Fort McMurray Wildfire-Special Posting

May 5, 2016

**Donate to Canadian Red Cross  The Alberta and Canadian governments are matching dollar for dollar all donations.

A city of almost 100,000 is evacuated. Over 1600 residences and many businesses have been destroyed and the wildfire is still burning. The evacuees have lost everything, not only possessions but personal mementos and treasures. Fortunately no one has been injured or killed by the fires. This is thanks to the brave fire fighters, police and other emergency works who are risking life and limb to ensure the safety of the men, women and children of the city.

McMurray is more than and oil and gas city, it is home to many other businesses associated with the industry and not associated with the industry. This is a tragedy beyond measure. The citizens of McMurray come from all provinces of Canada and there are also many Americans living and working there.

Northern Alberta where this city is located is a forested area. In fact Northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia are in the same category. Forest fires have been a fact of life in the West and elsewhere for recorded history and before. Some are large and some are small, all are dangerous and damaging.

Climate change is not the reason for these fires, careless smoking is the biggest cause. Dryness yes but it’s dry every year. Wildfires have raged throughout the Western USA and Canada every year since recorded history.

The oil and gas being produced from the massive oil sands deposits in this area supports the lifestyle of Americans and Canadians and others around the world. It is mined under the strictest regulatory and environment requirements in the world bar none. Reclamation of the mine sites is a  requirement and is carried on as the mining progresses.

I have been viewing “Aerial American” on the Smithsonian Channel for some time now and have seen shocking environmental damage caused by open pit mining in Kentucky, West Virginian and Nevada just to name a few American States. Little or no reclamation work is required in these cases. Yet here’s the puzzler I never hear protests against these developments. Why is that I wonder? Seems like another agenda at work.

Canadians take the protection of the environment seriously does your jurisdiction? 

Finally our thoughts should be for the families of Fort McMurray. Albertans and Canadians are with you. We will rebuild. Stay strong.

Further reading,
Canada’s Energy Citizens

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

Alberta Government Department of Energy (site specific to Oil Sands)

Alberta Energy Regulator (regulates all energy development in the Province of Alberta) (site specific to Oil Sands)




Why We Still Need Fossil Fuel

October 19, 2014

Car show with consumers eagerly inspecting new models. photo by Steve B. Davis

Energy and Fossil Fuels

First let me make it clear to the reader I’ve been employed in the petroleum industry for over 35 years. Like most people I consume energy to support my lifestyle. That energy for the most part is derived from fossil fuels. We all drive a vehicle, heat our home, and sometimes take airline flights all of which require the use of fossil fuels. Most items I purchase have packaging of some kind. These are derived from petroleum which like coal is a fossil fuel. When we refer to the use of fossil fuels we’re talking about a lot more than gas for your car and natural gas for your home. Society consumes a myriad of products derived from fossil fuels, many of which most of us are unaware of. In summary, our present lifestyle requires the use of energy.

Environment and Energy

Most of us will agree environmental protection is an essential part of enriching our lifestyle. My children and I love hiking, biking, camping and being outdoors. Golf is a personal passion I enjoy outdoors. The point is we all have an impact on our planet just by living. The health of our planet is affected by our lifestyle choices. Our goal should be to minimize that impact.

Lifestyle and Energy

At the present time the lifestyle we enjoy is supported in the main by fossil fuels. Over the long term sustaining this lifestyle will require humans to investigate the use of alternative and cleaner energy sources. However, we will still require reliable and affordable energy sources. Society must reduce the waste of existing resources, use energy efficiently, and make a sustainable, minimal-impact lifestyle the priority.

Impacts of Energy Use

Planet Earth is our home. We need to reevaluate our impacts on a regular basis. It’s imperative to educate ourselves in the sources and uses of all forms of energy. It’s important to be aware of where energy comes from, how it’s used, and the impacts. It’s prudent and wise to seek better ways to do things in our own lives and in society in general.

Continuous improvement for the human race is a necessity if we want to survive and not face extinction. Dinosaurs inhabited the planet for over 100 million-years, humans have only been alive for a few million-years. Throughout history creatures of all shapes and sizes have inhabited Earth. Many became extinct for various reasons. Extinction is forever. Will the human race become extinct? Solving our energy problems is one step towards ensuring our ultimate survival as a species.


Wind farm in central Montana. Photo by Steve B. Davis

Energy Challenge

Here’s a challenge for the reader. Examine your own life. Make a list of all the things in your home and lifestyle originating from fossil fuels. To assist you I’ve listed the fossil fuels and some of the products and uses derived from them below. Once you’ve created your list ask yourself how many you could eliminate, and if any substitutes exist at the present time. I’m confident this exercise will make you think.

Crude Oil/Bitumen (Heavy Oil) from conventional reservoirs, shale and oil sands

  • gasoline for automobiles, trucks and motorcycles, lawnmowers
  • diesel fuel for trucks, trains, buses, farm tractors, ships, power generation and some automobiles
  • heating oil for houses and industrial facilities
  • jet fuel for airliners, military planes and private planes
  • plastics – automobile parts, house siding, roofing and insulation, toys, electronics, packaging
  • chemicals – fertilizers, cosmetics, food additives

Natural Gas

  • fuel for home heating, industrial heating, some buses and automobiles
  • propane – fuel for some vehicles, heating, BBQs
  • ethane and other components for chemical and plastic industries
  • power generation plants


  • power generation plants
  • steel making industry

I hope you’ve learned something from this short article. Constructive comments and questions are welcomed, just click on comments below.



Natural gas is the answer, maybe.

May 11, 2012

Natural gas is the  answer, maybe.

