Tar Sands Oil
Alberta Tar Sands PDF Print E-mail

tar sand oilIt just so happens that Koch Industries, headquartered in Wichita Kansas, has its largest refinery in Rosemount, MN.  It is the 14th largest refinery in the United States and gets its oil from the  tar sands in Alberta, Canada.  This is not the light crude oil that we think of, but a very thick mixture of  oil, sand, water, and clay that is solid at normal temperatures.  About four tons of this material must be extracted for every one barrel of oil produced.  It requires as many as 1000 cubic meters of gas to convert a barrel of the substance to thick crude that can be piped to a refinery.

Destruction of the Boreal Forest in Alberta

dr. maureen hackett on tar sands

This process destroys the environment and ecosystems in Alberta, Canada, leaving gaping open pit mines 75 meters deep scarring the landscape.  The boreal forest ecosystem stores more carbon in its peatlands, soil, and trees than any other ecosystem in the world, including the tropical rainforests.  Tar sands extraction in Northern Alberta is destroying previously untouched boreal forest  equivalent to the size of the state of Florida. The environmental destruction is immense and releases huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.  See the Democratic Visions interview of Maureen Hackett on the Tar Sands.

Pollution of Tar Sands Oil PDF Print E-mail

Tar sands mining releases at least three times the CO2 emissions as regular oil production and is slated to become the single largest industrial contributor in North America to climate change.  A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that toxic elements were found near tar sands mining sites and downstream from them.  The oil sands industry releases the 13 elements considered priority pollutants (PPE) under the US Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Water Act, via air and water, to the Athabasca River and its watershed.  Seven PPE—cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, silver, and zinc exceeded Canada's or Alberta's guidelines for the protection of aquatic life.  Indigenous residents of Fort Chipewyan, who live downstream from the tar sands mines, were found to have elevated rates of cancer by the provincial cancer board.

Refining the thick crude oil produced pollutes both air and water.  A recent report from the University of Toronto's Munk Centre says the massive refinery expansions needed to process tar sands crude, and the new pipeline networks for transporting the fuel, amount to a “pollution delivery system” connecting Alberta to the Great Lakes region of Canada and the U.S.  The various projects, when taken together, threaten to “wipe out many of the pollution control gains” achieved around the lakes since the 1970s.   It will lead to "an exponential increase in pollution, discharges into waterways including the Great Lakes, destruction of wetlands, toxic air emissions, acid rain, and huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Canadian Tar Sands Oil and Pipelines in MN and U.S. PDF Print E-mail

Many Minnesotans are not aware that 80% of their gasoline comes from Canadian tar sands oil.  Though our attention has been focused on the Keystone XL Pipeline, pipelines already bring tar sands oil to refineries in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The Alberta Clipper is a 36-inch pipeline that covers 326 miles, most of it in Minnesota. It runs from the northwestern tip of the state, along a line through Thief River Falls, Clearbrook and Bemidji, then eastward through Deer River, Grand Rapids, and finally to Superior, Wisconsin.  Older pipelines bring tar sands oil to the Flint Hills refinery in Pine Bend, MN and to the Marathon Refinery in St. Paul Park, MN.

Existing and proposed pipelines would bring tar sands oil to over 30 refineries throughout the U.S.  Over the last ten years, diluted bitumen (DilBit) exports to the United States have increased almost fivefold, to 550,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2010.  By 2019, Canadian tar sands producers plan to triple this amount to as much as 1.5 million bpd of DilBit. 

Download a Map of Tar Sands Oil Refineries and Pipelines

Tar Sands Mining: Most Devastating Industry Planet Has Seen PDF Print E-mail

Alberta tar sands mining is the most devastating industrial project the planet has ever seen.  Victoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta tar sands mining project and the beautiful and vital ecosystems under threat.  Tar sands oil produces more CO2 than any other oil. Tar sands mining is sending chemicals down the Athabasca River which have raised the cancer rates of native people living along the river to 10 times the cancer rate in the rest of Canada.  The tailings ponds are built unlined on the banks of the Athabasca River.  Low income people who live downstream have to eat the carcinogenic fish and animals to survive.

Native peoples have lived in a sustainable way in the Boreal forest for the past 10,000 years.  Canada's Boreal Forest sequesters more carbon than any other eco system,  double the carbon sequestered in the tropical rain forests.  The Great Bear Rain Forest has the greatest density of threatened species.
The Keystone XL pipeline would go through the agriculture heartland of the U.S.   A four times increase in production is proposed, equivalent to the size of the state of Florida.  "We all need to act to insure that Canada acts to respect its massive supply of fresh water.  Garth Lenz concluded, "We need to all gather to say no to the Canadian tar sands.  Everyone has a role to play. . .   We have an incredible opportunity to preserve the Boreal Forests, our best defense against global warming."  Watch his talk accompanied by his photos of the Boreal Forest and the tar sands mines.


Tar Sand Pipelines Safety Risks PDF Print E-mail

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) warns that tar sands pipelines may be putting public safety at risk. The pipelines carry diluted bitumen or “DilBit”—a highly corrosive, acidic, and potentially unstable blend of thick raw bitumen and volatile natural gas liquid condensate using conventional pipeline technology which is not adequate for the high operating temperatures and pressures required to move the thick material through a pipe.  The DilBit is highly corrosive because it is both acidic and abrasive.  The Alberta pipeline system has had 16 times as many spills due to internal corrosion as the U.S. system.

The NRDC recommends that the U.S. evaluate the pipeline safety regulations required for pipelines transporting DilBit, improve spill response planning for DilBit pipelines, put construction on hold until adequate safety regulations for DilBit pipelines are in place, and reduce U.S. demand for tar sands oil.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranked an 800,000 gallon tar sands spill into the Kalamazoo River in 2010 as the largest spill in Midwestern history. 

kalamazoo tar sands spill

Section of Kalamazoo Pipe Rupture
6 feet 5 inches long by 4 1/2 inches wide
National Transportation Safety Board

The Kalamazoo tar sands oil spill was far more damaging and difficult to clean up than traditional crude.   When DilBit spilled out of the ruptured pipeline, benzene and other chemicals in the mixture went airborne, forcing mandatory evacuations of the surrounding neighborhood.  A survey by the Michigan Department of Community Health found that more than 300 residents living near the spill suffered health problems such as severe headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems in the weeks and months after the spill.

The thick, heavy bitumen sank and coated the river and lake bottoms, mixing with sediment and suffocating bottom-dwelling plants, animals, and micro-organisms.  A full year later, EPA officials and scientists were still working on a plan to remove submerged oil from about 200 acres of river and lake bottom.  Enbridge, the pipeline company, thought the cleanup might take years.  Read the article from On Earth Magazine:

"A Year After Pipeline Spill, Tar Sands Oil Still Plagues a Michigan Community"



MN's Leading Election System

With Secretary of State Steve Simon


steve simon


Listen to Secretary of State Steve Simon's excellent presentation on MN's outstanding election system emulated by many other states at the Think Again Brooklyns forum January 19, 2016.  Secretary Simon includes ways in which it can be improved, and he explains why it is important to vote.  He concludes with a quote from a tee shirt:  "Failure to vote is not an act of rebellion.  It is an act of surrender."

Get details on how to vote at http://mnvotes.org

facebook logo

How Oregon Became the Easiest Place to Vote in the US

By Lornet Turnbull
YES! Magazine
October 8, 2016


In January, Oregon became the first state in the country to begin automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses or state IDs, completely shifting the burden of voter registration from the individual to the government. 

Read the Article

Think Again MN, Powered by Joomla!