Mining Canadian Oil Sands into the future

Well, let's see I have put on the helmet, the breast plate, the greaves and all that stuff, and so perhaps I might be armored enough to tip-toe into the debate about oil sands and oil shale. Tonight will be oil sand, if I survive and recover, then (after reading a few more scientific papers) I will tackle oil shale.

Just recently there has been increasing attention paid to the heavy oil sands of Alberta. Perhaps, as in the case of the Washington Post more negative than positive. And it is interesting to note, from the tone of those pieces, that it is now apparently more desirable to have your rivers flow over and through tarry sand, than to have the sand cleaned and replaced, along with the river. But it is not that argument that I would follow, but rather, OGJ having come out with a Supplement on Canadian Oil and Gas, to briefly comment on one or two of the features of that report. (Which apparently will take a while before it appears in the electronic version of the magazine).

The article lists some 69 projects that are currently ongoing or planned to expand the production of oil from the region in the next ten years. The table gives both current and projected production within that time frame, with four of these currently producing large amounts of oil. Suncor currently produces 269,000 bd; Syncrude, which has just upgraded to 350,000 bd; the Athabasca Oil Sands Project(AOSP) currently produces 155,000 bd, and Cold Lake produces some 150,000 bd. This adds to 924,000 bd, and there are sufficient small producers now to bring the total to over 1 mbd. It also notes that the Conference Board of Canada have projected that the costs of the planned expansions will be around $100 billion over the period, with production estimated, by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to reach 2.7 mbd in the time frame.

The mining of the sand is often spoken of as though it is the only way in which the oil is recovered when, over the long run, it will be of much lower significance. This is because only 20% of the sand is shallow enough to enable current mining to be considered economic, while the rest of the oil will be recovered by more conventional petroleum extraction techniques. Thus of the projects for oil recovery 40 deal with this in-situ recovery (because it removes the oil from the sand in place). The sand can contain up to 20% of bitumen, with a barrel of oil requiring about 1.16 barrels of bitumen. (The bitumen is sufficiently robust that the article points to streets in Edmonton having been paved with it in 1915, and having lasted 50 years).

After the sand is mined, then the bitumen can be removed by being mixed with hot water and air which creates a froth. (There is already some 4% water around the sand, separating it from the oil and making this separation easier). The froth is fed into a Primary Separation Vessel (you can see pictures of some of these parts at the Syncrude and Suncor websites). The cleaned sand drops to the bottom of the vessel, while the oil is fed into the refining part of the plant, where the product is upgraded, and the coke and sulfur removed from the oil. The water is drawn off, and re-used. The sand is put into the parts of the mine where mining is complete, refilling the land so that it can be returned to its earlier condition (and they have photos of those lands also at these sites).

Because the bitumen is not evenly distributed throughout the layer, and there are also other layers of rock, and barren sectors within the deposit, it is not energy or cost efficient to mine all the rock and process it. Thus the mining technology has evolved from single unit large bucket wheel excavators to the current situation where the sand is mined by large shovels and loaded into trucks, which carry it to the pipelines and thence to the Separation Vessel. One advantage of the change in method is that the mine is no longer dependant on a single machine, but rather with a number of shovels all producing at the same time, if one goes down then production is no longer as seriously effected.

The process does, however, require considerable manpower, Suncor has more than 5,000 employees, and Syncrude some 4,000 (with 1,500 contract laborers also employed). And here is one of the problems that they will face. It is hard to find a place to live up at Fort McMurray and the need for workers is anticipated to reach 60,000 by 2020. Since the industrial growth also involves infrastructure, material and labor costs will likely increase significantly as this growth continues across the entire province. This is one of these places where a high-speed rail line, from Edmonton up to Ft McMurray might be the most logical solution, albeit one that could not be put in place for some time.

It is not only access for people and mining machines that are required, as the oil flow increases, but they will also need additional pipelines to carry the oil to the customer. One of those planned is for a pipe that will run 720-miles to the coast, carrying 400,000 bd for export to Asia and California.

However, as I noted above, surface mining is not, in the long-term, going to be where most of the oil is produced. Most of the sand is too far below the surface, and oil is already being produced by one of two methods. Because the bitumen is very thick and does not flow very easily towards the well it has to be both softened and made to flow more easily. The simplest way to achieve this is to heat the bitumen. And the best candidate to do the heating is steam. (Hot water requires too much power). There are two ways in which this can be used.

The more conventional way is based on something called Huff and Puff where the steam is injected, allowed to heat the oil, which can then flow to the well, and after a period the oil is pumped out of the well.

The alternative, and relatively new and more promising technology is called Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage, or SAGD. This requires that two horizontal wells are driven, one above the other. When steam is pumped into the upper well it heats the surrounding sand, and the bitumen softens and drains into the lower well, so that it can be recovered. At present the technique is simple but could be improved. But it is this process, increasingly planned for the future, that uses the greater amounts of water, and the natural gas that is required to convert it to steam.

Which is, I think, a good place to turn the debate over to Dave, who will shortly be posting more specifically on these issues, I will leave discussion of the THAI process (which involves burning part of the seam) to the post that I plan in the near future on oil shale. And the use of other injected gases to reduce oil viscosity is still sufficiently far away that I will leave that to a subsequent post also.

How much land will be destroyed? How much water will be used?  How much natural gas will be used? How many extra years will this give us? The coal, the tar sands, the shale? And what then? And how much would we have to cut back, what percentage,  to save these resources?

Look, these are good articles, and I want to know. But how can one help thinking about these things?

In the end no land will be destroyed, Dave is going to post about some concerns relating to the water and the NG. The oil sands alone can only help get us through the years ahead. They cannot, by themselves, stall the declining production elsewhere around the world.

I am not sure what you are asking in regard to resource salvation.  Are you asking what percentage of world energy comes from these resources, or what they go for (things such as growing food, helping build houses, providing electricity  etc etc).

Not the water, just the natural gas. That's an entirely different troublesome ball of wax.
Related to the GasOilSands connection, I finally found a link to a paper explaining how the gas-field pressure can affect the SAGD extraction and the reason officials felt compelled to shut in a number of gas wells.

The development of SAGD projects in the region has been of great concern to natural gas producers. Natural gas producers in the greater Athabasca region have thousands of producing wells representing billions of dollars of investment. The source of the problem is that in many cases in the region, the Wabiskaw-McMurray geological zones in particular, rights have been issued to different lease holders, permitting the production of oil or natural gas in the same zone. When natural gas pools are in pressure communication with underlying bitumen reservoirs, the depletion of the gas pool causes lower pressures in the zone above the bitumen reservoir and when steam is injected into the bitumen reservoir, there is a high potential for the steam to escape into the depleted gas pool. In addition, in situations where a water zone exists above the bitumen, operating at lower pressures increases the risk of water invading the bitumen reservoir. UEC%20560.pdf

umm you do know the psudo forest that is put back if they do repair the land is not even a fraction of what the forest once was. so yes land is destoryed, animals are pushed even closer to the brink and we slowly cut away our ability to live on this planet so that we can continue driving our cars to mc-donalds for food after a 9-5 job in some office?
Funny, one place we lived where I grew up had pseudo-forest - spindly trees with bare dirt between them, the humous that takes serious time to build up wasn't there and erosion was a HUGE problem.
One minute people are complaining that we won't have enough oil to run the farms and deliver the food, the next they complain that we'll have too much, and continue the "mc donalds" lifestyle ...

