The responsible development of oil sands is a critical contributor to Alberta’s and Canada’s economy. It creates jobs and tax revenue for government which support the social programs and capital infrastructure projects we rely on.
Oil sands facts, statistics and indicators are subject to change as new information becomes available. Oil sands sustainability indicators highlight trends across economic, environmental and social topics in Alberta’s oil sands areas.
Unless otherwise stated, sources are from the Government of Alberta. Where applicable, external sources have been noted and linked.
Reserves and production
Alberta's oil sands has the fourth-largest proven oil reserves in the world, after Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Sources: Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) ST98 report and Oil & Gas Journal.
Alberta's oil sands’ proven reserves are equal to about 158.9 billion barrels (bbl).
Learn more about oil sands production at:
Upstream energy investment in Alberta consists of mining, quarrying, conventional oil and gas investment, oil sands investment, and support activities. Capital investment in this sector in Alberta:
- was equal to about $19.0 billion in 2021
- was estimated at about $24.6 billion in 2022
Source: Statistics Canada.
In 2022, about 138,000 people were employed in Alberta’s upstream energy sector. Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey.
Since the fiscal year 2009-10, oil sands royalty has accounted for the largest contribution to provincial resource royalty revenue. In the fiscal year 2022-23, oil sands royalty was $16.9 billion, or 67% of the non-renewable resource revenue in that fiscal year. For more information, see:
Alberta's oil sands lie beneath 142,200 km² of land in the following areas of Northern Alberta:
- Cold Lake
- Peace River
Reserves up to 75 metres deep are shallow enough to mine and found only within the Athabasca oil sands area. About 4,800 km² of surface mineable area make up roughly 3.4% of all Alberta oil sands.
AER has established regulatory boundaries for each of Alberta’s oil sands areas.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
Alberta became the first jurisdiction in North America to legislate GHG emission reductions for large industrial facilities. For national statistics on emissions, see the Government of Canada’s GHG emissions by province and territory.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology can be used in many industries to reduce CO2 emissions. Alberta is investing $1.24 billion over 15 years in 2 large-scale CCS projects:
- Alberta Carbon Trunk Line
- Quest Project
The Carbon Competitiveness Incentive Regulation came into effect on January 1, 2018, replacing the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation. It applies to:
- large industrial emitters of 100,000 tonnes or more
- smaller emitters who choose to opt in
For more information on Alberta’s approach to reducing GHG emissions, see:
Oil sands projects recycle 80% to 95% of the water they use. They also use saline water where possible.
The Alberta government imposes strict limits on water usage. See:
The Oil Sands Sustainable Development Secretariat (2010-2016) worked to address rapid growth issues in the oil sand regions. Comprehensive Regional Infrastructure Sustainability Plans (CRISPs) were developed for 2 of the areas.
Mine operators are required to supply reclamation security bonds to ensure they meet requirements. Reclamation certificates are only issued if monitoring through time demonstrates that these particular lands meet the criteria to return to self-sustaining ecosystems. The first successful reclamation occurred in 2008.
On October 12, 2017, AER released its updated Directive 085: Fluid Tailings Management for Oil Sands Mining Projects under the Oil Sands Conservation Act. It will drive further operator action to reclaim legacy tailings in Alberta’s mineable oil sands.
The Alberta Land Stewardship Act supports the Land-use Framework, designed to encompass provincewide strategies to manage the province's land and natural resources. It aims to achieve Alberta's long-term economic, environmental and social goals.
Disturbed oil sands surface mineable area equalled roughly 895 km² in 2013, accounting for less than 1% of the total oil sands area. This makes up about 0.2% of Alberta’s boreal forest, which covers over 381,000 km².
Oil sands mine reclamation and disturbance tracking by year is a sustainability indicator found in the oil sands information portal. It offers:
- environmental data and information
- an interactive map
- a searchable data library
Other project sites:
Connect with Oil Sands, Coal and Mineral Operations:
Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Oil Sands Royalty Project Applications and Compliance [email protected]
Oil Sands Royalty Administration [email protected]
Oil Sands Royalty Information Management [email protected]
Oil Sands Tenure [email protected]
Alberta Energy and Minerals
Oil Sands, Coal and Mineral Operations
6th floor, Petroleum Plaza, North Tower
9945 108 Street
Edmonton Alberta T5K 2G6
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