U.S. May See First Oil Tar Sands Mine in Utah
Written By: John Shimkus
Alberta, Canada-based company, Earth Energy Resources, Inc., has qualified for a permit to mine 62 acres of tar sands in Utah, a state in the western U.S. It will mark the first tar sand to oil mining venture in the United States.
Tar sands have been a controversial topic in the energy world. Simply put, tar sand is exactly what it sounds like—sandy tar—similar to the stuff that makes blacktop or asphalt for roads. But if you process it correctly, tar sands can yield oil that can be converted to fuel. Unfortunately, tar sand mining comes at a cost.
First of all, tar sand petroleum extraction is an extremely energy intensive process, with an emissions footprint three times higher than petroleum produced from traditional crude oil extraction.
Tar sand mining also ranks as one of the most environmentally destructive mining practices in the world, right behind mountaintop removal. The strip mining process requires excessive amounts of water and leaves behind giant lakes of waste.
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However, consider this… Canada has been exploiting its own tar sands for years at a profit. In fact, Canada tar sands petroleum is one of the top sources of U.S. oil imports. With the ever increasing price of oil, and energy security on the line, Earth Energy Resources, Inc. and others like them are looking to any and all sources of petroleum, and domestic tar sands do offer at least a temporary solution to the looming oil decline.
Environmental groups, however, are appealing the permit in an attempt to block a precedent being set for tar sand mining in the U.S. Although Earth Energy Resources, Inc. claims that the citrus-based solvent used in the mining process is environmentally benign, skeptics still aren’t embracing the mine.
It does seem counterproductive to seek an energy source that uses more energy in its processing than it actually yields; but frankly, it doesn’t seem like much going on these days does makes much sense. One thing’s for sure though, the only way to get to the next phase of post-oil energy security is to use what we’ve got, and if that means tar sands, then tar sands it is. Sure, there are much much better alternatives, like Sapphire Energy’s “Green Crude” and algae-derived isobutanol, but these technologies will take a few years longer to reach viable production levels. I’m afraid to say that we don’t have the luxury of waiting, not when every aspect of our society, from food production to transportation, is reliant on oil. Until the “magic bullet” of a fuel replacement is at full capacity, we must—and this is coming from a cringing environmentalist—use the resources currently at our disposal.
Hydrostor receives $4m funding for A-CAES facility in Canada
Hydrostor has received $4m funding to develop a 300-500MW Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) facility in Canada.
The funding will be used to complete essential engineering and planning, and enable Hydrostor to plan construction.
The project will be modeled on Hydrostor’s commercially operating Goderich storage facility, providing up to 12 hours of energy storage.
Hydrostor’s A-CAES system supports Canada’s green economic transition by designing, building, and operating emissions-free energy storage facilities, and employing people, suppliers, and technologies from the oil and gas sector.
The Honorable Seamus O’Regan, Jr. Minister of Natural Resources, said: “Investing in clean technology will lower emissions and increase our competitiveness. This is how we get to net zero by 2050.”
A-CAES has the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions by enabling the transition to a cleaner and more flexible electricity grid. Specifically, the low-impact and cost-effective technology will reduce the use of fossil fuels and will provide reliable and bankable energy storage solutions for utilities and regulators, while integrating renewable energy for sustainable growth.
Curtis VanWalleghem, Hydrostor’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are grateful for the federal government’s support of our long duration energy storage solution that is critical to enabling the clean energy transition. This made-in-Canada solution, with the support of NRCan and Sustainable Development Technology Canada, is ready to be widely deployed within Canada and globally to lower electricity rates and decarbonize the electricity sector."
The Rosamond A-CAES 500MW Project is under advanced development and targeting a 2024 launch. It is designed to turn California’s growing solar and wind resources into on-demand peak capacity while allowing for closure of fossil fuel generating stations.
Hydrostor closed US$37 million (C$49 million) in growth financing in September 2019.