The Oil Sands in Canada and Fracking.


“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  John Muir

Many will know that I have a few misgivings about Wind – farms and the impact on Scotland. I have plenty of discussions with friends whose views differ but after  I watched an incredible program on the Oil Sands in Canada and  Fracking its impact on the environment It was powerful. The film had a huge environmental slant but opened my eyes to the incredible things we do Mother earth in our search for fossil fuels.   It makes my protest on Wind – Farms and the impact they have fairly mild but with Fraking on the cards in the UK  I would advise everyone to get us much information as pssible and watch the film.

I love Canada and I was very lucky to climb  in Canada in the very early 80’s. It was winter and I had 5 weeks ice climbing in Alberta in the Rockies . At that time there were less than 100 ice climbs and we hardly met anyone when climbing. The people were incredible, the country amazing, such space, wildness and beauty. I have been lucky to be back another 4 times an still love the place. As I watched the  film on the Oil Sands in Alberta it showed the huge problems with pollution that it is causing. The wonderful Athabasca river has been effected badly as have many of the indigenous population who have noticed the rise in Cancer rates and Leukemia.  Many earn a living  in the Oil Sands  and have to make a living out of the work. I know little about this industry but surely some of the huge profits can be out back into the land to help keep the damage to a minimum The film showed huge lakes of pollution’s that seep into the water-table the potential damage to the people and the area maybe enormous. The need for oil and cheap fossil fuels that we all need to live is incredible, but at what cost? What can we do?    The Canadians are a wonderful people but I cannot believe that nothing can be done, is the $ all that matters?

From a friend  in Canada

“I have worked in the oil sands and almost cried when I arrived there. The devastation to the environment, the wildlife, the local populous is horrific, you only have to smell the dead Athabasca River to know. ‘We’ are starting the Muskrat Falls hydro project on the Lower Churchill in Labrador, yes it will flood a lot of land but the longer term environmental impact is minimal compared to the oil. Wind is a favoured option in Southern Alberta but when around Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass it isn’t pretty with literally hundreds of windmills. Having said all that I am a huge hypocrite as these industries have allowed me to achieve a very comfortable standard of living. Sorry.”

Canada a wonderful place.

Canada a wonderful place.

Oil sands, tar sands or, more technically, bituminous sands, are a type of  unconventional petroleum deposits.

The oil sands are loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone containing naturally occurring mixtures of  sand and clay, and water, saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially tar due to its similar appearance, odour and colour). Natural bitumen deposits are reported in many countries, but in particular are found in extremely large quantities in Canada.Other large reserves are located in Kazakhstan and Russia. The estimated worldwide deposits of oil are more than 2 trillion barrels (320 billion cubic metres) the estimates include deposits that have not yet been discovered. Proven reserves of bitumen contain approximately 100 billion barrels, and total natural bitumen reserves are estimated at 249.67 billion barrels  globally, of which 176.8 billion barrels or 70.8%, are in Canada.

I would be interested in any thoughts?

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Oil Sands in Canada and Fracking.

  1. Simon Willatts says:

    Heavy, you appear to have a mistake with your film reference: it should be


    • heavywhalley says:

      Thanks for that Simon


    • heavywhalley says:



      Hi Heavy

      FRACKING! I occasionally look at your blogs and read this morning your comments on fracking. I was cycling solo across North Dakota in May 2011 following a long distance cycle route heading for the Pacific Coast when I reached Minot. At the really cheap motel recommended for touring cyclist, I was advised not to cycle the next 300 miles on Highway 2 as a cyclist had been killed a few days before by a oil tanker. I was not aware at all of the oil boom resulting from fracking in that area. So after Googling on my lap top to learn more, I packed my bike up, caught the only Amtrak train of the day and headed west to Havre, Montana, where I resumed my pedalling journey. The railway and Highway parallel each other most of the way. Highway 2 is THE major road and had no hard shoulder. Boy was I glad I did ……………. I doubt I would have survived cycling the highway. My experience to Minot was little traffic but after Minot I saw truck after truck thundering along either providing pipes, lubricants or equipment for the oil industry or tankers collecting oil to take to the rail head for transport to a refinery. Every few miles there would be an oil site with a nodding donkey or two, 2 big oil tanks to collect the oil, portacabin and a small generator building all located on a hardcore built hard-standing. Plus occasionally there would be a flaming vent to burn off waste gases. The prairie landscape as far as the horizon in all directions was littered with oil industry workings. This went on for over 200 miles. Each site is visited every two days by an oil tanker that loads the oil and hauls it away. Up side is the oil and shale gas means the USA is once again self sufficient in oil and gas which is good for the world’s economy & local businesses for 100s of miles are booming. The area effected only goes a few 10s of miles further south but I was told it carries on for mile after mile to the north to Canada then carries on there for hundreds of miles. Downside is the environmental impact, however, the individual nodding donkey sites can be cleared and restored to natural prairie easily enough. It is what we don’t see that could be the real legacy. In 2012 the cycling route was moved from passing through this area and now crosses the prairie some 100 miles further south.

      One day we will be forced to end our reliance on fossil fuels and the individual ‘freedom’ of owning cars but until then fracking will happen as the general public are not prepared to use public transport or walk or cycle as the main way of getting around!

      Keep blogging and reminding me of those wonderful days we have all had on the Big Hills.


      Jeff Scholefield


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