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Oil sands

Canada’s oil sands are one of the world’s most significant energy resources and an important source of energy for North America. Development of oil sands can be energy- and water-intensive and must be managed responsibly.

Oil sands consist of bitumen (a heavy oil), sand, water and clay. Some oil sands are found within 70 metres of the surface where they can be mined, though most are deeper underground. Wells are used to extract bitumen from deeper-lying resources, known as in-situ drilling, often by injecting steam into the reservoir to heat and thin the bitumen. Canada’s oil sands are found mainly in three deposits in Alberta and in parts of Saskatchewan.

Shell has a 60% interest in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) in Alberta which includes Muskeg River and Jackpine mines and the Scotford Upgrader where bitumen is processed to convert into synthetic crude oil. It is then refined into products at the adjacent Scotford refinery.

In 2014, Shell’s share of AOSP production was around 137,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) a day from the Muskeg River and Jackpine mines. Production from deeper-lying oil sands operations was around 19,000 boe a day. Together these made up around 4.7% of Shell’s oil and gas production for the year.

Working with indigenous communities

We engage with a wide range of people who may be affected by or have concerns about our oil sands facilities, including indigenous communities. We work to reduce the impact of development on traditional land use and culture, and ensure local communities benefit from our operations through employment and contracting opportunities.

Since 2005, Shell has spent more than C$1.7 billion with local indigenous contracting companies. We currently work with more than 70 indigenous businesses and contractors who provide products and services to our operations.