New geothermal study shows tar sands oil is unnecessary
Canada’s tar sands are an economic bounty to a select few, but an utter disaster for everyone else. The oil is difficult to extract and process, and is as dirty as is it is expensive.. and it’s by no means cheap. However, a new report released by the Geological Survey of Canada has revealed that it’s completely unnecessary.
Tar sand oil has a relatively low energy return on investment (EROI), which is why the tar sands were not developed until world oil prices rose enough to make them profitable. The oil that is produced, called syncrude, has roughly 20% more carbon content than conventional crude oil. This makes it the dirtiest oil available, and the numbers get worse from there.
In order to extract a single barrel of oil, 2 tons of tar-filled sand must be strip mined and then 5 barrels of water must be flashed into steam to drive the oil out of the sand. This is a huge energy and resource consumption for relatively little material gain, as well as being extremely polluting. This dirty resources is being developed because of the perceived notion that we need this energy source, but that is simply not true.
The 322-page Geological Survey of Canada report, released on Sept 15th 2011 at a geothermal conference in Toronto, reveals that Canada is home to reserves of geothermal energy that literally dwarf our energy demand.
“Canada’s in-place geothermal power exceeds one million times Canada’s current electrical consumption.”
The report, authored by a team of 12 scientists led by Stephen Grasby, indicates that as few as 100 projects could meet Canada’s energy needs. This is a “game changer”, as it puts nearly unlimited energy supplies within our reach, without the downsides of conventional energy such as the pollution of the tar sands, the deadly waste issue from nuclear power, or the intermittency of solar and wind projects. Another benefit of geothermal power is will last indefinitely once operational, operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This resource could potentially be tapped by a very simple solution such as a new alloy that converts heat directly to electricity.
We should absolutely develop as many different power sources as we can, including rooftop solar, wind, and offshore tidal power, but as a steady baseline power supply it’s difficult to beat geothermal.
We’ve long since known that geothermal reserves are a solid source for cheap energy as a general principle, but this report offers specific examples here in Canada that may be what we need to finally cease the wasteful and dirty extraction of tar sands oil.
Canada sitting on ‘massive’ store of geothermal energy: Report via Montreal Gazette