State Of The Industry Review
Updated June 2011
Once a footnote in the story of world oil production, Canada's oil sands are part of the solution to declining conventional oil reserves elsewhere in the world. Canada has over 170 billion barrels of oil recoverable with today's technology, making it second only to Saudi Arabia as an oil resource country. There are an estimated 2.5 trillion barrels of bitumen in the Canadian resources and it is possible to produce 2.5 million barrels of oil per day for over 200 years. That is more than enough to supply all of Canada's needs and make a significant contribution to America, China and other oil importers for generations to come.
Read the Canadian Oil Sands Industry Review
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Tar sands deposits are found in over 70 countries, but most of the world’s reserves are in two regions: Alberta (Canada) and Venezuela. Between them, the Canadian and Venezuelan deposits contain an estimated 3.6 trillion barrels of oil.
Canada's oil sand deposits are located in three major areas in Alberta: Athabasca-Wabasca, Peace River, and Cold Lake. The Cold Lake deposit extends over into neighbouring Saskatchewan. Between them, they cover over 140,000 square kilometers (54,000 square miles), an area larger than Florida. There are currently more than 20 active mining and in-situ oil sands projects in these three areas. The majority of industry activity is currently centered on the Athabasca area, which includes the town of Fort McMurray. The oil sands are at the surface near Fort McMurray but deeper underground in the other areas. The largest bitumen deposit is known as the Athabasca Oil Sands along the Athabasca River.
Take a look at this interactive map of the oil sands by the Oil Sands Developers Group. It features the locations of oil sands projects, infrastructure, aboriginal land, air and water monitoring stations
There are also major oil sands deposits on Melville Island in the Canadian Arctic, however they are unlikely to see commercial production in the foreseeable future.
Canada has about 170 billion barrels of oil in the oil sands that can be recovered economically with today's technology, making it second only to Saudi Arabia as an oil resource country. The total Canadian bitumen reserve is estimated to be about 2.5 trillion barrels.
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, current oil sands production is about 1 million barrels of oil per day. Over half of Canada's crude oil production is from the oil sands. Production is estimated to reach almost 4 million barrels per day by 2020.
Located in eastern Venezuela, north of the Orinoco River, the Orinoco Oil Belt is of a similar geographic extent as that of the Canadian oil sands. The deposits are not bitumen per se but extra-heavy oil. (Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil are closely related types of petroleum, differing from each other only in the degree by which they have been degraded from the original crude oil by bacteria and erosion.)
The Venezuelan deposits are less degraded than the Canadian deposits and, due to their more equatorial location, are at a significantly higher temperature. Therefore they are easier to extract by conventional techniques - however they are still too heavy to transport by pipeline or process in normal refineries.
Unlike Canada, Venezuela has not had access to capital and technological prowess; therefore it has not been able to optimize the design and construction of bitumen upgraders and heavy oil refineries. In addition, the Venezuelan product has a high sulphur content and particulate emission making it difficult to meet international environmental regulations.