Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - January 17, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
Thurmay, January 17. 1974 - THE LETHBRIPOE HERALD -8 Oil sands recovery process History By Randy Denley, information officer at University of Western Ontario OTTAWA - For over 40 years^ Dr. Karl Clark of Edmonton tried unsuccessfully to promote commercial adaptation of the technology he had created to develop Canada's richest crude oil reserve, the Athabasca Oil Sands. But not until a year after his death in 1966 was the technology Dr. Clark first developed in an Edmonton powerhouse basement in 1923 finally employed on a large scale to synthesize crude oil from the oil sands. Considered too costly until the late 1960s, the Alberta metallurgist's process became more and more economically feasible as North America awoke to an impending energy crisis and oil prices began to rise dramatically. The Athabasca Oil Sands, which cover a 30,000-square-mile area the size of Lake Michigan 300 miles north of Edmonton, could yield about 300 billion barrels of synthetic crude oil, commercially recoverable as prices stood at the outset of the 1970s. A further 300 billion barrels could be extracted from hard-to-mine or poor quality deposits. Known North American reserves in 1973 totalled only 56 billion barrels. In 1973, the Alberta government officially confirmed 26.5 billion barrels of Athabasca oil as part of Canada's known reserves. Even this small percentage of the total deposit increased the life of Canada's oil reserves from 15 years to 62 years, at 1973 rates of consumption. Although the huge oil-producing capability of the Athabasca Oil Sands was first discovered in 1897, no successful commercial development was undertaken for 70 years. A small commercial plant built during the Second World War failed because of high mining costs in the face of competition from abundant supplies elsewhere. By the late 1960s, though, the oil outlook had begun to undergo a drastic change. World energy consumption was expected to double between 1970 and 1980. Canadian oil reserves seemed likely to run out by 1990. Canadian domestic crude oil prices rose from $3.16 to $3.76 a barrel frbm 1971 to early 1973. The Canadian j^overnment clamped restrictions on heating oil and gasoline exports to the oil-hungry United States in an effort to moderate spiralling oil prices. Dr. Clark's previously-uneconomical technology had ^ come into its own. When he began his research with the Alberta Research Council in 1920, there was no way to separate the oil-rich bitumen from the black, sticky oil sand. The Alberta Research Council enlisted Dr. Clark to develop a technology in the hope that the tar-like bitumen might be used as a road-paving substance. But Dr. . Clark was able to see the future significance of the oil sands as an oil-producing area. Although he worked with other men while with the Alberta Research Council and later when he was a professor of mining and metallurgy at the University of Alberta, Dr. Clark was the driving force behind oil sands research for more than 40 years. The separation process Dr. Clark developed is quite simple in theory. Water wets quartz sand surfaces more readily than oil, so when the oil sands are treated with boiling water, the water displaces the oil which floats to the surface. Boiling water is used because it causes air bubbles which break up densely packed sand and liberate pockets of oil. . In 1923, Dr. Clark and an Alberta Research Council chemical engineer, S. M. Blair, built their first hot water separation plant in the basement of the University of Alberta powerhouse at Edmonton. While the process itself was not complicated, the challenge lay in reproducing the technology on a large commercial scale. In 1929, the small experimental plant in Edmonton was disassembled and moved to Waterways, Alberta, on the Athabasca Gil Sands. There Dr. Clark addressed himself to the technical problems which prevented large-scale production. In the earlier experimental plants sand had been removed after processing by an inefficient bucket conveyor and there had been no way of cleaning the plant water or removing large lumps and impurities which clogged the system. Technical modifications in the Waterways plant solved' these problems. After the trees and muskeg which usually overlay the oil sands were removed from a small area, the sands themselves were scooped up by steamshovels and stockpiled outside the plant. A bucket conveyor carried the sands into the plant and emptied into a mixing tank. There the sand was stirred and mixed with boiling water and a silicate. solution that neutralized the acidity of the water to make it better for separation. The sand and water mixture then passed through a rotating screen which eliminated the lumps and impurities that had caused problems in the earlier plant. The hot, wet sand then passed into a separation tank, filled with hot water, where the oil-producing bitumen floated to the surface as a froth while the sand sank to the bottom. The bitumen was scooped off the surface by a large steel bucket-wheel and stored. Sand was removed from the bottom of the separation box by a screw conveyor. In earlier plants, the sand had been carried up through the separation tank by a bucket conveyor, which scooped up and wasted some of the bitumen floating on the surface of the tank. The used water was diverted to two cone-shaped tanks where the silt settled and was removed so the water Book reviews could be recycled through the plant. This eliminated the necessity of frequently changing plant water to avoid silt accumulation. The Waterways sytem proved to be an efficient way to remove 90 per cent of the bitumen from the sand. When