13 Alberta Oil Sands Facts That Will Truly Amaze You

Height, Age, Net Worth, Biography & More

Joan Agie
Oct 06, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Mar 04, 2022
13 Alberta Oil Sands Facts That Will Truly Amaze You
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.9 Min

You've probably heard that these giant deposits of dirt contain a lot of oil, but you might not know exactly how much or why that matters.

Well, let's start from what happened back in 1973 and 1979. During both years, oil prices began to increase due to the oil crisis.

For the drop in oil production, there was a development in oil extraction technology. This was combined with the non-orthodox extraction technology which contributed towards energy security and offset the worldwide price cartel Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

As per the Oil Climate Index, there was an increase in carbon dioxide emissions from oil-sand crude. Natural Resources Canada stated that from 2005 to 2017, the oil sands production and in-situ extraction increased the amount of greenhouse gas.

The Canadian oil sands area has been named the 'world's most destructive oil operation' due to their environmental impact. There are around 165 billion barrels (31504 billion l) of bitumen beneath the ground.

The oil sands, even though they may be destructive, contribute significantly to Canada's economy, employing over 100,000 people. The environmental cost, however, significantly surpasses the economic growth.

Did you know that Canada's oil sands industry is one of the world's largest reserves of crude oil? Oil sands are loose sand deposits that include around 10% bitumen, 5% water, and 85% solids. Nevertheless, in some regions, the bitumen percentage might reach up to 20%.

The production of oil sands contributes significantly to Canada's gross domestic product. In October 2021, Canada's total gross domestic product increased by 0.8%.

This was followed by a 0.2% hike in September 2021. Canada's gross domestic product further increased by 0.3% in November 2021! Accommodation and food services, mining, construction, entertainment industries and the arts, quarrying, wholesale trade, and oil and gas production are all responsible for this expansion.

The oil and gas extraction hiked up by 1.5% in October 2021, marking the fifth increase in six months. Oil sands extraction increased by 3.9%, driven by high gains in crude bitumen and synthetic oil output in Alberta.

The rise was fueled by strong global demand, rising energy prices, and the completion of planned maintenance activities at several oil sands upgraders.

Oil and gas extraction, keeping oil sands aside, fell 1.8% due to natural resources. The increased natural gas production was more than offset by decreased crude petroleum extraction, notably off Canada's North Atlantic coast.

Do you ever wonder when did it all begins? Well, bitumen, buried deep under the ground, has been exploited since the Paleolithic period.

The first explorers and users of bitumen were the Neanderthals around 40,000 years ago. In Syria, bitumen was discovered as people stuck to stone tools in the archeological sites. These were then used by Neanderthals.

Humans utilized bitumen for building construction and waterproofing reed boats after the advent of Homo sapiens, among other things. Bitumen was even used extensively in the preparation of mummies in ancient Egypt.

In ancient times, bitumen was largely a Mesopotamian product utilized by the Sumerians and Babylonians. But, Levant and Persia were other places where it was found.

Hundreds of pure bitumen seepages scattered the region near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Bitumen was utilized by the Mesopotamians to weatherproof boats and constructions. Back in 1742, bitumen was extensively mined in Europe, where the vapor separation method was still being used, especially in the French city of Pechelbronn.

Since prehistoric times, First Nations peoples in Canada have utilized bitumen from the waters of Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers. It is used to waterproof their birch bark boats.

The Canadian oil sands were originally found by Europeans in 1719 by a Cree native called Wa-Pa-Su, who decided to deliver a sample to Hudson's Bay Company fur trader Henry Kelsey, who wrote about it in his diaries.

The existence of the oil sands was also recognized by John Macoun of the Geological Survey in 1875. Dr. Robert Bell's later findings, as well as those of D.G.

McConnell of the Geological Survey, led to the drilling of some test holes. Parliament approved $7,000 for drilling in 1893.

Drillers in the gum beds of southern Ontario a few decades earlier had hoped to discover free oil at the base of the sands, and this was presumably the objective of the first commercial endeavor to exploit the oil sands.

Despite the fact that the survey's three wells failed to locate oil, the second was notable for a different reason.

Do you want to learn more? Let's take a closer look at what the great Canadian oil sands are and how much oil they contain, as well as some of the other facts that might surprise you.

What are oil sands?

You can find Canada's oil sands in three locations of Alberta and Saskatchewan, namely Athabasca, Cold Lake, and Peace River. Despite some inflated estimates, the present active mining footprint is almost the same size as Calgary. Only roughly 3% of that land might be affected by mining, and all of it is restored afterward.

Read on to understand what oil sands actually are.

Loose sand deposits are called oil sands. They are made of water, clay, sand, and bitumen. Bitumen is a type of extra-heavy crude oil. This oil is vicious and cannot flow on its own.

Surface mining is possible when bitumen is deposited at shallow depths. However, around 80% of Alberta's recoverable bitumen deposits are buried too deep to extract and can only be obtained by drilling wells.

Bitumen is so thick that it behaves like cold molasses at room temperature. Because of this, the material is frequently referred to as tar sands, although this is inaccurate because bitumen and tar are two distinct substances.

Physical Features Of Oil Sands

Despite the fact that all oil sands include heavy, complex hydrocarbons, their physical characteristics differ.

The Alberta Athabasca oil sands are water-wet. This means that the bitumen and solids are expected to be covered by a layer of water. This water helps to separate bitumen from sand using water-based gravity separation.

The other oil sands, tar sands, or shale deposits, those which you can find in Venezuela and Utah, are oil-wet, unlike Alberta Athabasca oil sands that are water-wet.

Since the oil sands found in Venezuela and Utah are oil-wet, they cannot be separated using a water-based technique. To separate the heavy oil from the particles in these deposits, solvents, and chemicals are to be used.

The largest single-source producer of synthetic crude oil from oil sands area in Canada.

Difference Between Oil Sands And Other Sands

Here are some differences between oil sands and other sands.

In the oil sands industry, oil sands refer to a type of nonconventional oil sands deposits found all over the world. Oil sands, also known as tar sands, are a combination of sand, clay, other minerals, water, and bitumen. Crude bitumen is a kind of crude oil that may be extracted from the mixture.

Oil sands, also known as tar sands, are a type of crude oil that occurs in rock formations beneath the Earth's surface in Alberta, Canada. Tar sands are a type of sedimentary rock, similar to sandstone and limestone. For the rock formations, the mining operation is needed for extracting oil sands.

Oil sands are different from other types of sedimentary rocks in that they contain a significantly higher amount of crude oil and a significantly higher amount of energy per unit volume than conventional crude oil.

Advantages Of Oil Sands

Read the facts below to learn about the advantages that oil sands have to offer.

Conventional oil production offers Canadians a reliable source of energy. Canada possesses the world's third-largest oil reserve, making its oil supply limitless. Alberta's oil sands production has contributed significantly to Canada's economy. It also raises the living standards of those who work for oil extraction in the oil sands region.

 After the oil sands development, the topsoil material removed in the mining region is saved and utilized to repair the mined land. Syncrude Company invests more than $100 million per year to recover mined land.

Oil sand derived from bitumen may be used in existing energy infrastructure, which helps to keep oil costs low. It also aids in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the use of CCS technology.

Canada's primary source of foreign money is the oil sands. It sends oil to the United States while also benefiting Canada's economy. The oil extracted from the Albert sands generates enormous riches for the country.

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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