Alberta Oil Sands – Global Leaders in Technology, Innovation, and Environmentalism
Contrary to popular opinion, Canada’s largest industry is neither hockey, donut retailing or machine parts….it’s energy.
And Canada’s proven oil reserves are vast enough to meet its energy demands for 140 years at the current rate of production.
Since Alberta’s oil reserves account for 97 percent of Canada’s proven reserves, it enables Canada to be the third-highest ranked country in terms of proven global reserves. The overwhelming majority – about 99% – of Alberta’s oil reserves is in the form of bitumen.
4 Interesting Facts About Canadian Oil:
- Canada is the fourth largest producer and fourth largest exporter of oil in the world
- 98% of Canada’s proven oil reserves are located in the oil sands
- 99% of Canada’s oil exports go to the U.S.
- GHG emissions per barrel of oil produced in the oil sands have fallen 29% since 2000
Rapid technological advances in the exploration and production of Alberta’s oil sands have propelled Canada to become the world’s fourth largest producer of crude oil in 2018, behind the U.S., Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Known as the “Oil Sands “ because quite simply Alberta’s oil has to mined from sand that is several hundred feet deep below the surface. Bitumen as it’s known has been unfortunately been labeled ‘dirty’ due to a previous extraction process that used hot water or steam to separate the oil from the sand, which resulted in an oily water stream that leaves behind oil-based tailings ponds.
However, through innovation, such as in-situ, or “steam-assisted gravity drainage” (SAGD) which involves forcing large amounts of steam underground, then melting the bitumen and pumping it to the surface. Through the SAGD process many oil sands producers now recycle around 80-95% of the water used in established mines and approximately 85-95% for in situ production.
“Alberta’s energy sector is the most innovative in the world and has proven it can rise to any challenge. This is about growing production while reducing emissions and costs. That means getting top dollar in return for our oil, which will help secure the industry’s long term success and build an economy to last.” Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy
Dozens of emerging technologies for almost every facet of oil sands production are paving the way for solutions to the most significant environmental and operational challenges faced today. In fact, according to a study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), these emerging technologies are establishing a foundation for the industry to reduce its operational costs by 40 per cent and its emissions by up to 80 per cent.
In a recent report, the National Energy Board said oil sands surface mining will stabilize after 2024. Many oil sands technologies are aimed at providing alternative methods of pulling bitumen from the sand.
There is an innovation rush in oil sands and the impacts could be far reaching. A significant investment has been created in the clean tech market in Alberta – estimated to be more than 1.3 billion.
“We are accelerating the pace of our innovation and applying technologies with the goal of delivering industry-leading environmental and economic performance, We see high potential for commercializing game-changing technologies we’ve been developing, which should not only lead to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and water use, but also greatly enhance the economics of our operations.” Rich Kruger, Imperial Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer
The Alberta Government is also showing initiative to fuel innovation in the energy sector by investing $440 million over seven years in “oil sands innovation to help companies increase production and reduce emissions, as well they have committed an additional $465 million to “innovation across sectors” and “industrial energy efficiency,” both available to oil sands producers.
“There’s a huge incentive for companies to innovate and to try to realize some of these efficiencies and adaptations of technologies,” Dinara Millington, vice-president of research at CER.
Far from being the dirtiest oil in the world, Alberta has the most ethical and environmental standards for extracting oil in comparison with oil extracted in many other parts of the world because of new technology that can—and is—extracting oil sands without harming the environment.
Canadian Oil sands development is subject to environmental standards that are among the most stringent in the world. The Government of Alberta requires that companies remediate and reclaim 100% of the land after the oil sands have been extracted. Currently, the Environmental Protection Security Fund — established several years ago to ensure that resource companies reclaim oil sands land contains $875 million for more than 70,000 hectares of disturbed land.
Major bitumen-mining companies have spent an enormous amount of time, and money to return disturbed lands to a state that is equal or better than pre-disturbance conditions. The companies have filled in giant mine pits, replanted trees, engineered marshes, and brought in bison to graze on boreal shrublands that have been manufactured from excavated earth and wetland vegetation.
Reclamation means that land is returned to a self-sustaining ecosystem with local vegetation and wildlife.
“Alberta will continue to be a leader in technology investment and emissions reduction to ensure that Canada is well-positioned to be a preferred supplier of responsibly produced crude oil and natural gas and an important part of a lower carbon energy future for decades to come.” Joy Romero, Vice-President of Technology and Innovation, Canadian Natural Resources Limited