The oil sands of Alberta, Canada, represents the second largest source of crude oil in the world, behind Saudi Arabia. Beneath an area the size of Greece are an estimated 170.4 billion barrels of crude oil. Unlike conventional crude oil, which is pumped from deep within the earth, oil sands are a mixture of sand, clay, water and bitumen, found near the surface.

 

Mining and refining the oil sands is an expensive process, but with the rise in the price per barrel of oil, it has become very profitable. The small town of Fort McMurray, known to its residents as Fort McMoney, has exploded with the influx of oil patch workers from around the globe. But there is a downside. Oil sand mining degrades the landscape, pollutes the water and with its associated refining industries accounts for 5 percent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

 

 

Jon Lowenstein ‘In the Oil Sands’ is part of NOOR’s climate change group project.