[Marxism] Fwd: Ft. McMurray, tar sands, and Freddy

Jon Flanders jonflanders at jflan.net
Sat Oct 15 20:41:28 MDT 2005

On Sat, 2005-10-15 at 21:45 -0400, Louis Proyect wrote:
> >The primary method used to process oil sands yields an oily wastewater. For
> >each barrel of oil recovered, 2.5 barrels of liquid waste are pumped into
> >huge ponds. In the Syncrude pond, 14 miles in circumference, 20 feet of
> >murky water floats on a 130-foot-thick slurry of sand, silt, clay, and
> >unrecovered oil

Leaving aside the environmental devastation extracting oil from tar
sands is incredibly energy intensive. Only continued high oil prices
make it feasible.

from a Wired puff piece.

""Chalk up the impressive output to Syncrude's efficiency. Carter and
his team like to present themselves as roughnecks, but they run the
company like bookish software engineers. Their oil mines - noisy and
grimy and often reeking of sulfur - operate with the high tech prowess
of a Taiwanese factory churning out LCDs.

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. 

It's a laborious process, to say the least - 2 tons of sand yields just
one barrel of oil - but nowhere near as painstaking as it used to be. In
the 1920s, Karl Clark, a University of Alberta chemist, discovered that
steam could tease pitch out of sand. His breakthrough piqued Big Oil's
interest, but no one could make the process cost-effective. In the
1950s, a few desperate hopefuls suggested detonating a subterranean
nuclear bomb to blast the gunk to the surface. When Syncrude started, it
relied on draglines, huge cranelike devices weighing more than 15 full
747s. Attached to these $100 million machines were enormous buckets; the
draglines would scrape the buckets across the earth to scoop up huge
chunks of sand - a tough process to coordinate come winter........""

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