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A significant amount of energy is required to extract a barrel of bitumen from oil (tar) sands and upgrade it to synthetic crude. As of 2006, most of this is produced by burning natural gas. However, since natural gas production in Alberta peaked in 2001 and has been static ever since, it is likely oil sands requirements will be met by cutting back natural gas exports to the U.S.  Canada is a major exporter of natural gas and oil to the USA. Alternatives to natural gas exist and are available in the oil sands area. Bitumen can itself be used as the fuel, consuming about 30-35% of the raw bitumen per produced unit of synthetic crude.

Coal is widely available in Alberta and is inexpensive, but produces large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Nuclear power is another option that has been proposed, but did not appear to be economic as of 2005. In early 2007 the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology considered that the use of nuclear power to process oil sands could reduce CO2 emissions and help Canada meet its Kyoto commitments, as it would require nearly 12 GW to meet production growth to 2015. Energy Alberta Corporation announced in 2007 that they had applied for a license to build a new nuclear plant at Lac Cardinal, 30 km west of the town of Peace River. The application would see an initial twin AECL Advanced CANDU Reactor ACR-1000 plant go online in 2017, producing 2.2 GW (electric). On November 30, 2007 Bruce Power, which operates eight CANDU reactors in Ontario, signed a letter of intent to acquire Energy Alberta and take over the project.

Utilizing nuclear power instead of natural gas would significantly reduce the carbon footprint of Alberta, Canada oil sands production. (Wiki)