Tar sands (also referred to as oil sands) are a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen (a heavy black viscous oil).
How Do We Get Oil from Tar Sands?
Tar sands can be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, which is then refined into oil. The bitumen in tar sands cannot be pumped from the ground in its natural state; instead tar sand deposits are mined, usually using strip mining or open pit techniques, or the oil is extracted by underground heating with additional upgrading.
Status and Contribution
According to reports published in 2008, oil sands represent as much as 66% of the world's total oil reserves, with at least 1.7 trillion barrels in the Canadian Athabasca tar sands and 1.8 trillion barrels in the Venezuelan Orinoco oil sands, compared to 1.75 trillion barrels of conventional oil, mostly located in Saudi Arabia and other Middle-Eastern countries.
Oil sands are currently found in about 70 countries, including Canada, the former Soviet Union, Venezuela, Cuba, Indonesia, Brazil, Jordan, Madagascar, Trinidad, Colombia, Albania, Rumania, Spain, Portugal, Nigeria, and Argentina.
Advantages of Tar Sands
- Large reserves available, and in countries such as Canada which are close to the countries that are major users of oil, for eg., USA.
Disadvantages of Tar Sands
- Production cannot be ramped up as quickly as conventional oil production, owing to the operational processes used in deriving oil from the sands.
- Extracting oil from tar sands entails high production costs and low net useful energy yields.
- Production of oil from tar sands has high negative environmental impacts
About Tar Sands: Basic information on tar sands, tar sands resources, and recovery of oil from tar sands.An article on “Energy: Oil Economy Driving Growth of Controversial Tar Sands”