see the oil shales being developed soon. The bitumen in the sands is mostly asphalt with a lot of paraffins and resins. As far as as the exact chemistry is concerned - that's a really complex topic. There are probably a couple of hundred chemical compounds involved. RockyMtnGuy 20:36, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
From my perspective, the exact chemical structure is rather secondary, as we all understand that refineries, crackers and upgraders will be used. Perhaps a mean molecular weight, bulk density at ambient (in situ) temperature, bulk density at STP, etc. What really matters commercially and economically is the energy available and its costs per Joule. If you like, costs can be variously measured in capital (or debt servicing) needed to access the mean finished product, CO2 emissions, fresh water needed for upgrade (in cases where fresh water is a scarce resource), input energy, etc. Hypothetically, there would still be a need for petrochemicals if electricity from other sources (hydro/nuclear/geothermal/fusion/solar/whatever) were cheap, but the demand would be radically different than it is today. I agree that "bitumenous sand" is the most technically accurate term, the google test suggests few if any readers will type that into a search box. Either "oil sand" or "tar sand" . Redirect from one to the other.LeadSongDog 21:19, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Units of water used per unit of oil extracted

The estimate of 2.0 to 4.5 units of fresh water used for every barrel of oil produced is common in the mostly credible media reports. The estimate seems to come from Dan Woynillowicz (The Harm the Tar Sands Will Do, September 20, 2007, on-line) where he states

Tar sands mining operations withdraw two to 4.5 barrels of fresh water from the river for every barrel of oil they produce. Current operations are permitted to withdraw more than 349 million cubic metres of water per year.

I suspect that his calculation is the following: 349 million cubic meters of fresh water divided by an annual synthetic oil production of about 1.1 million barrels yields a ratio of about 5:1 of fresh water to oil. But industry claims that the 349 million number refers to authorizations for both conventional and synthetic extraction and that only about 60 or 70 million cubic meters of fresh water is actually withdrawn each year (which would yield a ratio of about 1:1).

A "fact sheet" from the Alberta government indicates an average use of 2 to 3 barrels of water for every barrel of oil produced, but this is before recyclying, and it then goes on to state that real use is "usually" about 0.5 barrels of water for every barrel of oil extracted. Seems a bit fishy, though, since the "fact sheet" has no footnotes. I suspect the 0.5 number pertains to in situ production.

Alberta Government, Facts on Oil Sands, June 2006: "It takes approximately 2 to 3 barrels of water to produce one barrel of bitumen. However, this is total water use, including recycled produced water. Total make-up water required per barrel of bitumen is much less; usually 0.5 or less once full recycling facilities are in place."

On the other hand, a study by Eddy Isaacs of the Alberta Energy Research Institute indicates that about 10 barrels of water are needed for each barrel of oil produced (a ratio of 10:1), but he adds that recycling lowers the net use to about 20% of this (which would mean a ratio of 2:1). Seems to be a good source.

CANADIAN OIL SANDS: DEVELOPMENT AND FUTURE OUTLOOK, Eddy Isaacs, Ph.D., Managing Director, Alberta Energy Research Institute. "There is a significant dependence on water used for separation of oil from the sand in surface mined operations and for in situ steam generation. To produce a barrel of bitumen or synthetic oil requires some 10 barrels of water for mining operations and 3 barrels of water for in situ operations. Although most of the water is recycled, there is still about 20% of potable make-up water that is required, and this creates concerns over the need for conservation and sustainability."

I suggest that the figure of 2:1 seems about right (two barrels of water for each barrel of synthetic oil). But a note of caution should perhaps be added to the article: since in situ production is increasing, the net average fresh water used per unit of oil extracted will obviously decrease.

See Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Canadian Crude Oil Production and Supply Forecast, 2006 - 2020, published in May 2006 (http://www.capp.ca/raw.asp?x=1&dt=NTV&dn=103586).

This having been said, I have seen no estimate for evaporation from the ponds nor from seepage into the ground water. The net surface of the ponds may (or may not) be increasing since evaporation and seepage may (or may not) equal new waste water added.

Furthermore, the net ecological impact of water withdrawl seems pretty small. Some sources indicate that the probable maximum withdrawal of water in winter from the Arthabasca River may reach 10% of total flow (or may have already reached that level). Such withdrawals may have a significant impact on the riparian ecosystem, but a source would be needed to establish that. After all, the winter flow of the Nelson River, used for hydroelectric power production, is today several times greater that the normal winter flow before the the dams were built. Thus, 10% withdrawal seems trivial in comparaison.

Finally, the long term impact of the ponds on the regional environment and the possible impact of a dam rupture on the downstream Arthabasca River and lakes, needs to be mentioned in the article. Water use is, of itself, quite secondary. Joseph B (talk) 01:51, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

I looked at it a while back and found in 2006 Suncor used 2.4 m³ water per m³ of synthetic crude oil while Syncrude used 2.29 m³/m³. In-situ projects used much less, about 0.2 m³/m³. However, these are moving targets since companies can reduce water consumption by recycling, so while plants have been expanding, they have been doing so without increasing water consumption. Current removal permits on the Athabasca are for about 5% of total flow, of which 3% goes to oil companies and 2% to agriculture and industry. However, oil companies did not use the full extent of their permitted consumption, so their use was actually less than 3%. This didn't seem that significant considering that 70% of the flow of some Southern Alberta rivers is being used up (mostly by agriculture). The biggest constraints on oil sands development are not water availability but pipeline capacity and supply of condensate for diluent. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 20:51, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

Refactor

Wow, this is getting too complicated. Surely its simpler than this if we ask the right question: What's the ratio of total accumulated content in the holding ponds to the total shipped synthetic crude since the first projects started?LeadSongDog (talk) 21:26, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

They don't say. You could probably calculate it, but that would probably be considered original research around here. A complicating factor is that about half the water evaporates from the tailings ponds (somebody said). Also, Suncor actually managed to reclaim its first tailings pond this year. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 02:16, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Been through that discussion already, arithmetic isn't original research. LeadSongDog (talk) 07:07, 18 December 2007 (UTC)