fully operational the plant could produce 1,000 barrels of bitumen a day to pave roads in Edmonton. With the basic technological problems resolved, the oil sands development faced a bleak future. The Waterways plant was closed, a victim of the Depression. No significant effort to revive and build on Dr. Clark's work was undertaken until 1967 when the Great Canadian Oil Sands processing plant opened at Fort McMurray using the Clark system. . Dr. Clark's road-paving substance was far removed from the synthetic crude oil now produced from bitumen at the GCOS insUllation. Synthetic crude is a clear amber liquid that looks like flat beer. It is equal in quality to natural crude and can be refined to make gasoline, fuel oils and kerosene. The 1235-million GCOS plant was the first commercial syn- thetic oil plant in the world as well as the first successful commercial plant on the oil sands. It uses six coking furnaces to break the bitumen down into its components-gas oil, kerosene, naphtha, butanes, pentanes and coke. The gas oil, kerosene and naphtha then are reunited to form synthetic crude. The plant produces 45,000 barrels of synthetic crude a day which is shipped to Edmonton by pipeline. From there it is shipped to the Sun Oil Co. Ltd. refinery at Sar-nia, Ontario. Other companies were planning much larger operations in the oil sands in the 1970s. Syncrude Canada Ltd. was planning to move into the oil sands m August, 1973, to start the largest mine in Canada with a capital investment of $700 to $800 million. The Murphy Oil Co. Ltd. of Calgary, and Shell Canada Ltd. of Edmonton were also planning to tap the huge potential of the oil sands in the 1970s. Again, the technology Dr. Clark never saw employed on the commercial scale he envisaged would be the basis of these operations. Newly recognized American artist "Fasanella's City" by Patrick Watson (Alfred A. Knopf, 9" X 12", $16.50, 148 pages, distributed by Random House of Canada Ltd.). Fasanella is an artist in New York City whose painting has only recently gained recognition. Watson writes about the artist and his work with the same kind of verve and distinction he brought to his television programs in Canada and no doubt continues to do now in the United SUtes. The way in which Fasanella, a laboring man, came to try his hand at painting is almost unbelievable - he complained of trouble with his hands and a friend told him to try painting! When he did, he couldn't -quit. Painting became a passion. For a long period of time he hardly stopped to eat or sleep, he just had to paint. A generous selection of his paintings are reproduced in the book along with their background in the life of Fasanella. The paintings are of the city as Fasanella knows it, his union associations, his love and hate for the church, his feel for the poetry of baseball, the sorrow he felt for the death of Congressman Marcantonio, his sense of outrage at the execution of the Rosenbergs, his understanding of the forces that led to the assassination of President Kennedy. They are remarkably vital social commentaries. When I started reading this book I thought the occasional vulgarity in the text was in- consistent with the elegance of the graphic production. As I read along I came to realize that it was not inconsistent with the earthiness of Fasanella and actually gave force to the man's strongly held convictions. This is truly a different kind of art book. It is one that might be appreciated more by people who haven't paid much attention to art than by those who are immersed in it. Yet even the latter are apt to be attracted by what they find here. DOUG WALKER Spelunker's guide "The r Amateur's Guide to Caves and Caving" by David R. McClurg (George J. McLeod, Ltd., $2.95 paper, $6.95 cloth, 191 pages). Between the stalagmites and stalactites of nature's underground wilderness lies a world of discovery revealed YouVe woriied hard for your money. Nowlet your money woik hard fiiryou. At the Commerce we know farming. We know how your business can vary from year to year through no fauh of your own. That's why it's important to put some of your income into a planned sayings program to build financial reserves for your business. We have three savings plans that can make your money work hard for you: A Commerce Savings Account is a convenient way to keep your cash safe and handy and earn good interest. Commerce Growth Savings Certificates guarantee profits and come in multiples of $10.00 without limit. And if necessary you can cash them anytime. With $ 1,000 or more, Term Deposits return the highest interest we offer at the Commerce. A planned savings program is just one of the Farm Services you can get at the Commerce. Stop by and have a talk with your local Commerce Branch Manager. He can help make your hard work pay off. CANADIAN IMPERIAL BANK OF COMMERCE regularly to intrepid explorers who crawl, creep, climb and even wade to see the unforgettable sights denied those who only walk above the ground. This informative book, complete with useful diagrams and sketches, written by an amateur caver, examines the motivations of these hard-hatted, mud-covered spelunkers to explain "why caving?" and goes on to show the convert just how it is done. Mr. McClurg invites newcomers to explore this sport-science by providing ample instruction on how to get in and out of caves safely. Step-by-step instructions begin with the conservation rules and basic safety, such as never cave alone; find experienced cavers to accompany you during elementary caving; leave word as to your whereabouts; and basic requirements in gear and equipment. The novice will gain confidence in reading the section on the formation, structure and terminology of cave life (cave