Extreme Oil
Photo of oil refinery
The Journey The History The Science
Interactive Feature: Lean how to extract oil from tar sands and what tar sand is made of.
Oil Sands Excavation Extraction Tar Sand


Obtaining oil always alters the surroundings, as drilling leaves a "footprint" that may damage the local environment. But the effects on Canada's oil sands are particularly direct, since vast regions of land are literally uprooted in their entirety. In fact, two tons of oils sands must be used in order to extract one barrel (42 gallons) of oil. Immense trucks, working 24 hours per day, harvest these materials on a large scale. Oil companies have sought to return the land, after mining it, to its natural state; the degree of their success is debated.

Photo of large truck
Enormous trucks such as this one (note its size in relation to the man climbing it) carry up to 400 tons per load.

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