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Monday, July 9, 2012

How Are Fracking and Tar Sands Production Closely Connected?

From EcoWatch:
The energy revolution sweeping the U.S. is now taking up serious column inches in the nation’s papers. Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran with with the headline: “Expanded Oil Drilling Helps U.S. Wean Itself from Mideast.” 
The next day it was “U.S. Wakes Up to North American Oil Abundance.” 
There is no doubt that the dirty tar sands and fracking are revolutionizing the industry. But what is less understood is how inter-connected the two are. Ironically, one dirty technology is actually boosting the other. 
One of the big energy issues dominating the energy and political debate over the last year has been the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would facilitate the export of tar sands from Canada to the U.S. 
But what many people don’t realize is that, at the moment, the U.S. is actually exporting light crude to Canada. An informative article by John Kemp, a Reuters market analyst, explained how last week. 
The fracking boom has produced an excess of condensate in the U.S. Condensate is a by-product of oil and gas production. It is a kind of wet gas or gaseous liquid depending on how you look at it. It is abundant in the shale gas and tight oil wells being drilled across America using hydraulic fracturing. 
On the downside for refiners, this surplus has reduced refining margins for the light crudes and condensates. 
But, by a twist of fate, is has also provided a major boost to Canada’s dirty tar sands industry, as the condensate is perfect for diluting and liquefying the semi-solid bitumen extracted from the tar sands so that it can flow through pipelines. 
So as tar sands producers gear up for massive expansions of their high carbon production, more and more of the condensate produced from fracking is being exported to Canada to facilitate the transportation of bitumen to American refineries.
Read the rest of the article here.

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