What Are Oil Sands?

The oil sands is a natural geologic formation that contains a mixture of water, clay, sand and heavy, viscous oil called bitumen. These deposits are found in about 70 countries in the world, with the largest reserves located in Canada.


Jobs & the Economy

Canadian oil sands development is responsible for significant job creation not only in Canada, but also in the United States. According to a 2011 study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), production of the Canadian oil sands currently supports 80,000 jobs and has the potential to add another 500,000 jobs by 2035. The graph below from the Canadian Energy Research Institute demonstrates that the completion of announced and proposed pipelines would facilitate the creation of these jobs.

Energy Security

As with any export, such as coal, grains, steel, machinery, and ethanol, petroleum exports help improve the U.S. balance of trade, contribute to domestic energy security, and create more American jobs.


Pipelines are widely acknowledged to be the safest and most efficient way to move energy products overland for long distances. Even the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the regulatory body that oversees pipeline safety, agrees: “Pipelines, in short, are practical and safe.”

Environment & Health

Like all oil and gas development, the extraction and processing of oil sands produces emissions. On a life cycle (or well-to-wheels) GHG emission basis, oil derived from Canadian oil sands is comparable with other crudes refined in the United States. The average for oil sands imported into the U.S. is only 6 percent higher than the average crude consumed in the U.S., and 70 to 80 percent of the GHG emissions come from the combustion of the fuel in the engine.

National Security

Energy imports from the Canadian oil sands strengthen our national security: by providing a reliable source of crude supply to refine into products at U.S. refineries, not only for consumers but for our military as well.