Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Environmentalists weigh costs of Alberta oil sands (IHT)

FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta: The huge dump truck sits parked under a massive mechanical shovel, waiting to transport 400 tons of oily sand at an open pit mine in the northern reaches of Alberta.
Each Caterpillar 797B heavy hauler - three stories high, with tires twice as tall as the average man - carries the equivalent of 200 barrels of heavy oil, worth $23,000 at the current prices.
"It's like sitting on your back porch and driving your house," said Todd Dahlman, the manager of Shell Canada's Muskeg River open pit oil sands mine in the Athabasca region of Alberta.
Shell, which has 35 of the gigantic loaders working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, has ordered 16 more - at $5 million each - as it expands its open pit mines. And it is not alone among major oil companies rushing to exploit the Alberta oil sands, which make Canada one of the few countries that can significantly ramp up oil production amid a decline in conventional reserves.
Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Imperial and other companies plan to strip an area here the size of New York State that could yield as much as 175 billion barrels of oil. Daily production from the oil sands, now at 1.2 million barrels, is expected to nearly triple to 3.5 million barrels in 2020. Overall, Alberta has more oil than Venezuela, Russia or Iran. Only Saudi Arabia has more.



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