First U.S. Tar Sands Mine Could Open in Utah

Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:04am EDT

An Alberta, Canada-based company wants to open the first tar sands mine in the US - in Utah.

The Associated Press reports that Earth Energy Resources, Inc., which has more than 7,800 acres of state land under lease, has qualified for a permit to mine on 62 acres.

Due to the energy intensity of refining petroleum from tar sands, the fuels produced have an emissions footprint that is roughly three times as high as gasoline produced from typical oil wells. In addition, the strip mining process destroys the landscape, requires tremendous amounts of water and leaves behind enormous lakes of waste.

The mining process has been underway for years in Alberta, Canada and alongside mountaintop removal mining, it is considered one of the most environmentally destructive practices on the planet. Canada Tar Sands is the largest source of oil for the US.

With crude prices rising above $100 a barrel, Earth Energy Resources decided to pursue tar sands in Utah, that historically have been used as a cheap replacement for asphalt.

Earth Energy says it uses a citrus-based solvent that will not harm the environment, but the permit is being appealed by environmental groups who don't want to see a precedent set for tar sands mining in the US.

"This is not just a 62-acre project that will last seven years. We are looking at a 30,000-acre project that will destroy the environment in this area over many years," said John Weisheit, a Colorado River guide and founder of the Moab, Utah-based environmental group Living Rivers.

Photo by Associated Press

Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business

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Comments (2)
Haefen wrote:
“Due to the energy intensity of refining petroleum from tar sands, the fuels produced have an emissions footprint that is roughly three times as high as gasoline produced from typical oil wells.”

Not correct. From a Wells to Wheels comparison it is less than 10% higher. It is also safer. A broken pipeline, even a major break like the recent one in Michigan poses insignificant environmental damage when compared to a tanker or off shore drilling leak as seen recently in the Gulf of Mexico.

It is also incorrect to compare the synthetic oil to “typical” or Sweet Oil. Oil Sand production is new production and most of the new oil being brought to market is heavy oil, all of which requires more processing. If Sweet Oil was available it might be a fair comparison but it is not.

And while the process has been called the worst environmental damage in the history of man, it is not. The old strip mining methods while still used is not the majority of new oil. SAGD removes the oil with very little disruption to the surface as it uses wells. Even the strip mining methods are no more damaging than any of the many strip mines currently in operation in the USA and Oil Sands mines face much greater scrutiny.

And finally Canadian oil is not the largest source of oil for the USA. The country that supplies most of the oil used in the USA is the USA. Canada is the largest foreign supplier.

Apr 13, 2011 2:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
PatrickMoore wrote:
Such misinformation should not be appearing on Reuters website. The article claims the land is destroyed forever. I have been to the Canadian Oil Sand operations and they have restored thousands of acres back to natural forest. Most people would think the restored areas have never been touched, they are so similar to the native forests around. In addition, the settling ponds are either converted to grasslands where bison are managed by First Nations under contract, or turned into lakes that are stocked with native fish. The previous commenter also knows the facts. Surface mining for oil is no different than surface mining for coal or other minerals. Companies are under legal obligation to reclaim the land and they are good at it.

Apr 13, 2011 8:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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