Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

How Fracking Feeds Tar Sands Production

Energy

Oil Change International

By Andy Rowell

The energy revolution sweeping the U.S. is now taking up serious column inches in the nation’s papers. Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran with with the headline: “Expanded Oil Drilling Helps U.S. Wean Itself from Mideast.”

The next day it was “U.S. Wakes Up to North American Oil Abundance.”

There is no doubt that the dirty tar sands and fracking are revolutionizing the industry. But what is less understood is how inter-connected the two are. Ironically, one dirty technology is actually boosting the other.

One of the big energy issues dominating the energy and political debate over the last year has been the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would facilitate the export of tar sands from Canada to the U.S.

But what many people don’t realize is that, at the moment, the U.S. is actually exporting light crude to Canada. An informative article by John Kemp, a Reuters market analyst, explained how last week.

The fracking boom has produced an excess of condensate in the U.S. Condensate is a by-product of oil and gas production. It is a kind of wet gas or gaseous liquid depending on how you look at it. It is abundant in the shale gas and tight oil wells being drilled across America using hydraulic fracturing.

On the downside for refiners, this surplus has reduced refining margins for the light crudes and condensates.

But, by a twist of fate, is has also provided a major boost to Canada’s dirty tar sands industry, as the condensate is perfect for diluting and liquefying the semi-solid bitumen extracted from the tar sands so that it can flow through pipelines.

So as tar sands producers gear up for massive expansions of their high carbon production, more and more of the condensate produced from fracking is being exported to Canada to facilitate the transportation of bitumen to American refineries.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the independent statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, in the first three months of 2011, the U.S. exported 1 million barrels of a type of light condensates known as “pentanes plus." These exports rocketed to 10 million barrels in the same period this year.

Last month, one company announced it would be exporting 100,000 barrels per day of condensate for at least ten years from Illinois to the tar sands.

And the exports are set to skyrocket. By 2025, the demand for light condensate to feed the tar sands is predicted to be more than 450,000 barrels per day.

If it wasn’t for the severe local impacts of fracking, it would be sadly ironic that America is trading its relatively low carbon oil for Canada’s high carbon tar.

But without a climate-led energy policy that places a safe limit on carbon in North America, it is simply predictable to find that one destructive energy production method is feeding another.

Visit EcoWatch's FRACKING and KEYSTONE XL pages for more related news on these topics.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a crude oil storage facility of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) in the Krasnodar Territory. Vitaly Timkiv / TASS / Getty Images

Oil rigs around the world keep pulling crude oil out of the ground, but the global pandemic has sent shockwaves into the market. The supply is up, but demand has plummeted now that industry has ground to a halt, highways are empty, and airplanes are parked in hangars.

Read More Show Less
Examples (from left) of a lead pipe, a corroded steel pipe and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate. U.S. EPA Region 5

Under an agreement negotiated by community groups — represented by NRDC and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project — the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will remove thousands of lead water pipes by 2026 in order to address the chronically high lead levels in the city's drinking water and protect residents' health.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

By Dave Cooke

So, they finally went and did it — the Trump administration just finalized a rule to undo requirements on manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger cars and trucks. Even with the economy at the brink of a recession, they went forward with a policy they know is bad for consumers — their own analysis shows that American drivers are going to spend hundreds of dollars more in fuel as a result of this stupid policy — but they went ahead and did it anyway.

Read More Show Less

By Richard Connor

A blood test that screens for more than 50 types of cancer could help doctors treat patients at an earlier stage than previously possible, a new study shows. The method was used to screen for more than 50 types of cancer — including particularly deadly variants such as pancreatic, ovarian, bowel and brain.

Read More Show Less
Ian Sane / Flickr

Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control showed a larger number of young people coming down with COVID-19 than first expected, with patients under the age of 45 comprising more than a third of all cases, and one in five of those patients requiring hospitalization. That also tends to be the group most likely to use e-cigarettes.

Read More Show Less