For what it's worth, I think these big but slow to extract reserves represent a good insurance policy for the future.  And it's nice that they can't be burned off too quickly.

I'm with TrueKaiser on this one.

How many posters here have been to Fort McMurray? or Hay River? or more to the point Dawson City, which is a disaster after 100 years of gold mining.  I have been to all and the disturbed ground is not pretty.

Northern Canada is a fragile land that does not recover quickly.  Left alone it provides some wood but a lot more fish and wild grazing animals like Moose, Deer and Caribou that people eat.  Mess it up and it won't do that anymore for people who might want to live there.

I think we have to keep an eye on all these guys (mines) and make sure the remdiation they promise is done, without any corner-cutting.

But when we just compare them to old unremediated projects, that doesn't advance the conversation.

We are keeping an eye on these guys. We have handed that responsibility over to our governments. They in turn have sold it to the corporations. So the corporations are keeping an eye on it. Who is watching the watchers? I will not buy shares of these companies.

Exxon, Imperial
Western Oil Sands
Murphy Oil
Mocal Energy

Not until you guys start being completely transparent about your impact on the environment and the true EROEI of what you are doing.

The two watchers watching the watchers that spring to mind are the Sierra Club and the Natural Resource Defense Council ... but it is of course a constant battle.

Wikipedia has a more exhaustive list:

"The oil sands alone can only help get us through the years ahead." We'll get through the years ahead. That's the nature of time. The question is: how? Will we use tar sands to bridge a gap that we are otherwise narrowing -- OR -- are we using it just to continue the binge. I see NO evidence whatsoever for the former.

"In the end no land will be destroyed,...". Sorry, no sale. No way I can believe that. And where will all the undesired byproducts go? And where will the polluted water go? And where will the water come from? And there will be no fouled lakes and rivers?

The resources I'm talking about are land, water, NG, rivers, lakes, possibly forests. Nor do I think the air will be exempted.

And the natural gas? What is the EROEI, if I have that right?

What do we gain by that conversion? And again, how many years (or months) longer will the binge be able to continue because of this (just in the US, say -- for the world divide by four)?

Again, please do not confuse dissent over the issue with lack of appreciation for the reseach.

Sounds like some of the readers are no longer buying into the tech fest and are tugging at the curtain to see what's going on behind the tech talk.

So many of these tech talks are thinly disguised as pro-industry rants -- no damage to forests, my eye.

Notice how people are asking about the holistic problems, the natural gas requirements, the pollution, the water destruction, the pointless, blind acceptance of the status quo in order to continue a dying paradigm.

At some point, people everywhere are going to question this system of ours and the answers will be...?

Oh, we'll just dig up more bitumen and waste a bunch of water, natural gas, and land in order to power cars which won't be worth squat in twenty years.

Not good enough, I fear. The peasants may start arming themselves with pitchforks. Hell, they may even go so far as to take some of that tar and maybe some feathers and have a little party.

So what should we do? What would be good enough?

I don't think those without pitchforks are worried about pitchforks. They have AKs, M4s, and MP-5s* - and more importantly, gas. Not the carbon kind. The Chemical kind.

*They also have your favorite - Cyclon-B.

Where do you draw the line between living and dying? Don't make me quote Black Sabbath. You Da man. Tell us.


Whoa!  Quite the little dust up, that!  Starting at TrueKaiser at 1:11AM and going for a few rounds with davebygolly, Cherenkov, and then Oil CEO, you folks gave our "newbie" POed quite a little intro to the cutting edge of the discussion, didn't ya', ending with that great never ending quest, "WHAT THE F*CK SHOULD WE DO?  (I'm thinking of making that my motto I am...:-)

The discussion still stands on it's own merit, however.  davebygolly asked
"Will we use tar sands to bridge a gap that we are otherwise narrowing -- OR -- are we using it just to continue the binge. I see NO evidence whatsoever for the former."  Now that's a good question indeed, and whole books could be written on this one point.  If we say, "We can buy ourselves 15 more years, someone may be clever (or sarcastic) enough to ask, "Yeah, but what's gonna be different in 15 years except you will have a higher cliff to fall off of?"

If I understand dave on the continuing point, he is discussing the destruction of land, water, and loss of natural gas in the tar sands, all to buy 15 more or less years, and then waste even that precious time.

This, above all, is to me what makes the tar sand idea so pointless.  If you are going to engage in the extraction of tar sand oil, it is an open admission that you are making the switch and conceding your natural gas supply to the transportation sector.  Likewise, by the way, the ethanol industry.  In both cases your are simply converting land, water, and natural gas to a liquid fuel.

At this point, I return to my old have heard it from me before....why not just admit that natural gas is now to be considedered a transportation fuel, and burn it directly?  This way, you are having a heart and at least trying to salvage the land and the water.  I have often called the tar sand industry a fast way to convert clean, priceless fuel (natural gas) into dirty, and limited fuel (it has to be massively processed to wind up with a liquid fuel that will still only burn in highly developed engines, just like gasoline, and of limited supply to boot)  

So, as we have said, if your going to buy time with natural gas, at least do it with a conscious for the longer future...ahhh, the longer future....

This returns us to what are we buying time for?  Well, unless you assume that the world population will do what NO population in history has ever done, and willingly accept less instead of more (the operative word there is WILLINGLY), we must assume we are buying time to restructure to a more sustainable future that includes technology, transportation and communication.  If so,  we must assume the path forward is already underway, because most of us here at TOD and other like minded groups assume that time is limited, perhaps more limited than we know (perhaps not, but can we take that chance?)

The only workable path forward I have been able to see at this moment are:
*Extreme efficiency through communication (telecommuting, tele-entertainment, tele-education and tele-design,
*and a new age of artistic design engineering offering efficiencies as yet undreamed of  (I ask a question:  Would it be possible to provide America with the transportation it needed simply by using  the electric grid and the amount of LPG we already produce as byproduct of oil/gas production, IF, and read that IF as the largest IF you can imagine, IF the design of the transport devices were truly advanced (plug hybrid, hydraulic hybrid, pneumatic hybrid, mixed with full electric vehicles and computer conrol, materials efficiency, aerodynamics....and that only touches the surface of what is possible)...efficiencies that would allow a (uh oh, what if I actually say it, do I have the nerve?....yeah, what the hell....a cornucopia of new fuels!  BUT, unlike the "cornucopians" we all know and love on the Yergin side of the fence,  I accept that the importance of stretching EVERY OUNCE of the variety of fuels will be fundamental....there will not for many moons to come be a day when fuel is easily taken for granted again....all to build the bridge to....

