Tech Talk – The latest Canadian oil spill

Time was that I used to write, on Sundays usually, a Tech Talk over at The Oil Drum where I would try and explain some of the technical issues involved in oil recovery from the ground. Now that the site has effectively gone away, and I have had my couple of moments of frustration trying to explain why it isn’t because of the end of the Peak Oil story (here and here), the need for the occasional technical explanation still exists, and I still enjoy the chance to explain something. So as time permits and the need arises I will continue the practice.

On this occasion the post is seeded by a note from Luis de Sousa (h/t Luis) who noted a story in Mother Jones. That story, in turn, fed from one in the Toronto Star and is about surface contamination of oil, coming from the underlying tar sands and emerging as a watery bitumen mixture over at least four areas in the Cold Lake region of Alberta. The story is difficult to report, since the contamination is centered within the Cold Lake Air Missile Range, where the Canadian military fires and tests live weapons. Unfortunately, as written, it seems to have some technical inconsistencies.

The oil migration was apparently started by underground extraction wells that are being used to extract the oil from the oil sand, without having to dig it up first. There are two main ways of injecting steam through wells down into the oil sands that can produce the oil. The one that is most commonly discussed is the Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) process, but the more commonly one used in the past is often known as “Huff and Puff.” I have described both of these in some detail in an earlier post. In this case the process would appear to be the older one, and as a refresher, here is what I wrote about it a couple of years ago.

via Bit Tooth Energy: Tech Talk – The latest Canadian oil spill.

Categories: Energy, Transportation

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