Fort McMurray in plain sight
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  • Fort McMurray in plain sight

    Fort McMurray is all about the oil sand exploitation industry. Oil sands have just recently been counted amongst the world oil reserves: before petrol prices skyrocketed a few years ago, extracting oil from the sand was too costly for the business to be made profitable.

    I’m skipping the technical details. You can read all about it here on Wikipedia.

    This is what the oil sands look like in nature:

    The oil is extracted:

    And then it is pumped to some other place (a lot of it goes to the US) where it is refined into a final product, one of which can be seen here:

    There was a public exhibit, which I visited, that featured parts of machinery of historical significance in the oil sands extraction business.

    This scoop…

    … can be seen dangling from the real machine in this picture:

    Machine parts:

    This was actually one of the smallest of such machines used back in the days:

    Taking a drive north of Fort McMurray, one can see beautiful things directly from the highway.

    My polarizing filter was no match for the dust particles. The air is very dirty at times:

    This is a terrible picture, but I had to put it here because it made me laugh so much! One of the environmental challenges associated with the exploitation of oil sands is the residual bitumen that floats on the waste water. It’s like a film of tar that is released into the environment (right there in the picture).

    Fortunately, the clever environmental engineering and risk management team figured out how to mitigate the impact of such tar on the birds that might want to hang around in the dirty water! They put scarecrows to scare the animals away. This is one such scarecrow.

    Polluted waters just beside the highway:

    I could hardly see the machinery, because there was air in front of it.

    A big storm hit the region very suddenly and I feared that our flight that night would have to be cancelled once again. Fortunately, it was not, but that’s for another blog post!

    There is one of the bigger machines seen earlier, sitting by the highway:

    Stay tuned for the most exciting part of my trip in Fort McMurray: a private flight over the city and all restricted areas!