*ITER and nuclear fusion, which will open up hydrogen, probably no sooner than 2030, and that's if everything goes perfectly.  If it doesn't, or ITER does not work, we are up the proverbial creek without a paddle....

It is for this reason that I feel all the major fuel consuming nations should be asked to pour the money and material to ITER should be the "Manhatten Project" we keep hearing about.

Because WE HAVE TO KNOW.  The world cannot continue to milk this thing, in the normal Euro Community way, for decade after decade.  I felt it was a mistake to put it in Europe for exactly that reason.  It will become a technical "Brussels" and the world will get closer and closer to the edge of the cliff without ever knowing whether it would have worked if WE HAD JUST FINISHED THE DAMM THING!!

Whether or not it will work, we should be putting the effort NOW on the kind of artistic young designers and technicians we need RIGHT NOW.  The United States needs about 500 Cal Tech's or MIT's , and we need every creative amatuer we can find as well.

So Oil CEO, to your poetic question, "
WHAT THE FUCK SHOULD WE DO?, there you have it....and to use your words, if you have a better bolder plan, You Da man. Tell us. :-)
All kidding aside though, thank you guys for really helping me in getting the old mental gears working,  it's a great discussion....I have said "ThatsItImout" more than once when I was dismayed by certain annoyances, but I cannot NOT come back here for this kind of just plain turning it over.....and over.....and over....and over.....:-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

This site should be a cut above the others which is why poor language should NOT be encouraged! If I want to go back to University for a midnight BS session, I will.
I agree. My original use of the language, however, was entirely appropriate. It was also my right. I would say this even if you were not one of the people here whom I respect the  most. I take all credit for my words. I am deeply sorry if I have offended you or anyone else. But I cannot at this time change my behavior in this regard. As you will note, I take care to only use such language in extreme circumstances.

The real problem is capital letters. These should also be used sparingly. I have commented to Roger in the past on this issue, I will repeat that concern here.

Roger, you need to reign in your use of CAPS. I suggest italics in their place. I can provide instruction in how to implement this tactic.

In a post of 1013 words, I used approximately 22 capital words, if you count the IF's, :-)

Some words called for capital letters, I think, including abreviations such as LPG and ITER, and would you folks really forgive me if I did not use the big letters on TOD?

The centerpiece phrase, ("What the F* should we...") which was in capitals in one of the posts I was replying to, I left that way....and simply requoted that immortal phrase...(you know every language must have some equal to it since the dawn of time...example:..."here comes a Woolly Mammoth...what the --- do we do now?")

On the italics, sure, I can go with that.....and by the way, how do you guys insert charts and pictures in posts?  That would be great too.....but remember, I have a Mac....(a what?  What the ---?
Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Oil CEO,

Frankly, I did not expect a response since this is more than the first time I noted the poor language. I take my lead from the demigods who established this blog, as they have wanted to limit profanity.

Lord knows, working in construction, that I and most around me have utilized sailor language. But I would like to think TOD is a cut above the others. So, I think we should strive for that higher level, especially since what we debate and mold is the planet's future. Really not us, but the planet.

Sorry, I did not want to preach.

Mr. Greene, Oil CEO, and others: you have my apology, and it is something that I will attempt to use all due restraint on in the future.

The most cutting observation came from someone who pointed out that language will get the thread and possibly the board screened our of schools by the language filters.

That stung, because (a) I know it to be true and (b) the last thing we want to do is prevent the type of crucial energy issues openly discussed here from making it, in some way or another, to our youth.

We should stand duly chastised.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Well, considering that one of the permalinks on the sidebar is to a site called Clusterf*** Nation, it's kind of hard to demand decorum.  :-/

One thing to keep in mind, though: some of the filters used at offices and schools will automatically block pages with the F-word on them.    IIRC, we once had someone complain that someone dropped an f-bomb, and the entire thread vanished for him.  

I understand your feelings over ITER :-) but the fact is nuclear fusion is an extremely difficult problem and it will take decades to resolve no matter what resources you throw at it. I recently read an article in a science magazine concerning the search for the best materials to be used in the high-temperature superconducting magnets that will be needed to contain the ball of plasma. Most of the article was beyond my grasp but I did understand that handling plasma is not something a pair of asbestos gloves will help you with.

My point is, the bad thing about ITER is that it has been such a low priority for so long. Its performance in the future will be directly related to the degree of public interest and scrutiny - something many of as can influence at least to some degree.

ITER does not get much priority as we move from cheap to dear energy because the chance of (ever) competing with any other choice is so slim. Advanced fission reactors that burn all the actinides (no long term waste) is feasible now and has the potential to provide large amounts of energy for a millenium or more.  And, no co2.
1) I read an article about 2 years ago, that one of the main problem with the xperimental tokomak reactors is that the plasma moves inside the containing field so unpredictably, that with today's models it's impossible to calculate the instant changes required in the containing manetic fields' strenght and direction for the plasma not to escape. Situation once actual fusion has begun was out of control shortly after, and the plasma would leak out, sometimes even damaging the reactor itself, resulting in very costly repairs. The article mentioned that the models scientists use to describe plasma behaviour and make the required field changes require so much computing power that today's best supercomputers would need several years to compute the data instead of being avalilable (almost) real-time. So fusion's succes relies a lot on semiconductor industry, or more advanced technologies in the future.

(If there's a nuclear-physychist in the house, please confirm/deny)

2) Possible fusion power plants based on ITER results will NOT be on-line before 2050 (unless some mireacle occours).( And that would be only one, instead of the hundred(s) needed to solve the energy problems.

At this point, I return to my old have heard it from me before....why not just admit that natural gas is now to be considedered a transportation fuel, and burn it directly?

I have said the same thing. Maybe it makes too much sense. Far better to use it in a scheme to extract tar sands or turn corn into ethanol than to just burn it directly in a vehicle.

The funny thing I have noted about Brazil is that even though they are seen as the ethanol example the U.S. should emulate, they also have nearly 10 times the natural gas fleet that we do.



Agree with you here.  Also think we should be optimizing mpg for all rolling stock.  And I think we should be pushing electric as fuel source for transportation.  I know that is a stretch but once electric is widely used it can be created through any means; coal, NG, solar, wind, nuclear, etc.  

I keep hammering on the idea of reducing use of liquids in fleet by using electric hybrids and pushing hard for hyper milage.  The combination can reduce consumption allowing ethanol, NG,and  biodiesel to fill the gap as petroleum supply drops rapidly.

Ultimately we have to cut consumption hugely for transportation fuel, but I can't see us doing it cold turkey after oil and NG peak.  As you have stated all options (ethanol, CTL) are stop gaps at best.

Pushing for hyper mileage

Then push for MUCH more Urban Rail on a crash basis !  Plans are in place, waiting for funding accross the country.  And by the time these are built, many more can be planned (and wanted).

