Interactive Tool Tracks Tars Sands Refinery Production in North America
The new tool enables users to discover how much tar sands crude is being processed at U.S. refineries and which Canadian refineries are regularly refining this dirty source of crude.
The data for U.S. refineries covers years 2010-2012 and a full analysis gives details of which refining companies process the most tar sands feedstock as well as a regional breakdown of tar sands flows. These estimates were made by cross referencing multiple data sources and we believe them to be the best publicly available estimates of tar sands refining at American refineries.
The amount of tar sands crude refined in the U.S. grew by more than 40 percent between 2010 and 2012, from 1.15 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2010 to 1.65 million bpd in 2012. The number of U.S. refineries processing tar sands increased from 57 to 66.
The Flint Hills refinery in Pine Bend, MN, refines more tar sands crude than any other refinery in the U.S., more than 200,000 bpd. Tar sands crude made up 77 percent of the refinery’s feedstock in 2012. Flint Hills Resources is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, which is privately owned by billionaire right wing activists Charles and David Koch. The much smaller (10,000 bpd) Calumet refinery in Great Falls, MT, is the only U.S. refinery to rely on tar sands crude for 100 percent of its feedstock.
The top ten tar sands refining companies processed more than 75 percent of all the tar sands refined in the U.S. in 2012:
More than 70 percent of all tar sands crude refined in the U.S. was processed in the Midwest refining region known as PADD 2. More than one-third of all the crude refined there was sourced from the tar sands. The Rocky Mountain region (PADD 4) is the next biggest market for tar sands crude, refining more than 10 percent of tar sands entering the U.S.
Despite being home to over half of America’s refining capacity, the Gulf Coast region (PADD 3) accounted for less than five percent of tar sands crude refined in the U.S. in 2012. Tar sands crude supplied one percent of the region’s refinery feedstock during the year.
With a large number of refineries already equipped to refine heavy tar sands crude, the Gulf Coast region is the number one target for expanding the market for tar sands crude. The expansion of the Seaway Pipeline, which runs from the Cushing, OK, pipeline hub to the Texas Gulf Coast, and the completion of the Keystone Gulf Coast pipeline, which follows a similar route, will increase the flow of tar sands crude reaching the region beginning in early 2014.
However, without the Keystone XL pipeline linking Alberta to Cushing, the amount of tar sands crude reaching Cushing will be limited. It remains to be seen to what extent rail or other pipeline expansions may bridge this gap.
So far, the East and West Coast regions (PADDs 1 and 5 respectively) have seen relatively little tar sands crude refining. Five of the East Coast’s eight refineries received small amounts of tar sands crude in 2012. The region accounted for just over one percent of total tar sands crude refined in the U.S. in 2012, with around three percent of all oil refined on the East Coast derived from tar sands.
Tar sands crude has had similarly limited reach on the West Coast, where just over three percent of total crude refined in the region in 2012 came from the tar sands. The West Coast refined slightly more than five percent of all tar sands crude imported into the U.S. in 2012. Most tar sands crude entering the West Coast region goes to refineries in northern Washington State. Only two refineries in California currently regularly process significant quantities of tar sands crude. But some California refineries are looking into accessing more tar sands crude via rail.
It is much more difficult to gauge the quantity of tar sands crude flowing into Canadian refineries. Unlike the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) does not track these flows. However, we have determined which Canadian refineries use tar sands crude by searching company information and industry news sources that discuss these refineries.
Nine of Canada’s 16 refineries regularly refine tar sands crude. They are concentrated in Alberta, where tar sands crude is produced, but also in Sarnia, Ontario. Small quantities of tar sands crude are refined in Vancouver and some in Saskatchewan. Refineries in eastern Canada currently have little access to tar sands crude but this could change with reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline. The Suncor refinery in Montreal has announced plans to refine tar sands if that pipeline project goes through. The Irving refinery in St. John, New Brunswick announced plans to build a 40,000 b/d terminal for unloading tar sands crude from rail cars. This could be operational in 2014.
Visit EcoWatch’s TAR SANDS page for more related news on this topic.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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