North American Oil Sands: History of Development, Prospects for the Future [Updated January 17, 2008]   [open pdf - 1003KB]

"When it comes to future reliable oil supplies, Canada's oil sands will likely account for a greater share of U.S. oil imports. Oil sands account for about 46% of Canada's total oil production and oil sands production is increasing as conventional oil production declines. Since 2004, when a substantial portion of Canada's oil sands were deemed economic, Canada, with about 175 billion barrels of proved oil sands reserves, has ranked second behind Saudi Arabia in oil reserves. […] The U.S. experience with oil sands has been much different. The U.S. government collaborated with several major oil companies as early as the 1930s to demonstrate mining of and in-situ production from U.S. oil sand deposits. However, a number of obstacles, including the remote and difficult topography, scattered deposits, and lack of water, have resulted in an uneconomic oil resource base. Only modest amounts are being produced in Utah and California. U.S. oil sands would likely require significant R&D and capital investment over many years to be commercially viable. An issue for Congress might be the level of R&D investment in oil sands over the long term. As oil sands production in Canada is predicted to increase to 2.8 million barrels per day by 2015, environmental issues are a cause for concern. Air quality, land use, and water availability are all impacted. Socio-economic issues such as housing, skilled labor, traffic, and aboriginal concerns may also become a constraint on growth."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34258
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