Fort McMurray Oil Sands in Canada and Forest Fire Fallout by the Numbers
Since last week, the Fort McMurray oil sands in Canada have been threatened by forest fires.
An estimated 2.5 trillion barrels of bitumen lie in these Canadian resources, making production of 2.5 million barrels of oil per day for over 200 years a possibility.
BOSS explores ten things to know about this forest fire fallout and what it means for the future of crude oil.
- Fort McMurray is home to the Athabasca Oil Sands, the world’s largest single oil deposit in the world.
- Oil sands are a mixture of sand, water, clay, and bitumen, found in locations that include Venezuela, United States, Russia, and Canada. While natural bitumen deposits are found throughout many countries, vast reserves lie in Canada, and other significant quantities are found in Kazakhstan and Russia. Only Saudi Arabia and Venezuela have greater proven oil reserves than Canada, but 97 percent of Canada’s 174 billion barrels are in oil sands, mostly in Alberta. [See our infographic.]
- The Athabasca oil sands lie along the Athabasca River and are the largest natural bitumen deposit in the world, containing about 80 percent of the Alberta total, and the only one suitable for surface mining.
- Canada boasts more than 170 billion barrels of recoverable oil thanks to modern technology, positioning it as second only to Saudi Arabia as an oil resource nation. Recently, there has been a push to accelerate production from the oil sands in Canada, enough to quintuple current output levels.
- First Nation peoples used bitumen from seeps along the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers to waterproof their birch bark canoes since prehistoric times. Europeans first discovered these oil sands in Canada back in 1719.
- As of May 6th, it was reported that there was no fire damage to oil operations, however staff evacuations and cut production took place because of pipeline outages and risk from the nearby wildfires—leading to a reduction of at least 475,000 barrels a day, or just about one-fifth of Canada’s 2.5 million barrels in total oil production.
- Two people died in car accidents during the dayslong evacuations. During that process, some
25,000 people had initially fled to worker camps north of Fort McMurray, when 80,000 people were ordered to leave the burning town on Tuesday in one of the most far-reaching disasters in recent Canadian history.
- Over the weekend, the wildfires were slated to double in size, but officials said that as of Sunday morning, the blazes covered close to 400,000 acres—around 100,000 fewer acres than expected. Canada’s fires are shifting to the east, away from populated areas, toward Alberta’s border with Saskatchewan.
- Cooler temperatures on Sunday helped slow the spread of wildfires that ravaged the hub of Canada’s oil sands, as the last of 25,000 evacuees from work camps around Fort McMurray found their way to safety.
- Oil prices have been pressured for almost two years by excess supplies, but production has started to fall in the U.S. and elsewhere following massive spending cuts by energy companies. Demand is only soaring higher and higher.