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Fort McMurray Oil Sands

Description: Deposits of bitumen in sands & clay.

Composition: 10-12% bitumen, 80-85% sands/clays, 4-6% water.

Characteristics: Thick, sticky, heavy, viscous. Need rigorous extraction treatment.

Abundance: 174 billion barrels in Alberta, smaller amounts in Venezuela.

Uses: Fuel.

SOURCE: Alberta govt. Canada.

Once a footnote in the story of world oil production, Canada's oil sands are part of the solution to declining conventional oil reserves elsewhere in the world. Canada has over 170 billion barrels of oil recoverable with today's technology, making it second only to Saudi Arabia as an oil resource country.

There are an estimated 2.5 trillion barrels of bitumen in the Canadian resources which makes it possible to produce 2.5 million barrels of oil per day for over 200 years. In recent years though there has been a push to accelerate production from the oil sands, this could quintuple current output levels.

With the enormity of the resource come possible grave environmental consequences. The proper measures must be taken to mitigate the affects of increasing production.  The region is already counted as one of the world's top greenhouse gas emitters; you can bet the world will be watching.