The oil sands in northeastern Alberta contain proven reserves of about 173 billion barrels of oil—second only to Saudi Arabia’s reserves. The actual and potential demand for oil sands production is huge, both in North America and elsewhere. The U.S. imports over 60 per cent of its oil requirements, making it a prime international energy market for Canada and other oil-producing nations. A core truth in assessing the future of the oil sands is that U.S. and Canadian oil demand will be satisfied from somewhere—and the oil sands have some key advantages as a preferred supplier.
This briefing argues that sustainable exports from the oil sands can be achieved, but it will require ongoing investment—by the producers and by governments—in improved technologies and a re-balancing of the climate change agenda.