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Page added on March 31, 2017

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An idiot’s guide to the ERoEI of tar sands


I know about the environmental issues surrounding tar sands of course, but the rampant destruction producing crude from tar sands entails never ceases to blow me away.. I had little clue about the complete energy inefficiency of the process. If we include shale and oil/tar sands in our peak oil calculations, the notion that we’ve hit 50% of reserves becomes moot…… we’ve more likely hit something like 2.5% capacity. If we assume sweet crude ERoEI to be ~20, then tar sands is 3 at best…… The process for refining tar sands goes something like the following…:

Dig a pit around 100m deep, and you’ll hit tar sands, or as the Canadians like to call it, oil sands. Mix with water and separate the oil. There’s a lot of Sulfur in tar sands, and we don’t like Sulfur. So we take CH4, strip the carbon off, and bubble the hydrogen through the tar sand slop. This will form H2S. Precipitate the elemental sulfur in an ice bath, release the hydrogen into the atmosphere, waste natural gas and throw the Hydrogen away, and you get all of this goodness…….:

Sulfur Stockpile

No, I’m not kidding you, those huge yellow blocks are made of pretty well pure Sulfur…… and those dotty things, they’re cars and trucks….. Apparently there’s a glut of Sulfur in the market, so that it just sits there in all its inimitable yellowness, unwanted…….. Piles upon growing piles of Sulfur cakes.

The above process is of course over-simplified, but that doesn’t alter the fact that its completely insane. The size of the Athabascan tar sands hellhole is equivalent to Saudi Arabia’s oil field before it was pilfered. The government of Alberta thinks it can push production beyond 3 million barrels per day. Hard to imagine a world in which we’re not reliant on oil when we keep finding ever more idiotic ways to extract it. Oh except that stuff by now must surely be making an energy loss…….



23 Comments on "An idiot’s guide to the ERoEI of tar sands"

  1. Midnight Oil on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 12:14 pm 

    But folks like Rockman here will focus on how much money can be made with the goo!
    Go figure….

  2. Outcast_Searcher on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 2:12 pm 

    So what? They could always impose the true social cost on fossil fuels, including the costs of producing them.

    Then the market (which has PLENTY of oil) would adapt.

    But no, just like we don’t do anything meaningful about AGW like a big CO2 tax, we do little about pollution, and so profit rules the day — even when the maginal oil produced isn’t needed.

  3. Anonymouse on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 2:27 pm 

    And after rockerman lectures everyone on the virtues of state-subsidized ‘free-market capitalism'(again), plantytard can drive-by and tell us how we are in a sulfur glut.

    Maybe the invisible hand can invent a car that runs on sulfur? Isnt that how the free-market works? Or maybe, it will find a way to use it as fertilizer? Spread it on fields? Feed it to farm animals? Not to worry, the ‘free energy market’ will find some way to make sure it ends up either in your stomach, lungs, or in your backyard.

    I know!, shape em like pyramids and turn them into tourist attractions. The great Sulfur Pyramids of Exxon-Mobil. Sell mini-sulfur cakes as souvenirs to all the visiting oil execs from texASS. Problem, solved. After people get tired of climbing all over the great sulfur pyramids of Fort Mac, the amerikan oil corporations can just sweep the remains into the lake and call it ‘an accident’.

  4. onlooker on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 3:09 pm 

    Because, we built that runs primarily on oil and other FF. A little too late to put the horse back in the barn

  5. onlooker on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 3:52 pm 

    built economies Darn

  6. rockman on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 3:57 pm 

    “But folks like Midnight Oil here won’t focus on how much money is be made by consumers who burn the products made from that goo. Go figure….” LOL.

  7. rockman on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 4:19 pm 

    “Maybe the invisible hand can invent a car that runs on sulfur?” Apparently some folks are too dumb/lazy to find out that sulfur is critical to not only the US economy to to all developed nations. From our govt’s USGS:

    “Sulfur ranks as one of the more important elements utilized by humanity as an industrial raw material. It is of prime importance to every sector of the world’s industrial and fertilizer complexes. Sulfuric acid consumption has been regarded as one of the best indexes of a nation’s industrial development.”

