Alberta — treasure of the tar sands
The most valuable resources on the Central Plains are its oil and natural gas deposits. The ecozone holds over 70 percent of Canada’s oil reserves.
Alberta sits on 65 percent of the oil — followed by Saskatchewan (12 percent) —
and 82 percent of the natural gas. Pipelines carry western oil and gas to eastern Canada and the United States. In addition to these reserves, some 2.5 trillion barrels of oil, 300 billion of which is recoverable, are locked up
in northern Alberta’s tar sands. This oil-and-sand mixture, known as bitumen, lies in four different deposits over an area the size of New Brunswick. The tar sands put Canada after Saudi Arabia in proven oil reserves. At Fort McMurray, site of the largest deposit, bitumen is extracted from one of the world’s largest open-pit mines. Once mined, bitumen is heated to separate oil from the sand. Although the tar-sands project has followed provincial environmental guidelines, its long-term effect is problematic. Already, Fort McMurray’s two oil-sands plants are Canada’s fourth largest source of carbon dioxide. In economic terms, the future is assured: by 2025, an estimated 70 percent of Canada’s oil will come from the tar sands.
A map of Canada highlights the Central Plains region, which then recedes and is replaced by a more detailed map of the region. A submenu offers information on:
• Top customers for potash
• Oil and gas