Utah to Become the Tar Sands Capital of the U.S.
More than half of the total bitumen deposits in the United States are located in the State of Utah, totaling over 30 billion barrels of oil in the form of tar sands. Utah has both the largest number of tar sands occurrences and the largest individual deposits. The deposits are primarily located in two areas within the state: the northeastern and central southeastern areas of the Uinta Basin and the Tar Sands Triangle. The Uinta Basin deposits are home to more than 50 identified oil sands deposits, which contain an estimated total of 20 to 32 billion barrels of oil in place.
Within the Tar Sands Triangle, located on the confluence of the Colorado and Dirty Devil Rivers, which lies in the middle of the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument, is the largest known deposit of tar sands in the lower 48 states. More than 16.6 billion barrels of crude are estimated to lie within the Triangle.
Colorado River Connected condemns the extraction of tar sands on multiple levels:
• The projects represent a serious threat for pollution of the region’s groundwater supplies.
• The likelihood of spills that could enter the Colorado River drainage system and ultimately pollute lower basin states water supplies.
• The potential for release of huge amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as a result of the use of this dirty energy.
U.S. Oil Sands (PR Springs): US Oil Sands (USOS) is a tar sands project permitted on 32,005 acres of lands set aside for exploration estimated to hold 4.4 billion barrels of crude. Their intent is to strip mine 213 acres of state lands for bitumen, which they will process into transportation fuels at refineries located in SLC, or Green River, if new refineries are built there to begin processing dirty energy extracted in the area. While their permits are being challenged, they believe they have the funding and permits necessary to proceed.
• Construction is planned to begin in early 2015. Following completion of Phase One at a cost estimated at $60M, output is estimated at 2,000 barrels per day and potentially 50,000 BPD when fully operational.
• The energy value for this heavy crude is estimated at only 50% as compared to 97% for conventional light crude.
• Operation will require 116 gallons of water per minute. 73.5 gallons of water are required to process one barrel of bitumen.
• The company claims their process will recycle 98% of the citrus solvent used in their process to extract low-sulfur bitumen and 95% of the water.
• Typical bitumen extraction requires immersion and agitation of the sands in hot water, but because of the scarcity of water at the site, USOS proposes to use a new, citrus-based chemical solvent to extract the bitumen from the sand.
• USOS claims that no or minimal groundwater exists at the site, eliminating the need for a water impact study and the Utah Supreme Court has agreed. http://www.usoilsandsinc.com/
MCW Energy Group (Canada): This project, located in the Asphalt Ridge tar sands district, is in the development stage on 2,100 acres near Vernal, Utah. Currently projected to produce 250 barrels per day.
• What makes this project unique is that it is the first project on BLM lands authorized by the 2012 Programmatic EIS that gave the green light for experimental projects. BLM set aside 140,000 for tar sands development leasing.
• That EIS is the document that is now currently being challenged by numerous groups including the Sierra Club for improper evaluation of endangered species.