It is VERY hard to beat an electric rail vehicle, that recycles back to the system electricity when braking.

And electric freight trains are about 24 times more energy efficient than heavy trucks.

This should be the prioriry !  Not some conceptual car 7 years away from the first thousand on the roads.

Preaching to the choir on this one Alan.

I want to run light electrified rail down the center of the interstate to allow commutting between population centers.  Even diesel trains use hybrid powerplants now, why not great passenger trains using electric.  I want extremely light rail, people/bicycle movers predominantly.

The problem is getting all parties to agree.  My example requires: Federal, State, county, and city entities (often multiple groups from each) all to agree to a direction when turf wars predominate.  This includes engineering specs, right of way, maintenence, etc., etc.  Isn't going to happen in my lifetime, unless we have a major crash caused by energy scarcity.  

Too much infighting to get anything accomplished.  Our "government" doesn't know how to work together anymore to govern for the benefit of the people.  They can't agree on a direction to go in so they can't work together.  Sad.

If you are from North Carolina, Charlotte has started (inexperienced management) and there is talk of running diesel commuter trains on freight RRs.

It can be done, even now.  If possible, consider getting involved.  And pre-existing plans will be the first built (IMHO) when panic sets in.

I am TRYING to pre-position my concepts so that when desperation hits, it will be one of the straws grasped at.

Any aid is much appreciated.

To quote Rocky 3:
"What's your prediction for the fight?"
Somebody has got to stand up and say that the days of the personal automobile are OVER.  The foolishness of trying to continue them are going to be the doom of us all.  
Bush or Cheney would be the perfect people to do it as former oil men they would be taken seriously.  But alas!
Bio-diesel for police, ambulances, and tractors.
Bikes and trains for the rest of us.
That's what we should do.

But we won't.  Instead, we'll develop the oil sands, etc., with the promise of "remediation."  But that will be the first thing dropped when peak oil starts to bite.

Heck, it already is.  Companies just declare bankruptcy and get out of their obligations.  After the brass has squirreled away all the profits, of course.

Amen.  Thank you cynus for saying this.  But why is it so hard to get this across, even in a group devoted to Peak Oil?  Imagine the denial rampant in the rest of society.

Here are other things we'll have to give up, besides regular use of personal automobiles:

  • food that is out of season or from far away, and meat-heavy diets,
  • having only a tiny minority of people working in agriculture,
  • "economic growth" and all the investment schemes based on it
  • the freedom to procreate as we please

These are the true and in-escapable implications of PO. The only question is, will we make this transition willingly, wisely, with proactive planning, or will we first kill each other in droves, whether actively (as in Iraq) or passively (like yeast).

I could go on and on, but it basically all boils down to this: Let it happen and fix your local societies other problems.

Sounds like some of the readers are no longer buying into the tech fest and are tugging at the curtain to see what's going on behind the tech talk.

The Oil Drum was never a cornucopian tech fest.

I was just about to write the same thing. :)


could of fooled me with R.R. promoting biomass ethanol.
alan thinking that electrifying all forms of transport is the answer. then with two on the whole pro tar sands articles..
You joke (I hope), but I expect most readers can tell the difference between a "limits to X" article and "pro-X" one.

(Just got back from a mile walk to buy printer cartridges ... sometimes I think a "walkable" communitiy is just noticing what's there ... in this case a "Cheap Ink" storefront.)

Electrifying transportation with a "natural" rebuilding around  mass transit of various forms (and an industrial/commerical transformation back to an electric railroad backbone) with bicyling as a main feeder can have a significant to dramatic reduction is US oil demand (depending upon how hard we push it).  

But it is likely "not enough, not soon enough" in and of itself.  Add higher mileage vehicles quickly and "maybe".  But there is still the 1/3 of US oil use used for non-transportation demands.

In my mind, those two steps; electrifying transportation and higher mileage vehicles are the "low hanging fruit" that also benefit the environment and our economy.  No real negatives with either.  Once these are going forward on a crash basis, then we can look realistically at "what else" is needed.

IMHO, compressed natural gas is the next step.  Free up NG from electricity with a combo (in order) of wind & other renewables, nuke & coal.  Propane & biogas tractors, CNG buses & delivery trucks, etc.  Add geothermal heat pumps to replace oil & NG heating + massive solar water heating (space heating supplement as well) program (free up NG & electricity for other uses).

We HAVE a soluble problem, but little evidence that we, as yet, have the will.

I look to Switzerland, Thailand, Sweden & Brazil as examples of other societies that ARE taking this problem seriously.

So all hope is NOT lost.

could of fooled me with R.R. promoting biomass ethanol.

Like I have said before, forgive me if I am not prepared to curl up and die as oil supplies dry up. There are things we need to be investigating. Biomass ethanol and biodiesel, along with PHEVs, have some potential for mitigating peak oil. There is not silver bullet. Conservation on a wide scale is a must. But a lot of us are not satisfied with wailing and gnashing our teeth while we watch the world die.


I concur with Robert on this major point, and ask those who believe that we can somehow force the world into a type of "energy asceticism" how it is that we cannot even get most folks to cut back on things like high speed powerboating, private aircraft use, and towing the RV around!

There seems to be complete disconnect from reality if your thinking that these same people will suddenly throw the car keys into the sea, beat their John Deer lawn tractor into plowshares, and learn to harness a mule.

And, to bait the doomers further, why should they?  There is ZERO indication to me, after 25 years of trying to learn everything I can about "energy" as opposed to just "liquid fuel", that humans have to give up all forms of personal transportation except walking and bicycling.

We have to redesign, yes.  We have to rething our options, yes. We have to use our (forgive the capitals, but we need to restress this constantly) BRAINS.
Current technology now can push cars at moderate speed over 100 miles on a gallon of gas, if you don't try to carry the house with you.  It is just not this difficult folks.  The world wastes and flare stacks enough BTU's a year to put every man woman and child in a car, if the car is correctly designed for the job.  Will it be a GMC Suburban.  No.  But it will be a heck of sight better than walking in driving thunderstorms in Kentucky or bicycling in St. Paul Minnesota in January  (funny that folks never talk about that....and in climate like that, your life can depend on mobility sometimes).

But many of us are in no way ready to surrender everything before the game even gets underway.  That just don't sound Amur' I can to me!  :-)

Let's try working down from the top of the summit a few steps at a time.  Diesel, hybrids, electric cars.  Then we will see where we stand then.

I am growing concerned, but I hold hope that it is not true, that many peope are grafting Luddite dreams to the whole "Peak Oil" cause.

If so, it will cause people to drift away from the job that must be done, just as they left the original Luddite cause behind (and who can know, the Luddites may have been right....but that's water under the bridge now.

Hate to have to tell ya, but IMHO, it ain't gonna' happen.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Hi Roger

I've been watching quite a while now & yours is the 1st TOD reference I've seen to the butt-simple expedient of making slower, high mileage cars. It just wouldn't be that hard.

