Size and Scope of Oil Sands

Syncrude mining operations.
Photo courtesy: David Dodge, The Pembina Institute.

• About half of crude oil production in Canada today comes from the oil sands. [1]

• Canada is home to the world’s third-largest oil reserves, with Saudi Arabia and Venezuela ranking first and second respectively. [2] Ninety-seven per cent of our reserves are in the oil sands. [3]

• As of 2011, Canada is only one in six countries in the world that has an extractable reserve of more than 100 billion barrels. [4] Of those six nations, only two (Canada and Saudi Arabia) are G20 member nations. [5]

• All three geographic areas contain a total estimated reserve of 1.8 trillion barrels of crude bitumen. About 10 per cent (close to 170 billion barrels) is recoverable with today’s technology.  [6]

• Twenty per cent of the bitumen is mined. Surface oil sands are north of the Fort McMurray area of the Athabasca deposit. Eighty per cent of the bitumen is extracted from drilling wells (also called in situ). [7]

• Total surface mineable area spans 4,750 square kilometres, or three per cent of all of the oil sands. [8]

• In 2011, 1.5 million barrels of crude oil from the oil sands were produced per day. It’s anticipated that number will more than double by 2025 to 4.2 million. [9]

• The oil sands’ three main deposits span a total size of 140,200 square kilometres [10] — a geographic size large enough to fit the entire city of Calgary inside more than 169 times. [11]

• Hypothetically, it would take more than 110 years to produce all 170 billion recoverable barrels at a 4.2-million-per-day extraction rate.  Producing 1.6 million barrels per day would take 291 years to extract all retractable barrels. [12]

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[1] National Resources Canada – Crude Oil Market

[2] Central Intelligence Agency – The World Factbook

[3] Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers – Upstream Dialogue: The Facts on Oil Sands

[4] Central Intelligence Agency – The World Factbook

[5] G20.org FAQ page

[6] Natural Resources Canada – Oil Sands Brochure

[7] Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers – Upstream Dialogue: The Facts on Oil Sands

[8] Alberta Energy – Oil Sands Leased Area map

[9] Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers – Upstream Dialogue: The Facts on Oil Sands

[10] Government of Alberta – About the Oil Sands

[11] Calculation based on Statistics Canada’s census city area size of 825.29 square kilometres.

[12] Calcuation based on figures from Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers – Upstream Dialogue: The Facts on Oil Sands

OPTI-Nexen SAGD (in situ) Long Lake.
Photo courtesy: David Dodge, The Pembina Institute.