Canada’s oil sands are a growing source of oil. And controversy.
The oil sands hold an estimated 169 billion barrels of recoverable oil, but critics contend extraction is too costly because of greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and other health threats.
Business Insider looked at operations in Alberta’s oil sands this week, although reporter Robert Johnson had to rent a plane to get a look at mining operations there.
The aerial tour resulted in some striking pictures of how oil close to the surface is extracted. Mining accounts for about 20 percent of operations in the oil sands.
Most operators, like Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp., drill for oil deeper underground, using steam-assisted gravity drainage to bring it to the surface.
Ninety-seven percent of Canada’s oil reserves, which are the third largest in the world, are in the oil sands, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The oil sands are a mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen, or oil that is too heavy or thick to be pumped to the surface.
Business Insider toured Cenovus Energy’s Christina Lake operation earlier this month.