Bitumen Carbonates Are Dirtier, Costlier Than Tar Sands/Oil Sands
Fossil fuel companies in Alberta have their eye on bitumen carbonate deposits beneath the tar sands/oil sands that are even dirtier, more expensive, and tougher to mine, but could add 500 billion barrels of oil to the global inventory of unburnable carbon.
The deposits are located in Alberta’s Grosmont formation, and “Shell, Husky, tar sands giant Suncor, and the dreaded Koch brothers have all snapped up leases in Alberta’s bitumen carbonates,” Grist reports. “In mid-March, the mineral rights for a portion of carbonates were sold at auction for three-and-a-half times the average price for such leases, indicating great confidence in their profit-making potential, if not in the short term, then in the long term.”
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Knight notes that “industry insiders have a tendency to mention [Grosmont] in the same breath as Saudi Arabia’s mammoth Ghawar oilfield.”
The deposits are technically difficult to mine, and after decades of trying, “no one has yet found a way to profitably mine them,” she adds. But if companies could make a go of it, the process would be “even more carbon-intensive than the ugly strip-mining that has already razed so much of Alberta’s boreal forest. Not to mention that the steam required to melt, dilute, and pump that bitumen requires the use of a tremendous volume of fresh water from a river and ecosystem that are already at risk from the tar sands industry’s rapacious use of their water.”