fish, isopods, amphipods and others). It recommends the use of hard hats, head lamps, carbide and electric lights, cave packs, boots, personal equipment and gives instruction in ascending, descending, scrambling, chimneying, traversing, important knots, beginner's qualification program, equipment and hardware for advance caving, rappelling and prusiking. The book is not about famous caves or cavers, but is a solid introduction to what they are and the techniques, challenges and rewards of this demanding sport. It makes speleology and spelunking a practical fascinating, lifetime interest for everyone of the "upper crust" who wants to know how the "under crust" lives! With important caves located in the Crowsnest, just west of Lethbridge, this book will prove invaluable to those considering discovering for themselves these little-publicized fossil-filled chambers. CHRIS STEWART BOOKS IN BRIEF "Postern of Fate" by Agatha Christie (Collins, $6.95, 254 pages). Another in the long line of classic Agatha Christie mysteries, this one concerns a murder which took place during the First World War. Tommy and Tuppence Beresford have some anxious moments as they work to solve the old and puzzling scandal. ELSPETH WALKER Literacy standards falling By Peter Hunt, local writer Literacy, in its most basic sense, is the ability to read and write. In a deeper sense, it is capacity for appreciation of the best writing. These two plain truths would need much amplification in any article that dealt with a philosophy of literacy which is bound up with what it means to know, but they are Sufficient for my purpose here. The modern world has been conditioned to worship functional literacy. It despises the people who cannot read and write. Today, the word "peasant" is a word of condemnation. Yet peasants have often had a wisdom and appreciation that mere literacy cannot provide. Not only that. They have often had a gift of oral expression, a vividness of speech which is far more precious and vital than the merely functional skill of reading and writing. Synge and Yeats knew this of the Irish peasants, and Wordsworth, despite Coleridge's valid criticism of his thesis, had hold of an important truth when he celebrated the eloquence of peasant and shepherd speech. Often, such eloquence was shaped by centuries of influence, not least of which was biblical tradition and oral poetry. What is the state of literacy in industrial countries today? What do most people read, and what can they write? How eloquent is their speech? Despite the hopes of certain nineteenth-century reformers, most schooled people read rubbish. Many take the path of least resistance, avoid effort, seek the sensational, and are prey to all the lying propaganda and manipulation of human sharks in the form of ad-men, rat-psychologists, pornographers, and greedy, tenth-rate novelists who wallow in perversion and the unheroic antics of bullies and cads. Many cannot be bothered to follow an argument, or to concentrate on sentences and paragraphs which go beyond the slick and superficial. And so poor is the writing that most people do that universities and colleges have lowered their standards remarkably to cope with the great wave of semi-literate gasbags who invade the world of learning. As for speech, with its stale, "pop" slang, its cliches and lack of vigor and imagination, the less said the better. Fuzzy-mindedness and lack of the power of concentrated attention is all around us. There is good reason to believe that people who left school after grade six or seven 50 years ago were decidedly more literate in both senses than many high school graduates today. At least they read mainly good books. Of course, every able and experienced teacher knows that true literacy grows out of much reading (not necessarily of a great number of books but deep reading of good books), good conversation, attentive listening, and much practice in writing with a purpose. All of these interweave in a good English course, which, despite the looseness at every level, can make an appreciable difference within even a year or two. Teachers must insist on high standards, and only thoroughness and provision of the best material can achieve much in a milieu where excellence is disregarded. Still, the home influence is the really vital factor. There is no space to document the thesis here, but it is certain that denials by professional 'educators' that standards of literacy have been, on average, falling in Canada, may be regarded as their own peculiar myopia. 1 have fat files of statements by academics such as Walter Pitman, Jack McNie, James Daly, William O'Grady, John Porter, Michael Hornyansky, and many others, people whose testimony I respect, charging that schools are not developing literacy adequately and that the under-graduates entering universities are often unable to read and write decently. Every week, a professor complains about this in public, and all of us who are aware of what literacy really is, express to one another the same experience: the battle to develop literacy in our students is getting tougher. It is getting tougher because of the impact of TV, because of the recent wave of anti-literate, ill-understood McLuhanism, and because teachers seem to be less well-educated and schools too permissive. There are exceptions, but faculties of (education are often not the best places for student teachers. In some BEd courses, even majors in English may be obtained without reading more than a few masterpieces; ephemeral theories, movie courses and soft options are too often substitutes for real education. How literate are teachers and so-called 'educators' in any case? It should be admitted that, by and large, with due exceptions, teachers