Oil Sands Environmental Impacts

Study Released September 17, 2014

Study No. 143

The development of the Canadian Oil Sands has a considerable and growing impact on the the environment. This report is an overview of the current environmental impacts of oil sands development and progress and efforts that have been made to mitigate impacts. Current extraction processes are energy intensive, and by year 2020 the oil sands will be the second largest single contributor to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions after transportation. Absolute greenhouse gas emissions are growing along with increases in production, although some progress has been made to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per barrel of produced bitumen or synthetic crude oil. Burning of fossil fuels for energy also produces other air pollutants such as criteria air contaminants, the impact of which have been examined in the region. Use of fresh water is another concern in oil sands development, and efforts to reduce reliance on fresh water and increased recycled water use have been particularly successful for in situ extraction. Finally, land use impacts, biodiversity, reclamation, and improvements to environmental monitoring are discussed.

Full Report