My bartender (yup) drives around in a 1972 Fiat 500 that gets 60 mpg. It's fitted with a replacement Polski-Fiat engine that's much better than the original, but still basically a cheapo carburetted lump of obsolete technology. And if some people laugh at the little thing it also gets buckets of attention, lotsa smiles.
He's got his eyes on a Fiat Jolly, basically the same car but convertible with wicker seats. I say get the gearheads who want 500 cubic inches to get cranked on toys like wicker seats. It's just an advertising challenge. If 400hp rocketmobiles were not so darn easy to get the car fetish crowd would be just as happy with customizing little toy cars. Call them voiturettes, not micro-cars.
Set the national speed limit at 45 mph.
Tax for engine displacement, vehicle weight, & overall length. This is basic.
I wish I could get a little car like that. One that is not so severely impractical as an antique Fiat.

A tangential counter-point.

History has shown the development often (not always) clusters around Urban Rail.  This naturally reduces the direct AND indirect use of oil.  One good metropolitian area study showed that a two tenths of a gallon of gasoline demand reduction for every pax mile on Urban Rail.  This GOES not mean idling lots of 5 mpg Hummers, but a change to the urban fabric.

It is a "carrot" approach that DOES WORK !  I have seen in 2004 that 15 of 23 building cranes in Miami were within 3 blocks of a Metro station.  New apartments, condos, shopping centers, office buildings now line the stations in Portland.

Just supplying higher mileage vehicles will, IMHO, solve the problem for a generation before increasing declines catch up with us.  The energy costs for serving low density development is significantly higher than for "the other" TOD.

Remember, 1/3 of US oil use is for non-transportation use.  Much of this use will be harder to reduce.

I think the focus should be primarily on electrification of transportation and what you suggest as a secondary emphasis, mainly supported by higher gas taxes and market forces at first.

I completely agree with you Alan. High-mileage is just an expedient, a butt-simple expedient, to buy a little time. The simple simple way to get high mileage is to build small and light. Hybrids work, they work better if small and light. And slow.
No one ever talks about small and light.
I completely distrust all high tech fancy pants cure-alls. Trains work and we know they work. Especially light rail. Light rail is a good neighbor and folks smile and wave when it passes by. Little voiturettes work and we know they work.
Folks smile and wave when the little voiturette passes by.
No one smiles and waves at Hummers

You guys are exactly on to something if combine some versions of light rail, and a great many light cars, bikes and scooters, and some small electric runabout cars.....and mix in a bigger percentage of Diesel cars and LPG cars.....gee, it starts looking a lot like Europe don't it?  :-)

It has been often pointed out that if we were as efficient per person as Europe already is,we would have about 80 years before we worried too much about oil and gas depletion...remember that even if you use what is an admittedly dark scenario (Campbell and Uppsalla) the world will still be producing as much oil in 2050 as it did in 1968.  Now, 1968 may seem primitive to us today, but no one I knew was farming with oxen and eating dog.

The best place to look for a guide is Europe before the development of North Sea oil.

The Fiats, the Mini's, the Autobianchi
(note the size of the steering wheel compared to the windshield!)

and that greatest design masterpiece,
 the Citroen  Deux Cheveux (2CV)

Made from corrugatted steel, cheap beyond words, efficient to a fault, one of the single great transportation devices second only to the bicycle itself!

This car put a nation that was ripped and torn asunder back up on wheels, a nation that had lost all of it's foriegn sources of fuel, a nation that had to limp back from almost third world status and horrible suffering.  The famous, artistic, beloved, and to this day, prized (it is still probably the best way to get around France, such an icon it was driven by Snoopy in a beautiful animation of a trip to France by Charlie Brown and the gang!)

Europe, before the birth of the Atlantic North Sea oil and gas industry was a fuel starved continent.  In the 1970's, Europe was already beginning to experience what "post peak" would be like.  Then, the North Sea.

Slowly, the little 500 and 600 cc twin cylinder engines were replaced by four, six, and finally eight cylinders.  The famous 2CV, the Fiat twin cylinders, the marvelous sporting Mini Coopers began to be replaced by larger cars....Europe, like the U.S., could afford to be wasteful.

But only for a while.

May I show you a little known pet of mine?  (This is clean, I promise)  

My love of automotive history helped me in finding this little prize:

This is the Deutsch Bonnet  (try to say Dutchy Bone A, it's about as close as a non Francophile will ever get!)

This is a car built for jotting about town and country quickly (not fast, quickly, there is a big difference) and for sports car is very light, very small, and very aerodynamic, and has no more engine than needed.  It is front wheel drive for getting about in poor weather, and has an air cooled twin cylinder engine, horizontally opposed (flat, like an older BMW motorcycle engine), a French Panhard to be exact.  Look at the photos.  This is the automobile reduced down to it's simplist components.  There is no waste.  But, like the more famous 2CV, it will run on almost nothing.  It was born of the same place, and of equally poor times (post war France in the case of the Deutsch Bonnet, prewar depression in the case of the Citroen 2CV....the French of that period suffered for some 30 years....(a bit of a practice for peak, but most of them will be gone from the mortal coil by the time they would have gotten to use it)

The amount of fuel needed to keep people from walking is miniscule.  With even newer technology and design, the efficiency of the 2CV or the Deutsch Bonnet will seem primitive: the_1-litre_car__.standard.gid-oeffentlichkeit.html

The difference between driving millions of Suburbans and Expeditions at 75MPH, and simply driving, is all the difference in the world, and an automobile of two cylinders that will go 40 miles per hour is a HUGE leap over walking in the rain.  I know, I have done both. :-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Nice ride Roger. The Panhard engine was one of the best.

My personal occasional vehicle is Austin FX-4, aka London taxi. I found it whilst shopping for a Mini Estate. Large & quite different from what I wish we were doing for ourselves, it can carry 6 people plus driver in much greater comfort than a Suburban & does get grins everywhere it goes.

I most unfortunately do not have the original diesel. The old Perkins 499 is one of those engineering marvels that makes you wonder how we've gone so far astray. Originally a 1930's Iowa agricultural engine, there are examples out there with near two million miles that can meet 2007 EU diesel emissions regs. And pull a 32cwt taxi around town with passengers, spend hours idling, and still get 30mpg. So clean and quiet some Londoners rode in them for years without knowing it was diesel.

Lots of nice links there. Thank you.

When you put together the light rail, the scooters, the voiturettes, the bicycles I don't think you quite get Europe. You get a vision of Europe, sepia-toned and imaginary. Something Jacques Tati would understand.

We can't go backwards. Where the hell we are going I don't know. The ideas I like are the simple ones. Vehicles like tour little blue Bonnet or a streetcar named Desire are so attractive so appealing there oughta be a way to sell someone besides you and me.


Just one more time. I the linked Daihatsu. Did you notice it weighs 440kg with a 660cc engine (grossly overpowered) and hybrid drive. If it quits being a show car I want one

Not good enough, I fear. The peasants may start arming themselves with pitchforks. Hell, they may even go so far as to take some of that tar and maybe some feathers and have a little party.