are not a very bright group. Nor are their mentors, the administrators and professional educators. Common observation would reveal stark differences within the profession. Some are excellent; others are capable of reading little above the text-book or latest popularized sociological theory. The Millers Analogies Test for graduate studenU is revealing. In these tests teachers and "educators" score much lower on average than other professional groups. One implication of this is that, in general, the education bureaucracy is not a very bright lot, though there are exceptions. Another is that, paradoxically, formal education in schools and in faculties of education, is not run by people who are the best educated or the most talented. Too often, they have never really left school, and, as a substitute for an education, have studied education. Many teachers and educational bureaucrats have no coherent or examined philosophy and know nothing of the great writings on education, usually from the pens of thinkers and scholars, like George Grant, T. S. Eliot, Cardinal Newman, Jacques Maritain, Jacques Barzun, who are not "professional educators" but only brilliant and educated men. Until schools are smaller, imbued with a passion for truth and rigorous standards, and staffed by people who are a rich resource in themselves, the great illiteracy will continue, with relatively few holding the fort for a literacy which is rich, precise and dis-, criminating. And the cult of mediocrity will continue to deprive the gifted and interested of the more enriching educational experiences. ANDY RUSSELL River running in America "Wild Rivers of North America" by Michael Jenkinson with photos by Karl Kemberger (E. P. Button and Company, 413 pages, $13.25, distributed by Clarke, Irwin and Co.). North America is laced with rivers, big and small, some of them so well travelled they resemble water highways and others relatively unexplored. Michael Jenkinson and Karl Kemberger have spent years running them with river craft, filling notebooks with biographical, geographic and historic data and recording them on film. Their big, well illustrated book is a delight in its detail of description and historic values. It lights one's yearnings for adventure with its accounts of wilderness rivers still waiting for the thrust of oar or paddle. River running is a sport that thousands of people in the United States and Canada are discovering, and like skiing in the mountains you can match the stream to your skill and experience. There are rivers for beginners, rivers for those with more experience, and plenty of "hairy" ones for those who know the fine points of the game. This book is first a guide for river runners, with plenty of instruction on how to go about it. what equipment to take, where to obtain information, and descriptions of 115 waterways. Second, it includes in-depth biographies of eight major wild rivers and a voyageur's route: how it feels to run them, the feel and texture of the country around them; plants, wildlife and people-history. It describes rivers of all kinds from Maine to California and from Central America to the Yukon Territory and Alaska. It sings with old historic accounts of Indians, conquistadores. gold seekers, mountain men, explorers and those that followed. Reading this book has sparked a certain yearning for old campsites, for 1 have travell- ed on and along some of the rivers described. There is recall of mornings when the mist was lifting off the water in steamy clouds making ghostly the sentinel spruces along the banks, and great peaks cleaving the sky in the background. There is nothing quite like following the wild waterways where every bend of the stream opens new vistas. Very few experiences can compare to running a leaping, roaring rapid, where one's craft comes alive and vibrant like the feel of a bucking horse between the knees. There is something magical about the song a river sings day and night, sometimes soft and sometimes a roaring crescendo, as it slips between its banks on its journey to the sea. But in spite of my enjoyment of this book, it also gives a certain foreboding - the gnawing possibility of destruction it may help to perpetrate. For writers have found to their chagrin, the best way to spoil a choice trout stream or upland bird covert is to write a story about it, pinpointing its location. People are inclined to be gregarious and too quick to crowd into choice areas - especially those easy to reach. And while their education in geography may be superlative, their camping habits are too often deplorable. By sheer crowding, boat traffic on some of the major rivers has caused problems forcing restrictions to be imposed. Campgrounds have become littered and dirty and stream bottoms fouled with refuse. Good trout fishing streams in parts of the west have become so crowded with boats that it is sometimes almost impossible for an angler to enjoy his sport. Proof again that we sometimes find it difficult to have our cake and eat It too, to quote an old cliche. Perhaps the current glimpse at the bottom of the petroleum barrel will convince people of the necessity for the practice of conservation beyond mere lip service. A verbal beating By Doug Walker Harry Neufeld was at our house the other night. At the dinner table he informed me that Paul had acquired considerable strength since he had last wrestled him in the summer. "He has a lot of confidence now," I said, "since he started lifting weights every day. I used to challenge him but he would collapse like a frightened chicken. Probably he would beat me today since I have become a little decrepit." "You always have been," said the arrogant Paul, displaying the confidence to which I had referred.