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Extreme Oil
Photo of oil refinery
The Journey The History The Science
Interactive Feature: Which oil extraction method is best? You decide using there pros and cons
On Land Offshore Tar Sands


Rising petroleum prices and new high-tech processes now make it possible, and profitable, to extract "synthetic" oil from the world's great tar sand deposits.

Advantages: Drawbacks:
Big Deposits: Up to two thirds of the world's known oil reserves are thought to reside in the two largest tar-sand deposits, for an estimated total of 3 trillion barrels.

Not Rigged: Though getting oil out of sand does require high-tech equipment, a company doesn't need to build a massive structure in order to begin production.

Friendly Relations: The largest tar-sand deposits in the world are located in Canada and Venezuela, which are generally on good terms with the U.S., the world's largest consumer of oil.

The Environment: The surface- mining techniques used to extract tar sand from beneath the earth leave substantial scars on the land, sometimes 75 meters deep.

Big Money: Turning tar sand into crude oil requires costly procedures such as hydrotransport and centrifuging. The process is up to three times more expensive than getting regular crude.

Climate: The world's largest known oil deposits are located in northeastern Alberta, Canada, and the heavy machinery required for tar sands break down more easily in extreme conditions.


Learn how to extract oil from tar sands. Click here to continue.
Photo of truck in the tar sands
Trucks such as this work in the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. Click above to learn more.


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