What's In That Sand?
An Overview of Canadian Oil Sands…
Many men and women are surprised to learn that Canada ranks second only to Saudi Arabia as having the largest proven crude oil reserves on the planet. The only different between the Saudi Arabian oil reserves and those known to exist in Canada is the fact that the bulk of the Canadian oil reserve is located in the oil sands that are located in Alberta. Most experts estimate that there are nearly 180 billion barrels of oil in the oil sands of Alberta. There are some experts who maintain that there is far, far more oil trapped in the oil sands of Alberta. These experts estimate that there is a remarkable 1.7 to 2.5 trillion -- trillion -- barrels of oil trapped in the sands around Alberta.
The oil sands themselves are what is described as a complex mixture that includes clay, sand and water. Trapped within this mixture is crude oil, the same type of crude oil that is found in reservoirs underground in places such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and the other major crude oil producing countries around the world today.
The most widely accepted theory about how the oil sands were created is that light crude oil migrated to the oil sands fields. Over time, water and bacteria ended up transforming the light crude oil into what is known as bitumen, a much more carbon rich type of oil. This is the type of oil, crude oil, that is drawn from more traditional wells the world over.
These oil rich deposits are found in the sands in three major areas around Alberta in Canada: Athabasca, Cold Lake and Peace River. The largest reserve, and the reserve closest to the surface, is that found at and around Athabasca. Production is being undertaken at all three locations at an ever growing pace.
The total geographic area that comprises the oil sands of Alberta is over 54,000 square miles. In other words, the oil sands of Alberta occupy an area that is larger than the entire State of Florida. Again, there is no other area on the planet which is the location of such an abundant amount of oil sand.
At the present time, over 1 million barrels of oil per day are being extracted from the Alberta oil sands. As far as actual production is concerned, it does take approximately two full tons of oil sand to produce a single barrel of oil. The amount of sand that is moved each day to produce the 1 million barrels of oil is enough sand to fill New York's Yankee Stadium halfway full with sand
For many years, the process of producing a barrel of oil from oil sands, together with the volume of sand needed, made the extraction of oil from oil sands not a cost effective enterprise. However, with the ever rising cost of crude oil on the market, extracting petroleum from oil sands has become an economically viable enterprise.