Skip to content
Surprising Science

Harvesting the Canadian Oil Sands

New technology for extracting oil from tarry sands could more than double the amount of oil that can be extracted from these abundant deposits while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s the Latest Development?

A Canadian energy company has developed new technology capable of extracting double the amount of oil from the country’s plentiful tar sands while reducing the amount of greenhouse gas associated with extraction. “Most oil sands production currently involves digging up oily sand deposits near the surface and processing the sludgy material with heat and chemicals to free the oil and reduce its viscosity so it can flow through a pipeline.” The new extraction technique uses a special solvent to separate the tarry substance bitumen from the sands. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The oil sands of Canada represent one of the world’s most massive oil resources, containing enough petroleum to power the U.S. for decades. “But they are made up of a tarry substance called bitumen, which requires large amounts of energy to extract from the ground and prepare for transport to a refinery. This fact has raised concerns about the impact of oil sands on climate change.” Pipelines currently being built in order to send crude oil from the tar sands to refineries in the U.S. worry environmentalists concerned with net CO2 increases. 


Up Next