Oil sands are naturally-occurring geologic formations that contain a mixture of water, clay, sand and thick, heavy oil called bitumen. Oil sands are found throughout the world and in very large formations in Canada. Our neighbor to the north is one of our strongest allies and trading partners and it’s also our largest supplier of oil and natural gas, thanks to the abundant and reliable Canadian oil sands reserves. Transported to the United States for decades, Canadian oil sands currently account for more than 1 million barrels/day of U.S. oil imports. The oil produced from oil sands can be refined and used to make asphalt, gasoline, jet fuel and some chemicals.
Today, about 20 percent of the oil produced from Canadian oil sands formations are obtained via surface mining. The remaining 80 percent are recovered from in-situ (in place) operations like steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), which uses steam to liquefy heavy oil and pump it to the surface.
Canada’s vast oil reserves are surpassed only by Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, and are a necessary part of our country’s economic development. Analyses show that increased investment in Canadian oil sands could generate nearly $775 billion in GDP for the United States and support 500,000 American jobs by 2035. But while countries like China are investing in oil sands, the United States is stalling refinery and pipeline projects needed to further develop these reserves. The Keystone XL pipeline is one example.
The 1,661-mile Keystone XL pipeline would deliver Canadian crude oil sands to Gulf of Mexico refineries, creating jobs for pipefitters in Nebraska, construction workers in Oklahoma and refinery workers in Texas, among thousands of others. It’s estimated that the construction phase of the pipeline alone could create 20,000 American manufacturing and construction jobs.
The safe and responsible development of Canadian oil sands is vital to the U.S. economy and energy security. In fact, increasing access to our own domestic resources and expanding the Keystone XL pipeline could provide 100 percent of America’s liquid fuel needs by 2030 – decreasing the nation’s projected imports from the rest of the world by 22 percent.
“Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners.” – President John F. Kennedy to the Canadian Parliament, 1961. It was true 50 years ago, and it’s still true today. Our Canadian oil sands primer has all the information you need about this abundant and reliable energy supply from our friendly neighbor to the north.