Jet fuel and diesel fuel are usually derived from crude oil. With crude oil at all time highs the result is much higher prices at the pump. The biggest users of diesel fuel are truckers. Those semis we all see roaring down the roads and rely on for everyday products, groceries and consumer goods burn diesel.

A technology exists for converting natural gas to diesel and jet fuel. The “gas-to-liquids” plants have been built most recently in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. These plants cost billions to build and require reliable access to relatively cheap supplies of natural gas feedstock over the long-term. Some of the major energy companies are now seriously considering building such plants in North America.

North America, especially Canada and the United States, have abundant and under-utilized reserves of natural gas with more coming on stream rapidly.

This technology might be able to assure us of a reliable supply of diesel and jet fuel but the prices may still be relatively high, at least over the short-term until the cost of constructing the plants is  paid out.

The big kicker for most consumers – this technology will not convert natural gas to gasoline. Consumers would still benefit but primarily by lowering the trucking industry’s costs.

We’ll just have to watch and see if someone takes the plunge and gets into this business.

Further reading:
“Turning natural gas into diesel fuel” by Steve Hargreaves @CNN Money May 9, 2012 (

Oil Sands: Damned If We Do, Damned If We Don’t

August 3, 2008

Author’s Disclaimer: I am employed by a petroluem company involved in developing the oil sands. This company shall remain nameless.

Oil sands open-pit mining

Northeastern Alberta, Canada contains some of the largest crude oil reserves in the world. Oil sands are a mix of naturally occurring bitument, a thick, sticky oil, and abrasive sand. The challenge is to recover the oil in an economic manner, but still protect the environment. The amount of oil is too large not to be developed.

Alberta has the largest known deposit of oil sands in the world. They cover a 140,800 square kilometre area. Currently 1.1 million barrels of oil are extracted each day. By 2015 it is expected that rate will increase to 2.7 million barrels per day.

The Province of Alberta benefits greatly from this resource. In 2004 the government collected $718 million (CDN) in royalty payments from oil sands production. The entire resource is owned by the province. Freehold mineral owners in the remote northeaster area of the province are essentially non-existent.

The oil sands reserves considered recoverable using today’s technology are designated at 175 million barrels. This is second only to those of Saudi Arabia (260 billion). That’s less than the 1.7 to 2.5 trillion barrels actually in the oil sands, if only the right technologies can be used.

Crude oil provides 36% of the primary energy the world uses for industry, transportation, heat, light, and air conditioning, and petrochemical products. Many of the petrochemical products are medical supplies. Gasoline and jet fuel are the most common transportation related products.

Oil sands are produced today using,

Surface Mining: near surface oil sands are developed using enormous truck-and-shovel mining systems. Hot water is used ot separate the bitumen (oil) from sand and clay.

In-Situ Mining: bitumen is obtained from deeply buried formations by injecting steam or other chemicals underground. This makes the thick bitumen thin and separates it from the sand. It is then pumped to the surface.

Upgrading: before the heavy oil (bitumen) is sent to refineries it has to be “upgraded” first into light oil. The conventional refineries can then process it into fuels, lubricants and other products.

Regulatory and environmental approvals required for these developments are stringent and numerous. Are there people opposed to developing these resources? Sure there are, but until demand for fossil fuels goes away how can we not use the oil.

Right now most of the recovered oil is sent to refineries in Canada and the United States. China and the Asian market are also clammering for more and are investing heavily in the area.

Further Reading:
Oil Sands Discovery Centre

Canada’s Oil Sands

Black Gold: Supply and Demand at Work

May 7, 2008

Crude oil was at an all-time high of $122.00 US per barrel this week. There are two simple reasons for this, supply and demand. This article is not an argument for or against oil company profits, nor is it an environmental rant. It is an attempt to explain the reasons in laymen’s terms. Firstly, I have been employed in the oil and gas business for over 30 years, so although I don’t claim to be an expert, I have a deep understanding of the industry.

1. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is the source of more than a third of the world’s crude oil supply. They reduced output in late 2006 to stem a fall in prices. They refuse to increase production because they say there is enough crude in the market.

2. Refinery problems in the United States have contributed. Unexpected outages have drained inventories. The United States is the world’s top gasoline guzzler, so this is a major issue.

3. Nigeria, the world’s eighth largest exporter of crude, is troubled with militant attacks on its oil industry. It has been forced to cut exports as a result. At the present time about one million barrels of oil per day (bpd) are shut-in because of militant attacks and sabotage.

4. It’s getter harder and more expensive every year to find new sources of oil. Environmental regulations and exploration costs make it more difficult to develop and produce new sources. This is not a knock on environmental concerns, just a fact of life.

1. Top consumers of crude oil such as the United States and China, are the main drivers of demand. Rapidly developing countries such as India are also contributing.

2. Demand for crude oil is at an all-time high and growing every year.

Things to Note:
– North Americans are addicted to our gas guzzling cars, SUVs, and trucks.
– Gasoline and jet fuels are derived from crude oil, as are many other products.
– Most consumer goods and foodstuffs are transported to market today by the trucking industry. Increased fuel costs to truckers logically trickle down to consumers of those goods.

Top Ten Oil Producing Nations
(in order of largest amount produced)
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Of these ten Iran and Venezuela are downright unfriendly nations towards the West. Two more, Saudi Arabia and UAE, are in a very unstable part of the world. Russia and China are also large consumers of crude oil, so exports may decrease over the coming years. Most of Norway’s production goes to European markets. That leaves Mexico, Canada, and domestic US crude production as reliable suppliers to the North American market. The United States uses far more crude oil than is produces so is dependent on foreign oil. 

Author’s Disclaimer:
I am employed in the petroleum industry, but remember I also like to drive, travel, and heat my home. Energy prices affect me too.

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