What are Oilsands?
Oilsands are a mixture of sand, water, and crude bitumen. Each grain of sand is surrounded by an envelope of water, which in turn is surrounded by a film of bitumen.
Bitumen is oil that is too heavy or thick to flow or be pumped without being diluted or heated—at 11 degrees Celsius, bitumen is as hard as a hockey puck. Bitumen is upgraded to produce synthetic oil.
Canada’s oilsands are found in three deposits in the Athabasca, Peace River, and Cold Lake areas of Alberta and part of Saskatchewan. The greatest quantity of bitumen is found in the Athabasca deposit.
The hydrocarbon mixtures found in northern Alberta have historically been referred to as tar, pitch, or asphalt. Today we use the term “oilsands” because oil is what is finally derived from the bitumen. This term also helps distinguish these bitumen deposits from “tar sands,” which are associated with distilled or man-made products, such as the mixtures used to pave roads.