Canada #2 in oil reserves

September 23, 2007 at 5:43 am | Posted in energy | Leave a comment

The vast bulk of Canada’s tar sands is found in the province of Alberta, the country’s most prolific producer of fossil fuels. The tar sands deposits underlie more than 140,000 square kilometers of relatively pristine boreal forest, an area larger than the state of Florida. It’s estimated that the tar sands hold approximately 1.7 trillion barrels of crude bitumen (the technical term for the fossil fuel extracted from the tar sands). But most of this bitumen will never be recovered and only a fraction, 174 billion barrels, is estimated to be recoverable with today’s technology and under current and anticipated economic conditions.When the U.S. Department of Energy formally acknowledged these reserves in 2003, it vaulted Canada’s oil reserves from 21st to 2nd in the world, behind only Saudi Arabia. It’s little wonder then that the U.S. Energy Policy Development Group has described the tar sands as “a pillar of sustained North American energy and economic security.” Canada’s so-called “black gold” has come to be regarded as an abundant, secure, and affordable source of crude oil. But development of this unconventional fossil fuel comes with unconventional risks and consequences. Everything about the tar sands is big, most significantly its global warming and environmental implications — leading some to now describe the tar sands as “Canada’s dirty secret.”

The Caterpillar 797 dump truck is a true monster – 48 feet from tip to tail and 22 feet high, it creeps uphill with a 400-ton payload at 1 mile per hour. Syncrude owns 36 of the vehicles, which cost $5 million each. This herd of yellow pachyderms lumbers around the company’s open-pit mines, shuttling oil sands from the digging shovels to a massive processing facility called a crusher. The inside of the crusher resembles the guts of the Nostromo, the doomed ore-hauling ship in Alien. Whale-sized pipes and narrow catwalks crisscross everywhere; steam billows from hoses that snake along the floor. Here the sands are pulverized, then sent to cyclofeeders to be mixed with hot water and pumped to gargantuan centrifuges where the oil-rich component, bitumen, is separated out. The bitumen is sent to giant cokers and roasted with hydrogen into Syncrude Sweet Blend.

Could 92 Square Miles of Solar Panels satisfy all US Electrical Needs?

September 23, 2007 at 12:23 am | Posted in energy | Leave a comment

David Mills, chairman and chief scientific officer of solar company Ausra, recently presented a paper at the International Solar Energy Society conference saying that solar thermal plants could indeed solve all of our energy problems, including nighttime electricity.
The plants use mirrors arranged in a Fresnel configuration to heat tubes of liquid rather than solar cells that convert the sunlight directly into electricity. The steam produced by the heated liquids power turbines that create electricity. While not a new technique, Mills says the technology will allow liquids to hold heat and produce steam during the night also. The paper calculates that 92 square miles of solar thermal farm could power the entire country.

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