Environmental repercussions of the tar sands

Topics: Athabasca Oil Sands, Oil sands, Petroleum Pages: 46 (13548 words) Published: October 20, 2014

Athabasca oil sands
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the bitumen deposit. For the corporation, see Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. Athabasca oil sands
Athabasca Oil Sands map.png
Country Canada
Region Northern Alberta
Offshore/onshore Onshore, mining
Coordinates 57.02°N 111.65°WCoordinates: 57.02°N 111.65°W Operators Syncrude, Suncor, CNRL, Shell, Total, Imperial Oil, Petro Canada, Devon, Husky, Statoil, Nexen Partners Chevron, Marathon, ConocoPhillips, BP, Oxy

Field history
Discovery 1848
Start of production 1967
Current production of oil 1,300,000 barrels per day (~6.5×107 t/a)[1] Estimated oil in place 133,000 million barrels (~1.81×1010 t)[2] Producing formations McMurray, Clearwater, Grand Rapids

The Athabasca oil sands (also called the Athabasca tar sands or Alberta tar sands) are large deposits of bitumen or extremely heavy crude oil, located in northeastern Alberta, Canada – roughly centred on the boomtown of Fort McMurray. These oil sands, hosted in the McMurray Formation, consist of a mixture of crude bitumen (a semi-solid form of crude oil), silica sand, clay minerals, and water. The Athabasca deposit is the largest known reservoir of crude bitumen in the world and the largest of three major oil sands deposits in Alberta, along with the nearby Peace River and Cold Lake deposits.[3]

Together, these oil sand deposits lie under 141,000 square kilometres (54,000 sq mi) of boreal forest and muskeg (peat bogs) and contain about 1.7 trillion barrels (270×109 m3) of bitumen in-place, comparable in magnitude to the world's total proven reserves of conventional petroleum. Although the former CEO of Shell Canada, Clive Mather, estimated Canada's reserves to be 2 trillion barrels (320 km3) or more, the International Energy Agency (IEA) lists Canada's reserves as being 178 billion barrels (2.83×1010 m3).[3]

With modern unconventional oil production technology, at least 10% of these deposits, or about 170 billion barrels (27×109 m3) were considered to be economically recoverable at 2006 prices, making Canada's total proven reserves the third largest in the world, after Saudi Arabia's and Venezuela's Orinoco tar sands.[4] Canada’s oil sands are found in three deposits –The Athabasca oil sands deposit is the largest of Canada's three oil sands. The two others are in the Peace River and Cold Lake areas in Alberta and part of Saskatchewan. By 2009, the two extraction methods used were in situ (Latin, meaning "in place") extraction, when the bitumen occurs deeper within the ground, (which will account for 80 percent of oil sands development) and surface or open-pit mining, when the bitumen is closer to the surface. Only 20 percent of bitumen can be extracted using open pit mining methods,[5] which involves large scale excavation of the land with huge hydraulic power shovels and 400-ton heavy hauler trucks. Surface mining leaves toxic tailings ponds. In contrast, in situ uses more specialized techniques such as Steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). "Eighty per cent of the oil sands will be developed in situ which accounts for 97.5 per cent of the total surface area of the oil sands region in Alberta."[6] In 2006 the Athabasca deposit was the only large oil sands reservoir in the world which was suitable for large-scale surface mining, although most of it can only be produced using more recently developed in-situ technology.[4]


1 History
1.1 Early history
1.2 Recent history
2 Oil sands production
2.1 Transportation
3 Future production
4 Governance
5 Development
6 Bitumen extraction
6.1 Surface mining
6.2 Steam-assisted gravity drainage
7 Environmental impacts
7.1 Land
7.2 Water
7.3 Natural gas use and greenhouse gases
7.4 Animals
7.5 Tailings ponds
8 Population
9 Estimated oil reserves
10 Economics

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