As the price of oil has skyrocketed, new techniques of extracting oil are emerging. The tar sands of Alberta Canada are promising huge profits as the energy intensive oil extraction is now profitable. Right now 1.3 million barrels are being exported daily, this number is expected to increase to 3.5 million barrels a day by 2011 and eventually to 5 million barrels a day by 2030. This would turn Canada into one of the oil giants.
The problem with extracting oil from the tar sands is that it produces three times the amount of greenhouse gases than producing a regular barrel of oil. It is easily one of the dirtiest energy solutions around.
According to a report released today by The University of Toronto's Munk Centre entitled: "How the Oil Sands Got To The Great Lakes Basin," Canadian company Enbridge who is one of the major players in energy and oil transport are proposing a new network of pipelines and expansion of refineries to be located throughout the Great Lakes region.
This includes: "significantly expanding the refineries in Indiana, next to Chicago, as well as in other states and possibly Sarnia, Ontario." The Canadian oil industry has requested "more capacity out of the oil sands and into the U.S. Midwest markets." This would mean that crude oil would be piped to the Great Lakes region and would then have to be refined here, the results would mean more pollution in the Great Lakes region.
The report lists 17 major refinery expansions that are now either being considered, or already underway. Some of these include:
• Illinois (Conoco Phillips in Wood River, Exxon-Mobil in Joliet, and Marathon
Robinson in Robinson)
• Indiana (BP Products North America Inc. in Whiting)
• Kentucky (Marathon Petroleum Co. LLC in Cattletsburg)
• Michigan (Marathon Petroleum Co. LLC in Detroit)
• Minnesota (Marathon Petroleum Co. LLC in St. Paul Park)
• Ohio (BP Products North America Inc/Husky Energy Inc. in Toledo)
• Wisconsin (Murphy Oil USA Inc. in Superior)
• Ontario (Suncor in Sarnia).
One of the examples of increased air pollution is already being felt in Whiting, Indiana at British Petroleum's (BP) $3.8 billion refinery expansion. BP has applied for permits to increase daily discharges of suspended solids from 3,646 pounds per day to 4,925 pounds per day. Other byproducts that come with refining oil to gasoline is ammonia and sludge.
Other regional concerns included through the report are:
"the region already endures some of the worst pollution in Canada or 131,000 tonnes of air pollution a year. Industrial waste from Chemical Valley has feminized male snapping turtles in the St Clair River, turned 45 per cent of the whitefish in Lake St Clair 'intersexual' and exposed 2,000 members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation to a daily cocktail of 105 carcinogens and gender benders. The Ojibway [members of a First Nation who live in the area] are not faring much better than the snapping turtles or whitefish. In fact the number of newborn girls outnumbers boys by two to one on the reserve. Two thirds of the children have asthma while 40 percent of the women experience miscarriages. Calls for a thorough federal investigation have gone largely unheeded. Environment Canada never bothered to do a cumulative impact study and probably no responsible authority ever will."
"In Wood River, Illinois, near St. Louis, Missouri, ConocoPhillips seeks to process Alberta Tar sands oil from EnCana Corporation as part of a $15 billion expansion that would also send processing to Texas. This project has been challenged by the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council; in June, 2008, the U.S. EPA determined that its Illinois counterpart didn’t adequately address air pollution questions raised during the permit process and reopened the project to further public comment."
"In Superior, Wisconsin, Murphy Oil is studying an oil sands-related expansion that citizens fear could damage 300 to 500 acres of wetlands. The project will consume 5 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan and boost the refinery’s energy demand 12-fold; the filling of the wetlands, according to one environmentalist, will be 'the largest wetlands filling in Wisconsin since the passage of the U.S. Clean Water Act
"In Detroit, a Marathon refinery is awaiting its final expansion permits; unlike other projects, this refinery does not discharge directly into the Great Lakes, but pre-treats its waste and then sends it to Detroit’s municipal treatment system before discharge. However, Detroit is already among the worst 10 (ranked ninth) U.S. cities for short-term particle pollution (the microscopic solids and liquid droplets that are often linked directly with health problems). In Toledo, Ohio, BP has an agreement with a Canadian company to expand its refinery and split the profits from processing oil sands, although no official
permit applications have been filed yet."
The report defines this pipeline as a pollution delivery system and uses a conservative estimate that this will bring an additional 2.3 million tonnes of additional greenhouse gas emissions a year, as well as "large-scale sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions – the building blocks of acid rain – as well as fine particulate matter, which is responsible for premature deaths. In addition, refineries use millions of litres of water per day. It is also worth noting that these would be refinery expansions, not replacements – in many, if not most cases, the old refineries with increasingly antiquated abatement equipment would be running side by side with the new expansion facilities."
Report: How the Oil Sands Got To The Great Lakes Basin
Live Webcast from the University of Toronto on How the Oil Sands Got To The Great Lakes Basin
Globe and Mail story: Oil sands will pollute Great Lakes, report warns