Record Spending of $24.9bn in the Oil Sands Market in 2011

September 5, 2011
Sizeable quantities of extra-heavy oil and natural bitumen - estimated at 2.6 trillion to 3.8 trillion barrels - lie beneath the Earth's crust. Although abundant, oil sand resources are very hard to extract and in certain areas the oil is so thinly mixed with other sediments that it is not economically feasible to develop.

The heavy oil's extreme viscosity raises its resistance to flow, which means reserves are nearly or completely immobile in the reservoirs. Therefore, extracting oil from oil sands is a high-stakes activity and requires considerable investment.

Time magazine has described the Alberta oil sands as "Canada's greatest buried energy treasure that could satisfy the world's demand for petroleum energy for the next century." Alberta's oil sands contain one of the world's largest of oil reserves. Indeed, current estimates show that these reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia.

According to the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), Canada's oil sand resources are estimated to hold as much as 175 billion barrels of recoverable bitumen with current technologies. The ERCB reports that oil sands bitumen production is currently around 1.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day and expects that oil sands production will reach 2.7 million barrels per day by 2015. However, in the past the output of the oil sand industry has risen above expectations and it is likely that the actual oil equivalent output will exceed expectations once again and reach 3.0 million barrels by 2015.

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