WRITTEN BY: Devon, Adesh, Josh, Kyler, Cheslie, Sean, Owen, Avery, Liam, Troy, Max

What are the Primary Natural Resources of the Prairies?
There are many natural resources located in the Prairies, including the likes of Uranium and Diamonds. However, one of the more common, useful and abundant, resource that is extracted is oil, also known as petroleum. Natural gas is also a common resource.

What is the resource?

Oil is a non-renewable resource that was created a long time ago when dead organic material piled up at the bottom of oceans, riverbeds, lakes, or swamps. This mixes with mud and sand, and as more sediment in added on top of it and the heat and pressure transformed it into oil. This process takes hundreds of thousands of years, which is why oil is not a renewable resource. Oil burns incredibly well, and releases a large amount of energy when burned. This is trait is almost completely unique to oil.


How is it extracted?
There are three main ways in which oil is extracted: Primary, Secondary and Enhanced Recovery.
  1. Primary recovery uses underground pressure to get the oil to the surface. Gas is used to lift the fluids to the surface.
  2. Secondary recovery is the most widely applied technique that is used to extract oil. Water that it obtained from extract oil is injected back into the ground which pushes more oil to the surface. This technique gets more oil and gets rid of the waste-water, so it it very effective.
  3. Enhanced recovery is used to move the remaining oil in the are so it can be collected. There are three main ways in which this is done: thermal, in which steam in injected, gas injection, in which immiscible or miscible gases are injected into the soil, and chemical flooding, in which chemicals and water are injected.

What of the Benefits/Risks of developing the resource?
The benefits of developing oil would include more exports (and more money). Oil is often used as an energy source, and can also be refined into gasoline. Gasoline (and diesel, which is also created using oil) are used in almost every single automobile on the planet. Even though other fuels such as biofuels are being tested and used, gasoline and diesel are still the most widely used fuels for automobiles.

What branch of government is overseeing this development? Who is the MLA/MP in the area?
Natural Resources Canada's Energy Sector (Office of Energy Efficiency) oversees the development of natural resources. Industry Canada is responsible for marketing the oil. The bigger umbrella or branch of the government these departments fall under is the executive branch of parliament (mainly the cabinet ministers in parliament). The member of parliament responsible for the Fort McMurray-Athabasca riding is Brian Jean (Conservative). The Member of the Legislative Assembly is Buckley Belanger (NDP).

Which company or government agency is developing the resource?
There are many different companies and government agencies that develop oil sands. For example, Alberta has an Energy Resources Conservation Board, which regulates all of Alberta's natural resources. There are many other government agencies in Alberta called Alberta Environment, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Alberta Surface Rights Board, Environmental Appeals Board, and National Energy Board. A few popular companies developing oil sands in the Prairies include Praire West Oil and Gas, Nexen Inc., and Suncor Oil Sands.

Who are the different groups of stake holders in the local area?
Organized stake holders include the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA), the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA), the Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development (CONRAD) and the Athabasca Regional Issues Working Group (RIWG). In more general terms, the major stakeholders are corporate companies (many foreign), citizens, and enviromental groups.

What is the history of our use of the resource? How was it done, by whom, etc.,
The first recorded uses of oil were about 4000 years ago; oil was used to make asphalt to construct walls in Babylon and in Ancient Persia it was used for medicine and for lighting by the upper levels of Persian society. The Babylonians got this oil from oil pits and the Persians found this oil on the banks for the river Issus. In these cases, peasants or slaves probably collected the oil. The first oil wells for extracting oil from the ground were made in China around 350 AD/CE. Before oil wells, oil was only found, not extracted from the earth.

The first recorded use of oil in modern history was in the 19th century where crude oil was refined to make kerosene. Before that kerosene was refined from coal, but after it was refined from rock oil (petroleum) because there was more of it. The first petroleum mine was built soon after, and later the first modern refinery was built it Russia. Today, primary, secondary and enhanced recovery are used to extract oil.


What are the arguments for and against the project?

The project we looked at is a very heated topic in Canada right now, the Northern Gateway Enbridge Pipeline. This is basically an oil pipeline that Enbridge Pipelines wants to build from Edmonton to Kitimat. Mny different politicians, First-Nations, and activists have riled against this pipeline because it could be disastrous to the environment and it would run over traditional Native grounds.

To learn more about the pipeline visit here: http://www.northerngateway.ca/project-details/

The biggest reason people are against the pipeline is the environmental hazards it could cause. If we look at BP and the Gulf disaster we learn two things; that no plan is fool-proof and that oil and water do not mix. Enbridge has a history of incidents, just this year on July 12th Enbridge had a spill of over 190,000 litres of crude oil in Wisconsin, that 190,000,000 millilitres! This is not a risk people are willing to take and is a big flaw in Enbridge's plan.

Despite Enbridge's history of several spills they insist this project will be their safest and most fool-proof yet. Of course Enbridge would say this though as they are a company who could make a lot of money if this plan is accepted. They have many environmentalists, scientists and project managers to make sure the route is as safe as possible to avoid any disasters.

Many First Nations bands have come out against this pipeline because it will run over their traditional grounds. There is even a petition being passed around from band to band called "Save the Fraser" and this is there statement: "The Save the Fraser Declaration is an Indigenous law ban on tar sands pipelines through First Nations traditional territories. It also bans tar sands oil tankers in the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon on the north and south coasts of British Columbia. To date, the Declaration has been signed by more than 100 First Nations, forming an unbroken chain from the U.S. border to the Arctic Ocean." Not only First-Nations people care about this as well, many Canadian nowadays realize and respect that First Nations were here first and are an important part of our nations history and that we should respect their traditional grounds.

Enbridge has come out saying they have dealt with First-Nations very carefully so they do not offend any of the First-Nations people. They even say they will try and offer locals jobs to work on the pipeline. It is great they are trying to reach out to the Native community and get them to back this project but with so many different bands and so much history I don't see how one groups proposal will be able to wipe the slate clean.

To learn more about Enbridge's plan for First Nations:

What are the alternatives to the resource?
The alternatives to petroleum resources would be electricity, solar energy, nuclear energy, hydrogen, and biofuel. Electric alternatives to petroleum would be mainly for automobiles and heating energy. While electric cars are still in a more experimental stage, hybrids combine both resources. In regions where electricity is hard to come by, oil and coal are used for heating and power. However, the emissions released by burning fuel and coal contribute to pollution and global warming. Solar energy, although reliant on the Sun, is used more or less for electric energy. Nuclear energy can be used for powering buildings, ships, and submarines, but not so much for smaller vehicles that would normally run on fuel like cars, trains, and buses. Nuclear reactors may last for a long time, but are too large and dangerous for convenient use.Hydrogen, being introduced to more experimental vehicles, is eco-friendly but rather volatile. Finally, there is biofuel. It uses compounds from plants such as corn to react when burned. Even though it is eco-friendly and usable, farmland must be gained to meet the needs of this resource.


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