I am a fifth-grader going to Walker Upper Elementary School. My friend and I are doing a project on the Athabasca Tar Sands. It is an independent project from school. I became interested in the Athabasca Tar Sands when my grandfather and step-grandmother went to the White House to protest against the Canadian pipeline.
This is what we found out. Tar sands are bitumen, which is a very high-viscosity petroleum, mixed with sand, water and clay. First, the oil drilling company has to remove the sand, water and clay from the bitumen and then has to dilute the bitumen and pump it out. After that, they have to pump out the water or natural gas used in diluting. Then they process the bitumen into conventional crude oil. This part of the process emits some greenhouse gases. Two tons of tar sands equal one barrel of oil (42 gallons).
The company may also use propane gas to dilute the bitumen to pump it out. This is a costly way to go but more environmental and efficient. The propane gas used can be recycled (another benefit). Not many companies use this method right now but maybe the public can persuade them to change.
When companies use water to extract and dilute the bitumen, the water becomes polluted. The water usually comes from a stream, so the fish living in it may die because of the toxic metals in the water. Some researchers found that a moose near the stream flowing from the tar sands had abnormal rates of arsenic in its body. Fish embryos were also shown to have a deformity rate when exposed to tar sands chemicals. The humans living near the excavation site and contaminated river can be negatively affected. They may have higher rates of cancer than normal.
As I said earlier, the production of bitumen emits greenhouse gases. It actually emits more than the production of regular crude oil. The emissions are 20 percent greater when producing bitumen versus regular oil.
The Athabasca Tar Sands are also very close to Wood Buffalo National Park and that will endanger the health and well-being of the animals.
My friend and I personally don’t agree with further production of tar sands because, even with the propane gas method, the companies are still adding more oil to the world to burn and pollute with.