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Oil Sands Resources

The Oil SandsAlberta's oil sands extend from surface deposits to deposits at depths of 760 metres or greater and are enormous, even by world standards. They represent more than 48 billion cubic metres of potentially recoverable bitumen or 97 percent of Alberta's total petroleum resources. This is equivalent to more than one third of the world's known reserves of conventional crude oil.

The largest oil sands deposit is the Athabasca deposit, with an estimated 209 billion cubic metres of bitumen in place, followed by Cold Lake (35 billion cubic metres) and Peace River (23 billion cubic metres). About 10 percent of the oil sands at Athabasca lie close enough to the surface to be mined, using the world's largest trucks and shovels to collect the bitumen and then applying heat, water and chemicals to separate bitumen from the sands. Deeper oil sands deposits require in-situ ("in place") recovery techniques, usually involving steam injection or underground combustion to reduce the viscosity of the bitumen so it can be pumped to the surface through conventional wells.

Billions of dollars have been invested to develop Alberta's oil sands and heavy oil. The biggest development operation is currently just outside Fort McMurray. 

Alberta Energy Information Centre. Adapted from Alberta in the Global Energy Spectrum. Edmonton: n.p., 1989. With permission from the Alberta Research Council



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