OK, so suppose we catch Marie Antoinette ("let them burn perfume") and, off with her head! Remember that all of us have been feasting at the cheap energy table for a century or so now. We've been fruitful and multiplied. So either way, it isn't going to be pretty.

And, Bob Shaw, Toto, the answer to your question is apparently 'no'.

Explanation for my mood this morning:
We went to see Al Gore's movie over the weekend. Then saw him on Charlie Rose last night. It's depressing. ...
Well, I was going to try and stick to the technical side, but...
IMO (caps use ok?) the best hope I have is that the 'Western World' will be gradually squeezed in a manner so that we will innovate, change habits, redevelop infrastructure, etc. We obviously haven't reached the point of noticably beginning the process yet. This gradual squeeze might include more nukes and development of tar sands to ease the downslope. I totally agree with the skeptics about the promise of environmental 'reclamation' in mining, tar-sands extraction, etc. but one can always hope that the people wake up about such stuff.

There are lots of flaws to this hope, not least of which is 'where is the energy coming from' to make needed infrastructure changes. If I were a gambling man (come to think of it, I did get married :-)) I would say odds of the gradual morph to simpler, more energy-efficient civilization are not good. Don't know if this makes me a doomer or just a wary bookie hedging his bets.

Don't forget, with tar sands production you get a 2.5 increase in GHG emissions at no extra charge.

"Tar sands production of greenhouse gas emissions was 17 megatonnes in 1990, and is projected to increase to 70 megatonnes by 2010"

Hasn't the local council currently enacted a moratorium on tar sands expansion?

I have been saying for years that Canada would never be able to meet their Kyoto committments if they continue to develop tar sands. I think they came out recently and admitted that this is the case.


An interesting theme is the increasing competition for resources between users that did not use to compete with each other.

Consider NG in Canada.  NG users have compared using gas to extract bitumen to using $100 bills to light candles.  They are not happy campers.

Consider coal.  Power plant companies can't be happy at the thought of a massive push for CTL plants.

Then there is the question of land devoted to food versus fuel production.

Notice the theme here?  In order to meet the demand for Liquid Transportation Fuels (LTF's), natural gas, coal and farmland are all being shifted from their traditional uses to help meet the demand for LTF's.    I suppose that an economist would argue that the resources should go to the highest bidder.  IMO, that is how we are currently meeting the demand for petroleum imports in the US; we are outbidding poorer importers.  The problem occurs when we can't raise the bid enough to get the petroleum--or when we are outbid by other importers.

I am continually reminded of Thom Hartmann's analogy in his book, "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight."  He described a startup high tech company that went through a ton of capital, and that had the appearance of great activity, but that closed it doors without ever delivering a product.  The US economy has the appearance of great activity--and we use vast amounts of energy driving around the country--but the majority of Americans today live off the discretionary spending of other Americans.

In effect, what we are doing is taking energy away from poorer importers (in many cases depriving them of their livelihoods), accelerating out rate of use of fossil fuels and reducing the food supply--all in order to (temporarily) maintain our high energy consumption lifestyle.

This idea that "we" - meaning rich countries or the U.S. - are outbidding poor countries for oil gets thrown around often, but is there any evidence? And what does it really mean?

Do you have any data that indicates that demand for oil in poor countries has slowed more than demand in rich countries?

Anyone in the world who bought an oil product has "outbid" someone else. If a Somali taxi driver buys oil and a New York resident cuts back on his gas purchases to save money, the Somali has "outbid" the New Yorker.

Oil prices have gone up and, we all believe, will continue to do so. It will be interesting to see who cuts back (is "outbid") and who doesn't. However, price signals are the only thing that is going to get people to conserve or develop alternatives. Referring to it as being "outbid" seems to be nothing more than an attempt to attach a negative label to a more nuanced process.

"However, price signals are the only thing that is going to get people to conserve or develop alternatives."

I agree, which is why I recommend that we fund Social Security/Medicare with a tax on energy consumption, and abolish the Payroll Tax.  

Leanan and others have posted numerous stories on energy shortages and civil unrest in poorer countries.  

In regard to net oil exports, Saudi Arabia's announced cutback in oil production would--all by itself--eliminate the net increase in oil exports last year.

I realize that economics is morally neutral, but nevertheless I think that our rate of energy consumption here in the US is immoral, especially since the majority of Americans make a living off the discretionary income of other Americans.  To put it in the bluntest possible terms, how many poor people are going without energy, and perhaps food, so that we can keep Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Orlando going?

Sooner or later, we are going to have to once again become a nation of producers, instead of a nation of consumers.  Again, in the bluntest possible terms, sooner or later our choice will be narrowed down to produce or perish.  The sooner that we kill off what I consider to be an immoral consumer culture, the better off that we, our children, their children and the world will be.

This idea that ... the U.S. [is] outbidding poor countries for oil gets thrown around often, but is there any evidence? And what does it really mean?

It means, and the evidence is, that our boys are making the ultimate sacrifice "over there" so that 25% of Iraqi oil (it is a commodity after all) flows to "over here". If that is not outbidding, then what is?

BTW, couldn't help but take nuanced notice of your nuanced use of the "nuance" word.

But what does it mean?

1 : a subtle distinction or variation
2 : a subtle quality : NICETY
3 : sensibility to, awareness of, or ability to express delicate shadings (as of meaning, feeling, or value)
- nu·anced -"än(t)st, -'än(t)st adjective

--from Meriam Webster Online dictionary

So does "a more nuanced process" mean it is more subtley distinct from other processes of acquiring resources? What is more subtle than a bloody war for oil?

Jack-- clearly you are learning the dark arts of the language libertarians. Use this power wisely. It is a most formidable force.

"Jack-- clearly you are learning the dark arts of the language libertarians. Use this power wisely. It is a most formidable force."

I don't live in a Harry Potter world with dark arts and mysterious forces secretly shaping what we see in a way that favors their evil plans.

You see everything facet of energy as a bloody war for oil others see it as just trying to fill their tank - or many variations in between. I guess you and George Bush "don't do nuance" but for me the simplest answer isn't always the right one.

( about halfway down.

So what do you think we six million humans need to do to survive? Don't tell me die off isn't going to be bloody.

Jack, billion with a B if you are based in the USA, 6.5 Billion = 6.5 x 10^9 fuel dependent critters.

I agree with much of what you say.

I'm sure you are right. I didn't actually count them all.
If this anallysis brief from the EIA is correct, Canada's own natural gas reserves are running low:

"These reserves have decreased by 13.3% since 1996, and at current rates, production will completely deplete reserves in 8.6 years."

So by 2015 does that mean Canada will have to start importing LNG to extract bitumen? If so, I think that situation would more like lighting your own farts with a $100 bill.

I think they will turn to other options. One would be to cannibalize part of their production in order to heat the tar sands.

