oil sands extend from surface deposits to deposits
at depths of 760 metres or greater and are enormous. 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
The largest oil sands deposit is the Athabasca
deposit, as it has an estimated 209 billion cubic metres
of bitumen in place. The Athabasca deposit is 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. The world's largest trucks and shovels
are used to collect the bitumen, and then heat, water,
and chemicals are applied to separate bitumen from the sands.
Deeper oil sand deposits require in-situ ("in
place") recovery techniques; this usually
injection or underground combustion to reduce the
viscosity of the bitumen so it can be pumped to the
surface through conventional wells.
of dollars have been invested to develop Alberta's
oil sands and heavy oil. The biggest development
operation is currently just outside Fort McMurray.