What is crude oil? Crude oil is a fossil fuel or hydrocarbon made primarily of hydrogen and carbon. Depending on sulphur content, crude oil ranges from light to heavy and from sweet to sour. Energy East will move a variety of crude types, including conventional crude oil, diluted bitumen and synthetic crude oil.
What is bitumen? Found in Alberta’s oil sands, among other places, bitumen is a raw material that must be either upgraded to a synthetic specification, similar to West Texas light crude to become a synthetic crude oil or blended with light petroleum products, such as gasoline, to become diluted bitumen. Diluted bitumen is physically and chemically indistinguishable from other heavy crude oils.
How is bitumen extracted? There are two ways. The first, called “surface mining,” involves using large trucks and shovels to scrape up oil collected in the sand. The second, called “in-situ production”, involves injecting steam into the ground that heats up the bitumen, combines it with water and forces it to the surface where it can be separated from the water.
How is crude oil transported? Crude oil is transported by truck, train and pipeline, the latter being by far the safest mode of transportation. Railways have 25 times more accidents than pipelines; trucks have 3,000 times more accidents. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “Transportation Accidents by Mode”)
What is pipeline oil used for? About 75 per cent of Canada’s crude oil is processed into transportation fuel. Energy East will transport oil to refineries in Eastern Canada where it would be used to create asphalt, gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, waxes, plastics and other oil products.
Why is oil so important? We tend to think of oil as something we only need to run our cars. In fact, hundreds of everyday products are made from crude oil, including cosmetics, carpets, glasses, panty hose, heart valves, soap, electronics and plastics. With skis, toothpaste, life jackets, refrigerators, sweaters, tires, helmets, pillows, golf balls, aspirin, soft contact lenses, hair colouring, telephones and bandages also requiring petroleum, it’s no wonder that Canadians currently produce about 3.4 million barrels of oil per day and consume about 1.85 million barrels per day. (Source: Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Crude Oil Forecast, June 2013)
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