Team:Cornell/project/background/oil sands


What are the Oil Sands?

The Oil Sands

The Canadian oil sands are the second largest proven crude reserves in the world and continue to be developed to meet the energy demands of North America. The IEA lists the proven reserves of the Athabasca oils sands contain more than 170 billion barrels. However, the processing of oil sands is much more energy and resource intensive than traditional extraction methods. The sands are a heavy mixture of rock, metals, organic material, and a very viscous form of petroleum known as bitumen. Bitumen must be separated out and heavily processed using steam, heat, and mechanical methods. This presents a major challenge to engineers to produce this resource on a large commercial scale in a responsible and sustainable way.
The Athabasca River, Credit:


1. Tenenbaum, David J. “Oil Sands Development: A Health Risk Worth Taking?” (2009). Environmental Health Perspectives. 117(4): A150-156.

2. Weinhoki, Bob. “Alberta’s Oil Sands- Hard Evidence, Missing Data, New Promises.” (2011). Environmental Health Perspectives. 119(3): A126-131.