    So sad when some folks who, in an effort to appear to be so smart prove just the opposite. LOL. BTW the US is the 6th largest S exporter shipping out more then $270 million per year. And guess what: Canada is #4 S exporter at $320 million per year. Also for those too mentally limited to figure it out on their own: those huge mounds of sulfur is how it’s stored pending shipping. Such as the millions of pounds of sulfur exported from Canada every year.

    Sudden it seems as though prejudiced ignorance has become rather serious contagion. LOL.

  8. rockman on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 4:23 pm 

    Oh, almost forget. I hope after going over it a gazillion times we don’t have to go over how EROEI is not relevant to the production of any commodity

  9. Midnight Oil on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 5:37 pm 

    I almost forgot, Rockman will justify any fuel as long as there is money to burn and add to his portfolio.

  10. Keith McClary on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 6:41 pm 

    I made a page on sulfur:
    The sulfur, plant and chimney have now been removed.

  11. onlooker on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 7:03 pm 


  12. onlooker on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 7:04 pm 

    I am not sure if Spike is using the an economic/tech argument or geologic (abiotic), to peddle the meme that we have a 100 years of oil left. Both are wrong. The tar sands/shale will remain uneconomic because you cannot divorce the nature of those reserves from being energetically taxing to exploit, no matter what new tech comes online.

  13. Sissyfuss on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 7:53 pm 

    Lucifer, your huge sulphur shipment is ready for delivery.

  14. Sissyfuss on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 7:53 pm 

    But we’ve run low on brimstone.

  15. Anonymouse on Fri, 31st Mar 2017 8:15 pm 

    ROLF@ ricketyman. Sounds like you are in the wrong trade dude. Why not get into the sulfur business instead? Sounds like a perfect fit for you. Your talents are clearly wasting poking straws in the ground in the texAss scrublands.

    At parties when people ask you what you do, you could tell them,

    Hi, rockermans the name, I’m in sulfur. You could regale all you meet with a stories of the under-appreciated importance of sulfur to the uS economy. You’d have to beat the ladies off with a stick man.

  16. Go Speed Racer on Sat, 1st Apr 2017 2:53 am 

    In Rockman We Trust.

  17. Davy on Sat, 1st Apr 2017 5:43 am 

    Anonymouse, you are Canadian millennial pussy who has yet to leave mom’s basement. You act like you are an expert on the US but you have never been there. How could you because you just graduated from Xbox live to the geopolitical and it shows. You practice a special anti-Americanism with your own goofy dialect. You and dissident need your own Iranian circle jerk blog. On a rare occasions you say anything worth reading. Notice how lately you refrained from claiming the Tar Sands are an American phenomena of Canadian exploitation…LOL. I read all rockman’s comments because they have substance. You on the other hand are redundantly boring with the same hypocritical vomit. If this site could lose a few like you it world have better focus. WTF, why is Trump building the wall in the south?

  18. Kenz300 on Sat, 1st Apr 2017 11:04 am 

    The future is all electric. No emissions.

    Electric cars, electric trucks, electric motor cycles, electric lawn mowers, electric snow blowers, electric tools,

    Batteries are getting better every year. Climate Change will be the defining issue of our lives.

  19. GregT on Sat, 1st Apr 2017 12:44 pm 

    Geez Kenz,

    And where do you believe all of those trillions of cars, trucks, motor cycles, lawn mowers, snow blowers, tools, and batteries will come from without any ’emissions’?

  20. twocats on Sat, 1st Apr 2017 1:21 pm 

    I was watching a video of trucks delivering the blades for a wind turbine to the top of the hill (which I’m assuming is a somewhat common place for them). These trucks were massive. No way they are running on electric. None. Not a chance. Ever.

  21. onlooker on Sat, 1st Apr 2017 1:49 pm 

    Greg, forget about Kenz,you might as well talk to a brick wall. He sticks to his talking points like a friggin politician

  22. Anonymouse on Sat, 1st Apr 2017 1:58 pm 

    Parrots would also be a good alternative to talking to kenzbot. AND, parrots, once in a while can surprise you by saying something new.

    And remember, if your poor and too dumb know any better, have as many kids as you get away with.

  23. onlooker on Sat, 1st Apr 2017 2:04 pm 

    The stupid gene definitely has propagated haha

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