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What are the oil sands?

Canada’s oil sands are the third largest proven oil reserve in the world

The oil sands are the third-largest proven oil reserve in the world, representing 166.3 billion barrels (or 97%) of Canada’s 171 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (technical overview). In 2014, oil sands production was 2.2 million barrels per day. Find out more about Canada’s oil resources and Canada’s oil production.

Oil sand is a naturally occurring mixture of sand, clay or other minerals, water, and bitumen. Bitumen can be extracted using two methods, depending on how deep the deposits are below the surface. Find out more about various oil sands extraction processes.

The oil sands will remain an important part of the Canadian economy

Canada’s oil sands are developed by the private sector, with major investments from companies based in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. As a result, the economic benefits of oil sands development reach across Canada and around the globe. An estimated C$243 billion of capital expenditures have been invested in the oil sands industry to date, with just over $30 billion in 2014 alone.

In its most recent forecast, even under the most stringent emissions scenario, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that in the next 25 years oil sands production in Canada will increase by approximately 2.5 million barrels per day with the oil sands accounting for the majority of this growth.

Natural Resources Canada is committed to innovation and responsible development in the oil sands

Innovation is critical to reducing the environmental footprint of oil sands development. The Government of Canada has committed $200M annually to support for research and innovation, as well as investments of $100M in clean technology producers.

NRCan provides support for innovation in the oil sands by providing funding for research and development of new and improved oil sands technologies, and by providing scientific information and advice to government policy makers and regulators. Explore the oil sand science and research underway at NRCan to reduce the environmental challenges of development and production.


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