But, I am with a lot of the others here. I don't think this is what we should be doing, but it is what we will continue to do. We will exhaust every possibility in order to continue producing liquid fuels.


I am new to this blog, I have read much of  the introductary info and  i would like to posit  the  following links. I suppose I could participate in typing but I would rather people come to their own conclusions. I hope the posting of links is ok?

The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) classifies benzene as a human carcinogen. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can ...

I mean Shouldn't we only care that they are even considering maintaining this insanity. What is the definition of insanity?
If this seems a diatribe I will go away.


Posting of links is more than O.K.

I reviewed the links, but they didn't connect tar sands and benzene. Perhaps you could say more?
If posting of diatribes were outlawed here, most of us would have to go away. Just too long is no good. In that case the editors will give you a rap on the knuckles and you shorten your next diatribe.
You say you are new here, no problem. That just makes you a noobie. But how "new" are you to Peak Oil? That's what it is really about. If you are a PO noob, which I am assuming you are not because of your nom de guerre, this would present only  a slight problem. We could have you cured within days.

You want my definition of insanity? You must be fucking insane! Welcome.

Keep your body armor and helmet on at all times. These people play for real. And never, ever, trust a guy named AlphaProphetMonkeyOfDoom :) If you don't believe me, type "oil" into Google. What's the number-one link ahead of ExxonMobil? What is going on there?

(Sorry, Matt, this deserves attention. You can give me your explanation over beers some night, I'm buying. I admire you achieving this. I have no idea how you have kept it up.)

Hey PO'd..  welcome,  We're All of us Mad Here..
(of course, I'm not speaking for anyone but myself.)

`Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'

`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.

`I don't much care where--' said Alice.

`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.

`--so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.

`Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'

Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. `What sort of people live about here?'

`In THAT direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, `lives a Hatter: and in THAT direction,' waving the other paw, `lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.'

`But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.

`Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'

`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.

`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'

Great post, HO.

I will shortly attempt to skewer optimistic views of tar sands production going forward (up to the year 2018) regarding special concerns about the natural gas requirements. You've explained so much of the really technical stuff that I've had to leave out, I'm really grateful for that.

My post should follow up on yours very nicely. I'll be posting soon.

best, Dave

Good paper comparing tar sands with Venezuelan heavy oil. Lots of nice graphics.

Extra points for using the word "greaves".
How much for "hoi polloi"?
I dunno, did he use "hoi polloi" too? Wow.
No, I'm asking how much I get for hoi polloi?

Do you know who Victor Davis Hanson is, fleam? I like some of your stuff a lot, but you gotta know the history of war if you wanna score real points. And you have to start with Greece. It is all about the clash. The reason we are having problems in Iraq right now is because our generals and leaders have forgotten simple principles.


"In times of peace, prepare for war. In times of war, prepare for peace." - Sun Tzu

At least they got the first part right.

Well, the problem of oil sands, I guess, is how much natural gas to extract a bit of oil?

And it's no more than a bit of oil, always will be...

....and when the stranded natural gas runs out locally, and the tar sand industry has to compete with the world for gas at world prices?  The whole thing stinks of an investor trap....

Roger Conner known to you as ThatsItImout

Tar production and refining sounds just like the other plans to keeep our refiners in business-coal to liquids and oil shale. Lousy return on investment and energy wasters with potentially huge environmental problems. And, the figure of how much natural gas is needed to recover the bitumen and turn it into syncrude is never given. If its more than 6mcf per barrel of syncrude this won't make economic sense.


....and when the stranded natural gas runs out locally, and the tar sand industry has to compete with the world for gas at world prices?  The whole thing stinks of an investor trap....

Boone Pickens, who has been promoting oil sands, runs a hedge fund. Does the phrase "pump and dump" ring a bell?

Tar sands processing require steam and hot water. Both can be generated using something else than NG, nuclear is an option. If NG gets too expensive, I'm pretty sure they will invest in something else.
Kind of like saying 'if oil gets too expensive, we will use something else'.
Nothing wrong with nuclear, but it will take years to build a plant.
You are going to still need something to donate the hydrogen to the reaction to crack the bitumen into useful hydrocarbons.  Currently NG is the product of choice for hydrogen, I have heard (probably here) that one of the outfits has a process that can actually utilize the bitumen for hydrogen donation.  I am not sure of the logistical, waste, and economic implications of that process though.  As far as nuclear goes, I can support nuclear as an alternative to high carbon fuel resources (coal, heavy oil, tar sands) to help prevent the degradation of the envirnoment that can be brought about by GW.  But it would seem if you had built a large set of nuclear facilities the smartest thing would be to create electricity and utilize that for energy.  The idea of using nuclear to produce high carbon output fuel seems criminal, talk about adding insult to injury.  I think this is why a lot of people say we need to look at the problem for outside the box. We don't need more oil, we need energy for transportation.  We have a lot of people in the energy business that are hammers, so to them every problem is the oil nail, it is not always that way.  Let's go with the most logical way out of the problem, without ruining the planet in the meantime.
Doesn't tar sands extraction/refining process also require a source of H to 'lighten' the resulting crude into refinable form? Isn't the best source the NG?
The Deep Thinkers at TOD are always imagining things as Integrated Systems. Investors and project managers are just thinking about the investment and about running the project. Tar sands may not make sense in the larger scheme of things but it will go forward until it runs into a wall hard.
It would be nice if the investors and managers thought long and hard about the limits to growth before they put down their money and started the ball rolling. They usually don't. And definitely they don't with the level of thoroughnes it would take to satisfy people here.
They will run out of water or they will run out of gas. Or some cold winter when there's a supply crunch in the Midwest burning gas for motor fuel will suddenly look dumb. No change until they hit a wall.
Some investors might lose, but I think it's nice that gas/water shortages might slow production.  Better to have a longer term resource.
Oldhippy, I'm sure you're right. I just hope that the wall occurs before we are reduced to using pig farts as we were shown in the classic Mel Gibson movie "Mad Max".The movie also shows cars being towed by gangs of human slaves,which is not a bad metaphor for our addiction to cars. Its a great movie,well worth the $1 at the video rental store.
Being an oldhippie myself, I remember well the 1970's 'oil crisis' from a back-to-the-land perspective in Appalachian NC. Lots of rural folks had installed oil heaters in the 1950's and 1960's when oil was dirt cheap. They parked the old wood-burner on the back porch. Oil shot up in price,the old wood burner was put back in and lots of trees began falling.
One thing easy to predict is the re-deforestation of great parts of the US as oil/gas get expensive and short in supply. It's hard to be conservationist when your fingers are numb.
I see here what's been called the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Knowledge tells us how to extract fuel from tar sands.  Wisdom tells us to not do it.  Big Money never listens to wisdom.
Fossil fuels are for fossils not the living.
Finally, someone who writes an article about oil sands and is aware of THAI, although, it isn't mentioned until the last paragraph and then is linked more with oil shale.  
THAI is still in the pilot phase, but it does have the potential to drastically improve oil sands extraction in terms of total oil recoverable, environmental impact (way less water, way less NG use, no destructive strip mining, way less CO2 emissions) and EROEI improvements.  Will it make it completely benign?   Of course not, but there is nothing benign about our culture's zest for burning fossil fuels.

