I spent the past couple of days in Alberta, Canada. After a brief stop in Edmonton, a group of journalists and I headed to Shell Albian Sands outside Fort McMurray, in northern Alberta. We flew over the boreal forest, where the late fall temperatures had already caused lakes and rivers to freeze under a white crust.
Above is a photo I took of the oil sands. They are brown, vast, and industrialized, and look nothing like the surrounding boreal forest. As it was November, it was too cold to hose the roads and sands, for if they did, everything would freeze and turn slippery. Consequently, since it still hadn’t snowed, dust clouds hung in the still air.
I’ll be writing more about the trip in the days to come. While the oil sands are not in the Arctic per se, they are in Northern Canada, and hence play a crucial role in the energy policy of one of the most important actors in the Arctic. Additionally, oil sands have been found on Canada’s Melville Island (in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago) and off of the coast of Greenland. Understanding how oil sands are developed today will prove useful if their Arctic counterparts are ever exploited.