Alberta oil sands jobs

Alberta is home to the world’s largest proven deposit of oil sands. The oil reserves in Alberta play an important role in both the Canadian and global economy, and in 2011 Alberta’s total proven oil reserve was 170.2 billion barrels, approximately 11% of total global oil reserves.

The Alberta oil sands are made up of a large resource of heavy oil and bitumen deposits covering an area greater than 40% of Norway. The first oil sands operation in Alberta began in 1967, and the oil sands there now represent 98% of Canada’s known recoverable reserves.

Oil sand is a naturally occurring mixture of sand, clay, mineral matter, water and bitumen which needs to be treated before being processed into usable fuels such as diesel and gasoline.

Alberta oil sands locations

Most of the oil sands in Canada are located in three deposits in northern Alberta these include:

  • Athabasca, north northeastern Alberta
  • Cold Lake, east northeastern Alberta
  • Peace River, northwestern Alberta.

Oil sands can also be found in other countries including Venezuela, Russia and the USA, but the deposit in Athabasca is the largest and most developed.

Oil sands extraction process

There are two methods which can be used to recover oil sands, and the method used depends on how deep the reserves are deposited. The two methods are described below:

  • Open pit mining: trucks dig up the oil sand and transport it to a cleaning facility where it is mixed with hot water and dilutent to separate the bitumen from the sand. Sand, water, clay and minerals are then separated from the bitumen and dilutent and sent to tailings ponds where the sand settles.
  • In-situ mining: used when oil sands lie more than 200 feet below the ground. Steam or other sources of heat are injected into the reservoir which then warms the bitumen so it can be pumped to the surface through recovery wells.

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