Some of the numbers quoted are stale... CAPP is now predicting in excess of 3.5mbpd by 2015.  Irregardless of the final numbers, the machinery in Ft Mac will strain to attain that.  Simple example: Ft Mac's sewage treatment plant is designed for 40,000 people ... it's processing 60,000 and on the verge of breaking down.  The Ft Mac mayor has threatened to hold up new development unless the province helps fix things asap.  Wages are through the roof in Ft Mac.  Real estate is nuts.  Companies are actually flying in workers to the area.  Simple things like this will place a big bottle neck on production out of the area.

The oil sands should be looked at as a reserve tank of gas.  While GW is a bigger issue than PO, from purely an energy standpoint it's a very good thing to have oil sands available to help us as we start sliding down the other side of the curve.  Unless you don't own a car, buy all your goods and services locally and are independently wealthy, I would think a little dose of realism is order. Or maybe you relish the idea of going cold turkey and the are comfortable with its associated pathetic odds of success?  Masochism does seem to be popular amongst the PO crowd these days.  :-)

It's not masochism, it's an avoidance of wishful thinking.  Just because I own a car does not mean that I have to drive it 15,000 miles a year.  Some of what I buy is from far away, but in the future I'll have to buy less in general, and there will be a market for local production (of food, clothing, etc) so we'll have more of a choice to buy local.  We don't have to go "cold turkey".  And are you comfortable with the pathetic odds of success of extending the status quo more than a few years?  Exponential growth cannot continue for more than a few doublings.  If you don't believe that, try folding a newspaper sheet in half, and then again, 10 times...

Below 1200 calories/day for each 100 lbs and its starvation.

minimum calories=1200
1200 *252(btu/calorie.)=302400
BTU/barrel of oil=6.2 million
6.2 million/302400=205 slaves/barrel.

one half is waste,and getting the other 102.5 slaves to do their thing.
Question do you still start with 205 slaves per barrel even though at best you can use 50%?
We can call them "Planetary freedom fighters".
Still those burnt 102.5 won't just go away, multiply this times 85 million "Global Freedom Containers" per day, and...
Ok the price of "Freedom" is high, I know.
We still got the  sweet unburnt slaves we can now put to use. Of course the best we can hope for is  25  of the 102.5 for anything tangiple.the other 77.5 pffft burnt getting the 25 to do their thing, but we still got that sweet 25 and so on, till every freedom fighter is gone, we know this is ok,  there is always a global container of freedom "refugees" coming in somewhere or we can squeeze or push it out. The most adroit math tells us we currently have a energy use /depletion of 62 billion people on this planet.  If my math is wrong please correct me. I hope this ties into a thread of the extreme of oil sand mining for freedom fighters.  It is clear not one human would have to die to solve the so called "Population Crisis" if we didn't have so many freedom fighters to support. Am I too simple or what?

I don't believe there is any one good multiplier from food calories to upstream energy (in calories or fuel gallons).

Here are a couple "env-econ" articles that evolved to this topic in their comments:

I think by the end of it I'd seen that grains can be grown with a 3:1 gain, that is 4 food calories for every fuel calorie invested.  Now you've got to process and transport that, but it can be minimum processing:

Right now things like that have high "specialty" and "health" prices, but given high fuel prices the sales volume might climb.

On the other hand, I think the high numbers for food-to-energy-input ratios come from people who work toward the other end: highly processed, or (heaven help us) fast food.

I wonder how much to cook food ?

I suspect that will double, on average, the calories.

Truly fine food can take relatively little energy input.

"Processing" via the wonders of "food science" to make faux foods needs to die an unnatural death.

Let's assume that everyone fell back to microwave ovens for electrical efficiency.

Every 1 minute a day in a 1000 watt microwave totals out to 6.08 kWh per year ... not a big deal to use an hour a day, 365 kWh per year ... $36.50 at 10 cents per kWh.  Maybe if a kWh got to be a buck you'd think about cutting down.

BTW, I like this thing even if it isn't likely to be needed here in the US:

... consider it another fallback.

No comments so far have mentioned Nuclear as a replacement for natural gas. Are any of the oil sands producers even considering a nuclear plant to provide heat and power? I certainly hope not, as it would certainly be futile, dangerous, and incredibly destructive to the environment. Still, they want hot water and power so nuclear seems like an appealing option.
To all of you who seem to think the tar sands is uneconomical either now or later when NG becomes more expensive, does it seem odd to you that Big Oil, which knows their business, is bidding increasing amounts for increasingly remote oil sands leases; that not one oil sands operator has been willing to sell out yet (many are looking to aquire their competitors), or that  both the Indians and the Chinese are salivating at the possibility of getting a piece of the tar sands?    I've never seen so much drivel.  As one poster did note, the Long Lake project uses very little NG.   Granted it has not been proven out yet since it's still gearing up.  But I've not heard one operator say it wouldn't work.   OPTI/Nexen designed the project on the premise that NG would get very expensive.   If/when that happens, the higher capital costs required by Long Lake will show a terrific payback.  

You should be calculating feasibility in Canadian dollars, not EROEI.   That's how the real world does it.

Excellent points. The one thing that fascinates me is visualizing that after all that work, humans will then transfer the product all the way to the other side of the globe, to China. Is that insanity? Is money the only thing supporting this curious state of affairs?
"You should be calculating feasibility in Canadian dollars, not EROEI.   That's how the real world does it."

Yes. This is true. And more importantly for purposes of this discussion ROI is a tougher standard than EROEI except in the case of subsidies, conversion to a higher value form of energy (which can be a flaw in EROEI), or speculation on much higher future prices.

Aside for these conditions, or variations on them, it is impossible for a project to be negative EROEI and positive ROI. So if a company is investing in a project that does not feature subsidies, it is safe to assume that they believe (very strongly) that it is positive EROEI.

A simple example shows what I mean by this. Take a machine that takes in five gallons of gasoline, then one year later produces five gallons of gasoline. A bucket with a top will work fine.  The bucket has an EROEI of 1 (or 0% or unity). However the ROI is negative. First there is the cost of the bucket, storage and other transaction costs. Second, there is time value of money. The return later is worth less than the return now.

As noted above, in theory the project developers could be speculating that the price of oil will go up so much that five gallons of gas is worth more later than it is now, but in reality no one is funding projects on the basis of oil prices above $70 and the same gain could be realized in the futures market for the short-term. For longer periods of time the price gain would have to extremely high to cover very high discount rates.

Opti/Nexen Long lake project-technology provides the lowest purchased NG use, of any oil sands operations, per barrel. Approximately 80% less NG per barrel than other existing oilsand operators.

If anyone knows otherwise, please post it.