What is Oil?
Oil is a nonrenewable resource people all around the world. In Canada we gather oil from the oil sands in Alberta. In Atlantic Canada oil is imported from the US, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria. In Canada we use oil to power our cars, machinery, ships, and planes. The oil we use today if from the Carboniferous Era, organic matter(once living organisms) is buried within layers of sediment. The matter doesn’t rot because it’s compressed so no oxygen an reach it, it would now be called kerogen. Once the sediment becomes rock the kerogen becomes hydrocarbon(oil).
Oil can come in many different forms, it’s usually black but it’ can also be green, red, or brown. Depending on the levels of sulfur in the oil it’s classified as sweet, sour, light, or heavy. Taking the crude oil we use it to produce gasoline, diesel, asphalt, heavy fuel, light fuel, and jet fuel.
In 2015 the oil sands alone brought in $23 billion. It’s expected that in the next 20 years the oil sands will contribute $4 trillion to the economy. The oil and gas industry provides over 550 000 jobs for Canadians. It also provides indirect jobs like environmental management, engineering, accounting, law, regulation, communications, and safety.
There are three main methods of extracting oil, the most popular being In-situ production used by 80% of Canada’s reserves. Other options are Open Pit Mining(used by 20% of oil reserves) and Upgrading.
This process is used when the oil is too deep to be mined regularly. Using stream the bitumen is heated up and pumped out of the ground. This leaves much of the solids behind. In-situ has a smaller footprint opposed to regular mining because it uses less water and doesn’t produce steam.
Open Pit Mining
This process is used when oil is found above 50 meters underground. The ground is dug out then hot water is added to create a slurry. The bitumen naturally separates from gravity and is extracted.
Light/Sweet oil is separated from the heavy oil and refined into final products. The oil is chemically treated to make it of higher quality.
The extraction process exposes the workers and people to many dangerous chemicals. First Nations living near a tar sand development noticed their resources were at risk along with their health discovering unusual cancers being diagnosed. The workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals one of them being hydrogen sulfide that can cause paralysis, cancers, or possible death. The toxins can also cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and burns.
Canada and the US currently have the strongest trading relationship in the world. About 99% of the oil Canada produces gets exported to the US(2010). Other than the US, Canada doesn’t trade oil anywhere else. Although there are proposals to build oil pipelines for exporting to Asia. Canada and the US currently have the strongest trading relationship in the world. Last year Canada set a new record 3.2 million barrels a day of gross exports to the US.
Although getting oil from the Alberta sands has been proven to be quite expensive. Because the oil is so deep within the ground, to retrieve it we would need a new oil sand operation running each barrel would have to sell for about $100. Since the sand are surrounded by land it would cost extra to ship. It's starting to look like we won't even be extracting the oil in Alberta.
Problems & Solutions
Oil is causing many problems for the environment. Since oil is a nonrenewable resource, once it’s gone we won’t be able to use it anymore. When oil is burned it gives off CO2 emission, any product that uses oil to run burns oil for example, cars, planes, and factories. Sun rays are reflect off of Earth’s surface and sent back into space, this is Earth's natural method of warming. Although because we’re releasing emissions so quickly they’re getting trapped in our atmosphere. This doesn’t allow all of sun’s rays to be released into space warming our planet further(climate change). More intense natural disasters and weather phenomena's are a factor of climate change that we can notice because they are occurring more frequently.
Since the planet is warming this means the ice at our poles is melting. This reduces the land mass of Earth meaning more UV rays are allowed to be absorbed be our oceans. The smallest increase in our ocean's temperature can cause species extinction. The acidity content in the oceans has increased by 30% causing calcifying species and the coral reefs to break down.
There are many option to replace oil, although they are more expensive. Wind Energy, although more expensive it’s easy to acquire especially off the coast. Solar Energy is another option, it’s low maintenance, and accessible although it’s also fairly expensive. Cost wise wind energy is the least expensive energy replacement for oil. Some things you can do in your daily life are recycling, walking/using public transit, and eating less meat.
Alberta Oil Sands
Here is a video talking about the future of the Alberta Oils Sands, and Canada's future oil use.