Molten Sulphur From Tar Sands Refinery Pumped Onto Sulphur Stack

Fort McMurray, Canada

Sulphur is a byproduct of the tar sands refining process. It comes from the refinery as a liquid (molten sulphur is red) and is pumped onto the top of these pyramids, where walls keep it from running over the edges. As it cools, it becomes solid and yellow again. The world market for sulphur is saturated, so it is stored on site.

The Alberta tar sands are one of the largest, most polluting petroleum reserves in the world, comparable in volume to Saudi Arabia. The extraction process involves crushing bitumen-containing rock, then mixing it with solvents as the first of many steps toward making gasoline. This is a tremendous source of local pollution, leading to significant health issues in nearby communities. Gasoline from the tar sands has about an 80% greater climate change impact, “well to tank” than regular fuel due to the complex extraction and refining process. Currently, about 5% of the fuel sold in Europe comes from this source.