France: On The Road
Paris, the city of love and a thousand other clichés, still holds a certain mystic. But no matter how many written words this great city has commanded - however familiar this town may appear - Paris will always remain an enigma, a magnet for millions of visitors from around the world.
Alberta The Oil Sands
Do you wonder where your next tank of gas may come from after the Middle East dries up, or the sheiks turn off the taps? How about twenty, thirty years from now, will your kids still be able to fill up the family jalopy?.Well, maybe you shouldn't worry so much about the supply of petroleum products. There's an oil boom going on right now. Not in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or any of those places, but 600 miles north of Montana.
In a city called Fort McMurray where, in the dead of winter, the temperature sometimes zooms up to zero and just as often dips down to a minus 50 degrees F, you'll find the oil sands. The oilmen up there aren't digging holes in the sand and hoping for a spout. They're digging up dirt - dirt that is saturated with oil.
They're called oil sands and if you've never heard of them then you're in for a big surprise because the reserves are so vast in the province of Alberta that they will help solve America's energy needs for the next century.Within a few years, the oil sands are likely to become more important to the United States than all the oil that comes from Saudi Arabia. Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, vehicles that look like prehistoric beasts move across a sub-arctic wasteland, extracting the oil sands. There is so much to scoop, so muc oil to produce, so much money to be made.There are 175 billion barrels of proven oil reserves here. That's second to Saudi Arabia's 260 billion but it's only what companies can get with today's technology.
The estimate of how many more barrels of oil are buried deeper underground is staggering. The total estimates could be two trillion or even higher. That's eight times the amount of reserves in Saudi Arabia. The oil sands are buried under forests in Alberta in the northeastern corner of the province, in an area that is roughly the size of Florida. The oil here doesn't come gushing out of the sand the way it does in the Middle East.
The oil is in the sand. It has to be dug up and processed.The oil sands have been in the ground for millions of years, but for decades, prospectors lost millions of dollars trying to squeeze the oil out of the sand. It simply cost too much. T.
Boone Pickens, a legendary Texas oil tycoon, was working Alberta's traditional oil rigs back in the '60s and remembers how he and his colleagues thought mining for oil sands was a joke."Here we are sitting there having a drink after work and somebody said this isn't going to work, it isn't possible. It'll all have to be subsidized before they'll make money. You'd have to have $5 oil", Pickens says laughing. "We never thought it would happen".But then $40 a barrel happened and now $60 a barrel has happened and the oil sands not only make sense, they making billions for the people digging them.
But it wasn't just the price of oil that changed the landscape, it was the toys. That's what they call the giant trucks and shovels that roam the mines.Everything about the oil industry has always been big.
It's characterized by bigness, from the pumps to the personalities. But here in northeastern Alberta, it's frankly ridiculous. The mines operate fleets of the world's biggest truck. It's three stories high and costs $5 million. It carries a load of 400 tons of oil sands, which means, at today's oil prices, each load is worth $10,000 dollars.What it's like to drive one of these monsters? One driver described it this way.
"You have 14 steps going up to the cab and at my house you have 14 steps to the bedroom. So it's like going upstairs in my house, sitting on my bed and driving the house downtown", he said.The monster trucks haul the oil sands to a plant. They're heated in a cell, which separates the oil from the sand. The result looks like molten chocolate.
This flow is then sent to an upgrader and eventually to a refinery. The oil is as good as that pumped in Saudi Arabia, in fact, it even trades at a premium because it's such high quality crude oil.The capital of the oil sands frenzy is a frontier town, now a city, called Fort McMurray, which as one wag said, "It isn't in the middle of nowhere.
It's north of nowhere". But it's a boomtown just the same. "I think it's bigger than a gold rush. We're expecting $100 billion over the next 10 years to be invested in this area - $100 billion in a population that, currently, is 70,000 people", says Brian Jean, who represents the region in Canada's parliament.Most of the oil in the sands on those lumbering trucks are on their way to the gas tanks of America.
A million barrels a day are now coming out of the oil sands and oil production is expected to triple within a decade. It won't replace Middle Eastern oil but at that point it will be the single largest source of foreign oil for the United States, even bigger than Saudi Arabia, which sends a million and a half barrels a day to America.The oil companies want to step up production quickly. What's holding them back is labor - the shortage of it.
It's estimated that another 100,000 people are needed in Fort McMurray. That's why one oil company has built a runway to fly workers daily from civilization to Fort McMurray. But why would anyone want to come work in a place where temperatures plummet to 40 below and the sun sets shortly after it rises in the long winter? Well, perhaps because the oil companies pay some of the highest salaries in North America.But even if workers come flocking, the oil companies still have other problems. Creating energy from oil sands requires so much energy that the oil companies wind up spiking greenhouse gas emissions. Other less energy intensive methods of extraction are continually being invented and developed to lessen the environmental impact.
A hundred miles south from Fort McMurray, you can still see oil being produced the traditional way. It's picturesque now. The wells are still pumping but they belong to the past, like the iron horse that once rode across these prairies.
The future? Up here in Northern Alberta they're convinced it's in the dirt, the oil sands to be exact.
.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Canada Vacation.Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Russell.
By: Michael Russell
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