Canada's Oil Sands
With an estimated initial volume in-place of approximately 1.8 trillion barrels of crude bitumen, Canada's oil sands are one of the world's largest hydrocarbon deposits. When the Oil and Gas Journal released its estimates of global proved petroleum reserves at year-end 2002, it increased Canada's proved oil reserves to 180 billion barrels compared to 4.9 billion barrels the previous year. This almost forty-fold increase catapulted Canada into second position for total oil reserves at year-end 2002 behind only Saudi Arabia, and cut the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC's) share of world oil reserves by more than 10 percent.
The oil sands are located in three distinct areas in Northern Alberta: the largest Oil Sands Area is Athabasca, the second largest is Cold Lake, and the smallest is Peace River. There are 15 Oil Sands Deposits within the three Oil Sands Areas. The three Oils Sands Areas and the major Oil Sands Deposits within each OSA are shown in the following figure.
Alberta's Oil Sands Areas
Source: Alberta Energy Regulator
The oil sands industry produced 2,085 thousand barrels per day (kb/d) of crude bitumen in 2013, 977 kb/d from surface mining and 1,109 kb/d from in situ projects. (Source: AER Report ST98-2014). Much of Alberta's bitumen production is upgraded to synthetic crude oil and other products. After upgrading, supply of synthetic crude oil (including other products) and non-upgraded crude bitumen totalled 1,948 kb/d in 2013 (936 kb/d of synthetic crude oil and 1,012 kb/d of non-upgraded crude bitumen).
The 2008/2009 financial crisis had a significant impact on Canada's oil sands industry. Many proposed projects were deferred, others were cancelled. While industry activity has resumed, the growth rate will depend on global economic growth, oil prices and how industry and government address the many challenges the industry faces. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) release comprehensive oil sands industry outlooks in May or June of each year. Their most recent outlooks project that: bitumen production will almost double over the next decade from about 2.1 million b/d (mb/d) in 2013 to 3.9 to 4.1 mb/d in 2023; bitumen production from in situ projects will continue to grow more rapidly than bitumen production from mining projects; and, the percentage of bitumen that is upgraded before it leaves Alberta will continue to decline - i.e., there will be limited investment in new upgrading capacity. The most recent CAPP and AER outlooks are available for download by clicking the following links on this webpage.
Canada's Oil Sands Industry
An overview of the Canadian oil sands industry including the latest resource and reserves estimates, up-to-date production statistics and a high-level description of industry technologies may be downloaded by clicking on the following link.
Canada's Oil Sands; Strategy West Inc.; November 2014 (PDF 1.2MB)
Other Oil Sands Industry Reports
Several organizations publish reports on oil sands resources and reserves, industry outlooks and industry issues. Key reports are included here for your convenience and are available for download by clicking on the following links. Please refer to the referenced organizations' websites for more information.
Oil Sands Technology Roadmap; Unlocking the Potential; Alberta Chamber of Resources; January 2004 (PDF 1.6MB)
Alberta's Energy Reserves 2013 and Supply/Demand Outlook 2014-2023; Alberta Energy Regulator; May 2014 (PDF 11.0MB)
Crude Oil Forecast, Markets & Pipelines; Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers; June 2014 (PDF 9.6MB)