What are Oil Sands?

With recoverable reserves of about 27 billion cubic metres (m3) (about 168 billion barrels [bbls]) of bitumen, a thick and heavy form of oil, Alberta’s oil sands are among the largest deposits of crude oil in the world.

As forecasted production rises to over 641 thousand m3 (4 million bbls) per day by 2024, the Alberta oil sands must be developed with strong, science-based regulation, today and over the long term.

This oversight is the responsibility of the AER and the provincial government. As Alberta’s energy regulator, the AER ensures that the oil sands are developed within government policy and in an environmentally responsible way—this includes considering cumulative effects.

As activity in the oil sands grows, the AER is focusing on surveillance and compliance activities and is moving the industry to manage tailings more effectively through the implementation of the regulatory requirements of the Government of Alberta’s new Tailings Management Framework.

Oil sands development clearly brings challenges, but Alberta’s energy regulator will ensure that this development provides a positive legacy to future generations.

Below you will find some information on Alberta’s oil sands, their development, impacts, and how the AER regulates them.