Canada’s Oil Sands Resources and Its Future Impact on Global Oil Supply

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Uppsala University
Bengt Söderbergh

Approximately 2000 billion barrels of conventional oil may ultimately be extracted. We have soon consumed half of it. Global oil production may peak around 2010. It is claimed that non-conventional oil production, including Canadian oil sands production, may bridge the coming gap between the world’s oil demand and global oil supply. In 2003 the oil sands reserves were included in Canada’s estimated proven reserves, thus increasing from 5 to 180 billion barrels. The objective of this report is to investigate and analyse the production of heavy oil/bitumen from Canada’s oil sands deposits and its future impact on global oil supply.

The report shows that the Canadian oil sands industry’s dependence on natural gas is unsustainable. Extensive use of bitumen for fuel and upgrading seems to be incompatible with Canada’s obligations under the Kyoto treaty.

The Canadian oil sands industry should be viewed as two separate forms of oil production, in situ production (similar to conventional oil production) and mining. The long-term future of the Canadian oil sands industry is the in situ production, although great uncertainty is associated with its potential.
If a massive effort is made to put the whole oil sands mining area into production, a plateau production and a following decline are expected for the oil sands mining industry. The declining oil sands mining production may cause a peak production for the Canadian oil sands industry as a whole, since it is uncertain if the in situ production may compensate for the declining mining activities.

The future Canadian oil sands production cannot even compensate for the combined declining conventional oil production in Canada and the North Sea. The most optimistic scenario will not manage to compensate the decline by 2030. Canada’s oil sands resources cannot prevent a global peak oil scenario.

Published in: Uppsala University,
Available from: Global Energy Systems