Canada is uniquely positioned to provide an abundance of reliable, safe, and secure energy. Oil and natural gas resource development, which includes oil sands, natural gas, and conventional and unconventional oil, is active across Canada and uses goods and services from many regions across the country.
Canada’s oil reserves total 171 billion barrels, of which 165 billion barrels can be recovered from the oil sands using today's technology. Canada has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia (Source: Oil & Gas Journal). Canada is the world’s fifth-largest producer of natural gas, with an estimated 1,230 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of remaining natural gas resources (Source: National Energy Board, 2016). That’s more than enough natural gas to for at least 300 years, given current domestic consumption.
Recovering Canada’s energy resources benefits all Canadians. From heating homes, to generating electricity, from making fuel to providing raw materials for everyday products, oil and natural gas play a vital role in meeting Canada’s, and potentially the world’s energy needs.
What is oil?
Oil is a black, brownish or amber liquid that is a complex mix of hydrcarbons, formed millions of years ago from animal and plant remains deposited in sand and silt, and pressurized by layers of sedimentary rock. It consists of carbon, hydrogen, sulphur, nitrogen, oxygen and metals.
Oil is classified as light, medium, heavy or extra heavy. Light oil, also called conventional oil, can flow naturally to the earth’s surface and is generally extracted from the ground using pump jack technology. Heavy oil, sometimes referred to as unconventional oil, has a thick consistency that does not flow easily, often requiring increased technology to extract.
Canada has about five billion barrels of remaining oil reserves located outside the oil sands, found primarily in Alberta, Saskatchewan and offshore Newfoundland and Labrador. These oil reserves are extracted from beneath the earth’s surface using a variety of methods. The method used depends on the geology of the region, which can include vertical and horizontal drilling, as well as advanced recovery methods which help to unlock the full potential of the resource.
Oil is a powerful and versatile source of Canadian energy that will be a part of the global energy mix for decades to come.
What are the oil sands?
Oil sands are a mixture of sand, water and bitumen (oil that is too heavy or thick to flow on its own). The oil sands are found in three regions within the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Oil sands are recovered using two main methods: drilling (in situ) and mining. The method used depends on how deep the reserves are deposited.
Canada’s oil sands provide a secure energy supply with a tremendous resource base, combined with a stable political environment, and skilled people that make it the ideal place to develop our natural resources responsibly.
There are challenges in developing the oil sands, but our industry is making progress through investment in technology and innovation. Canada’s oil sands industry collaborates on our biggest environmental challenges and develops technologies that lessen our impact on air, land and water, and provide benefits for our country. The entry costs for new oil sands projects can be daunting, but the decline in traditional oil and natural gas sources means the oil sands are key to our energy future.
What is natural gas?
Natural gas is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon consisting primarily of methane. Formed millions of years ago as heat and pressure transformed decaying plant and animal matter buried in sedimentary rock layers, natural gas is trapped under an impermeable layer of rock that prevents it from flowing to the surface.
Canada is home to a vast amounts of natural gas, particularly in British Columbia, Alberta and offshore Nova Scotia. Global demand for natural gas is expected to increase 45 per cent by 2040, driven primarily by rapidly expanding Asian economies. (Source: IEA, 2017 World Energy Outlook, New Policies Scenario)
Some of these resources are being developed with the application of new technologies: including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. These include: natural gas from coal, tight gas, offshore gas as well as shale gas. Northern Canada is also seeing increasing exploration and development.
Canada’s natural gas industry is committed to improving environmental performance. We take action to manage our impacts through innovation and technology. Innovative approaches to reduce emissions help Canada achieve global environmental commitments as the world transitions to a lower-carbon future. Canadas’s natural gas industry is poised to play an important role in the global energy mix, now and for decades to come.