Facts and Statistics
The responsible development of oil sands is a key driver of Alberta’s and Canada’s economy. It creates jobs and tax revenue for government which support the social programs and capital infrastructure projects we rely on.
Oil sands facts, statistics and indicators are subject to change as new information becomes available. Oil sands sustainability indicators highlight trends across economic, environmental and social topics in Alberta’s oil sands areas.
Where applicable, external sources have been noted and linked appropriately.
Sources are the Government of Alberta unless otherwise stated, direct sources have been noted and linked.
Reserves and Production
- Alberta's oil sands has the third largest oil reserves in the world, after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.
- As of 2016, Alberta's oil sands proven reserves were 165.4 billion Barrels (bbl).
- Crude bitumen production (mined and in situ) totaled about 2.5 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2016. Source: Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) ST 98 , ST39 and ST53 reports.
- Oil Sands Projects map , listing all projects and upgraders (announced to operating)
- An inventory of statistics, major projects and economic highlights is available on the Alberta, Canada site.
- Capital investment in Alberta's oil sands sector was equal to $23.4 billion in 2015, estimated at $16.6 billion in 2016 and is forecast at $12 billion in 2017. Oil Sands fact sheet original source Statistics Canada CANSIM Table 029-0046.
- In 2016, approximately 136,000 people were directly employed in Alberta’s mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector. Source: Statistics Canada .
- Learn more about direct and indirect employment in Alberta and employment in the downstream value-added sector .
- For the eighth fiscal year in a row, bitumen royalty made the largest contribution to provincial
resource royalty revenue. In 2016-17, bitumen revenue collected totaled $1.48 billion, or 47.9
per cent of the non-renewable resource revenue. Bitumen royalties were higher than budgeted due
to higher than expected crude oil prices. (2016-17 Energy Annual report ) Historical royalty data is available.
Alberta's oil sands underlie 142,200 square kilometres (km2) of land in the Athabasca, Cold Lake and Peace River areas in northern Alberta.
Reserves shallow enough to mine (up to 75 meters) are found only within the Athabasca oil sands area. Surface Mineable Area (SMA) equals to about 4,800 km2 and accounts for about 3.4 per cent of total oil sands area.
- Alberta’s three oil sands areas of Athabasca, Cold Lake and Peace River have regulatory boundaries established by the Alberta Energy Regulator. Each region has a Comprehensive Regional Infrastructure Sustainability Plan (CRISP).
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG)
- Alberta became the first jurisdiction in North America to legislate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions for large industrial facilities by passing the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER). The Carbon Competitiveness Incentives will replace the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation on Jan. 1, 2018.
- The oil sands industry currently accounts for approximately 8.5 per cent of Canada's total GHG emissions and about 0.12 per cent of global GHG emissions. (Environment Canada 2015)
- Between 1990 and 2012, oil sands producers reduced per barrel emissions by an average of 28 per cent. Source: Environment Canada
- Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a technology that can be used in a number of industries to reduce CO2 emissions. Alberta is investing $1.24 billion over 15 years in two large scale CCS projects, the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line and the Quest Project.
- Alberta's current emissions are available under Climate leadership.
- Oil sands projects recycle 80-95 per cent of water used and use saline water where possible.
- River Management Frameworks from Alberta Environment and Parks impose strict limits on water usage.
- Mine operators are required to supply reclamation security bonds to ensure requirements are met. Reclamation certificates are not issued until monitoring through time demonstrates that these particular lands meet the criteria for return to self-sustaining ecosystems. The first successful reclamation occurred in 2008.
- Disturbed oil sands surface minable area equaled to about 895 km2 in 2013 accounting for less than 1 per cent of total oil sands area and about 0.2 per cent of Alberta boreal forest which covers over 381,000 km2.
- The total area occupied by oil sands tailings ponds and associated structures (such as dikes) was 220 km2 at the end of 2013. Of that, the total liquid surface area of the ponds was 88 km2. The total volume of fine fluid tailings reported by the mine operators for 2013 was 975.6 million cubic meters (m3).
- In 2009, the Alberta Energy Regulator issued Directive 074 with aggressive criteria for managing tailings. Work continues on the Tailings Management Framework which will drive further operator action to reclaim legacy tailings.
- Oil sands mine reclamation and disturbance tracking by year (OSIP) is a sustainability indicator.
- The Alberta Land Stewardship Act supports the Land-use Framework , designed to encompass province-wide strategies to manage the province's land and natural resources to achieve Alberta's long-term economic, environmental and social goals.
- The Oil Sands Sustainable Development Secretariat was created in 2007 to address rapid growth issues in the oil sands regions of Alberta. The Secretariat collaborates with ministries, industry, communities and stakeholders to address the social, infrastructure, environmental and economic impacts of oil sands development.
- The Oil Sands information portal offers environmental data and information about Alberta's oil sands, featuring an interactive map and searchable data library.