Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 20th 2014 Contents unlike conventional tar sands processing
plants which needed to be as big as
Petrotrin's Pointe-a-Pierre refinery and it
can be custom-built to handle smaller scales
such as 1,500 barrels of oil. In addition, it
can be dismantled and transported with
"minimal effort", freeing up land space and
creating more entrepreneurs as 80 per cent
of the plant can be manufactured in T&T.
He said the full operating system, which
can extract producing 500 barrels of oil a
day, will occupy less than five acres of land.
Ferreira said the company has applied
for its own excavation license in Parry Lands,
in Trinidad's southern peninsula.
Ferreira said successive administrations
have acknowledged the economic potential
for developing tar sands are cautious about
going forward with the concept because the
negative fallout from conventional mining
and pressure from environmental groups.
State-owned Petrotrin was granted a license
for tar sands exploration in 2009.
While ERS is still exploring prospects for
its enviromentally friendly tar sand mining
operations in T&T, another company is
closer to getting off the ground. Geologist
Herbert Sukhu said his company, Geominex
Resources Limited, has signed a memoran-
dum of understanding (MOU) with the Min-
istry of Trade, Industry and Investment
(MTII) for tar sands exploration in the La
Sukhu said his company's "small footprint
mining" method will use proprietary solvent
retort processes which are more environ-
mentally friendly than the Canadian model.
He said strip mining could produce between
30,000 to 50,000 barrels of oil per day and
entails "stripping certain areas, extracting
the usable tar sands and filling back the
waste material." That is not a small scale
operation and could eventually end up cost-
ing US$5.2 billion, he said.
Falconer said Sukhu's company used sim-
ilar technology to ERS, but also uses a chem-
ical process to assist the flow of oil. He
believes his company has a superior product
and is further along in development and
implementation of its technology.
Oil sands are a mixture of sand/clays, bitumen and water. Each grain of oil sand has
three layers: a layer of water surrounding the grain of sand, with bitumen surrounding
the water to form the outer layer. Oil sands are often referred to as tar sands or
bituminous sands. Tar sand deposits are mined utilising techniques such as strip
mining, open pit techniques, and underground heating (steam injection) to extract the
oil. The complex process of recovering oil from tar sands involves many steps in order
for the oil to be profitably extracted and upgraded to a usable product. The recovery
process typically involves the following steps:
• Extracting the oil from the sand
• Separating the bitumen from the clay, sand, and water
• Diluting the bitumen with lighter hydrocarbons to pass through pipes easier
Across Trinidad, exploration conducted several ago estimated some 1.5 to 2 billion
barrels of bitumen-based fuel. The southern communities of Vessigny, Guapo,
Parrylands, Vance River, and La Brea all exist directly on top of tar sands deposits.
Last December, the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs established 35 mining
zones across T&T, including one provisional mining zone for tar sands.
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Developers of a Canadian plant that recycles old
tyres say that it can be reconfigured to process tar
sands without using precious water resources and
the chemicals used in the Canadian tar sands mining
model which are wreaking havoc on the environ-
Australian Ken Falconer, designer of the plant, said
it could be used locally to minimise damage from
events such as last December's oil spills in the south-
west peninsula, the fires in the Beetham Landfill. He
said the Environment Recovery Solutions Ltd (ERS)
pyrolysis plant uses a very simple process where the
material is heated at high temperatures in the absence
of oxygen in a completely sealed environment.
When tar sands are processed through the plant,
clean sand comes out one end and oil on the other
end, he explained.
"The Canadian tar sands mining method uses
steam and chemicals in its extraction process. At
best they can take out 80 per cent of the oil with
20 per cent left in the contaminated sand but the
waste water and chemical residue is the environmental
"Our process cleans the sand to a 99.99 per cent
ratio that has no organic matter in it and it's like
He said organics added to the it can be used for
agricultural purposes, in construction and in sandbags.
Falconer said his partners in ERS are willing to
relocate the plant to T&T to process the oil-cont-
aminated sand on the beaches at La Brea affected
by Petrotrin's oil spills. However, the plant cannot
recycle the oil that spilled into the sea.
He said ERS wants to ask the Ministry of Energy
and Energy Affairs (MEEA) for a trial license to come
to Trinidad and construct a small pilot plant which
will extract 500 barrels of oil a day from tar sands.
Government can let the plant operate for a year, eval-
uate and test emissions, test the product and if it is
not working, shut it down.
All we want is a chance
Gerard Ferreira, former mayor of San Fernando,
who is a partner in ERS, said the system offers an
opportunity to develop T&T's natural resources in
an environmentally friendly manner. He said it made
good business sense to recover one-and-a-half billion
barrels of oil at $99 a barrel since it will benefit the
economy while preserving the environment
Ferreria said Falconer's plant design is modular,
Competition for T&T's tar sands
Two companies offer 'safe' options
EXTRACTING OIL FROM SAND
The traditional form of tar sand mining conducted on a large scale at a location in Canada.
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