"Energy for the future...but not forever" Fort McMurray by Darby2

Fort McMurray Travel Guide: 58 reviews and 176 photos

Oilsands...Men and machines and energy

The area around Fort McMurray contains the world's largest oil deposits in the form of tar-sands. In fact, this deposit contains more oil than all the fields in Saudi Arabia, estimates up to 280 Billion barrels of recoverable oil, and more than 1.5 TRILLION barrels of unrecoverable oil.

The town of Fort McMurray which now has a population of more than 65,000 has grown very quickly as these deposits have been mined, extracted, upgraded and refined in order to meet the growing demands of an energy-hungry world.

The world's biggest machines...draglines, 400 ton haul trucks, hydraulic shovels, cranes and loaders work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to keep the process in operation.


The town itself lies on the banks of the Athabasca River and most of the current mines and oil related activity take place north of the town at Mildred Lake. The two biggest operators are Syncrude and Suncor.

But what happens when all the oil in the oilsands is gone????

The frightening truth is...the end of civilization as we know it.
Your children being born today may never have the privelege of driving a car. I strongly suggest you read this article and some of the links in it to better comprehend our dilemma.

At the current rate of consumption of about 85 Million barrels per day, or 27 Billion barrels per year, the Athabasca oilsands would last for only about 12 years.

There are a host of other problems associated with extracting and upgrading all this oily stuff...One of which is the need for large amounts of water (drawn from the Athabasca River) needed to mix with the crushed oilsand in order to create a slurry which can then be separated. The capacity of the river is limited and can never support more than the current output of oil.

The world's biggest trucks

The Caterpillar 797 mining truck is the largest of its kind in the world. Brought into operation in 2000, it has a payload capacity of 380 tons. The Cat 797 is powered by a 24 cylinder V24 quad-turbo diesel engine that produces an amazing 3,400 horsepower, about the same as a big railway locomotive. The truck is 23 feet from the road to the top of truck bed, and almost 50 feet tall when the bed is raised for dumping. The total Length of the truck is 47.5 feet. Syncrude now has 60 such trucks in operation.

Eight onboard computers monitor oil pressure, transmission torque, engine performance and tire temperature. The Caterpillar 797 sells for $5 million; the 13 foot tall Michelin tires were especially designed for the 797, and cost about $50,000 each.
When a new 797 is delivered, it arrives in pieces aboard 12 semis, including an 850 gallon (or optional 1800 gallon) fuel tank.

With a full load, the 797 can move as fast as 40 mph on level ground. Behind each wheel is a pack of 42-inch brake discs ... 10 each in front, 15 per corner in the back. Dissipating that energy is a computer controlled brake-cooling system that pumps oil -- up to 1160 gallons of it per minute -- through multiple coolers and then through the discs. These brakes work!
The truck uses fuel in huge amounts ... an average of 65 gallons/hr ... with a fuel economy rating of 0.3 mpg. With such huge costs involved, the vehicle is usually run 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, stopping only for regularly scheduled maintenance.
For maximum efficiency, mining truck volume must be a multiple of mining shovel capacity. Cat built the 360 ton capacity 797 specifically to handle the 90-ton loads carried by the industry's biggest shovels; four scoops and the truck is full. But P&H Mining Equipment of Milwaukee recently debuted a "dipper" capable of snatching ore in 100-ton bites, which creates a problem in filling the 360-ton-capacity pickup. New models are in the works!

Imagine, working 24hrs a day, 365 days per year, each truck burns over 550,000 gallons of diesel fuel in a year!

The truck operator sits in a very comfortable cab and monitors the many computer controls that operate the huge vehicle.
Important Links to the oil ndustry:

Life AFTER the oil crash A startling article by Matt Savinar

Coast To Coast AM with George Noory George has regular guests discussing the Peak Oil dilemma.


The WOLF at the Door

Ghawar Oilfield...the world's biggest...but only 875 days worth

Oil and gasfield production Statistics


Athabasca Tar Sands information

Frequently asked questions about the Athabasca oilsands

More Links

The Oil Crash in New Zealand

Offsite links to the Oil depletion problem

I'll be adding more links as they become available.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:It seems so vast....more than twice the size of Lake Ontario
  • Cons:It won't last forever....less than a generation
  • In a nutshell:Conserve, conserve, conserve!
  • Last visit to Fort McMurray: Sep 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (1)

Comments (5)

  • sourbugger's Profile Photo
    Jan 22, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    QI - quite interesting

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jan 22, 2009 at 4:15 AM

    Hi, Dave! Thanks for your story about that remote place... ~ Take care ~

  • Darby2's Profile Photo
    May 5, 2007 at 12:41 AM

    I have a hotshot delivery to make today to the Suncor plant...hoping to take more photos and post them here. It's a 500 km trip from here near Edmonton.

  • MrBill's Profile Photo
    Jan 25, 2005 at 4:12 AM

    Excellent pages. I am trading oil & gas futures & options and was born in Edmonton, AB. I agree the tar sands are extremely interesting and important. What about hydrogen though? Bill

  • Geoff_Wright's Profile Photo
    Dec 21, 2004 at 5:57 AM

    Shouldn't like to hand pump the tyres, Darbs, hahahaha!


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