Oil sands are a type of unconventional petrol deposit, most of which are located in Alberta, Canada. Oil sands in Canada are the world’s third largest reserve of oil, behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Oil sands companies have secured Canada’s place in the global oil market; however, there has been much criticism for this method of extraction, as it is extremely damaging to the environment.
The target of oil sands reserves is bitumen, a very thick and heavy form of oil (also called asphalt) which coats grains of sand and other minerals in a deposit. Extracting this bitumen from oil sands accounts for 8.5% of Canada’s total emissions, which is a considerable amount to consider when looking at reducing Canada’s emissions.
A barrel of oil emits 80% of its greenhouse gases during combustion by the individual using the oil. To make the largest emissions reduction, the governments of Alberta and Canada need to provide the population with sustainable, low-carbon energy sources.
Oil Sands Production
Oil sands accounted for 64% of Canada’s oil production in 2018 or 2.9 million barrels per day, and over 1 billion barrels per year. Just five oil companies in Canada account for 82% of this production. The largest contributor is Suncor Energy, who’s carbon emissions have been increasing by around 10% per year.
Other large companies like Cenovus Energy and Athabasca Oil, have been scaling back projects this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. Impacts of the virus are likely to take a toll on many oil companies, and it is predicted that Canadian oil stocks will continue to decline over the coming months. In fact, recent news shows oil prices have actually turned negative.
Further expansions to oil sands infrastructure continue to attract attention. Major oil pipelines for carrying crude oil from Canada’s tar sands region have been called into question over environmental concerns. The impact that a leak could have on the lakes that it would pass through would be disastrous for the ecosystem. These concerns further highlight how damaging oil sands production can be, and why Canada should be scaling back its oil industry.
Oil sands companies account for a large amount of the oil used in our everyday lives. They are also a large source of carbon emissions, and oil pipe leaks can damage huge areas of environmental importance. Therefore, shifting reliance from oil sands and oil sands companies towards more sustainable resources is essential to protect the environment.