One of the big complaints from environmental warriors who disdain the energy industry has been the “dirty tar sands” which produce oil through newer exploration methods from bitumen deposits in the Earth. Much of the production to date has been taking place in Alberta, Canada and the US has been the beneficiary of these resources for years. It’s a different type of energy extraction than drilling for light, sweet crude and has elicited more than a little controversy from day one. (For background you can read a two part report I did a few years ago when I traveled to Alberta and toured some of the oil sand extraction facilities there. Part 1 and Part 2) Suffice it to say that it drives the green energy crew nuts and they’ve opposed US imports of these products consistently.

Well, the day is coming when they can stop worrying out us importing such resources from Canada… at least to a degree. We’re gearing up to go into production ourselves in Utah and the resources there look very promising. (Yahoo News)

On June 24, U.S. Oil Sands Inc., based in Calgary, got approval from the Utah Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil, Gas and Mining for changes to the PR Spring project being built about 200 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. The company has agreed to submit a plan by Nov. 1 for monitoring the quality of air and water at the project.

“We’ll be in production later in the fall with commercial production before the end of the year,” U.S. Oil Sands Inc. chief executive Cameron Todd told the Financial Post, the Canadian business newspaper. Output at the mine is expected to total 2,000 barrels of oil per day.

U.S. Oil Sands is breaking new ground in this technology and it’s pretty exciting. If you look at my reports from Canada, there were great concerns about surface mining which required “tailing ponds” to clean the mining material after the extraction process. A variety of advances have been made in this technology, but the developers are using a new system which employs a citrus extract called d-Limonene (made from orange peels) to separate the fuel from the sands and cleanly produce the desired product. I won’t put everyone to sleep with all the wonky details here, but if you want to read about it, the company has a full explanation of the process available here. I tend to geek out over these things anyway, but this is pretty exciting stuff.

There were also extensive ground water tests done in advance and it sounds like there will be very little for the environmentalists to complain about. Canada has generated tremendous wealth and countless jobs through this sort of innovation and Utah may well be in line to reap the same sort of benefits. (North Dakota became a jobs powerhouse through drilling, and Utah may do the same with this new technology.) You can expect massive protests from the green community as this moves forward, but that’s sort of baked into the cake. Stay tuned here because we’ll be covering the story as the company moves into full production.