Recoverable Tar Sand (Bitumen) Resources of the World 
||Recoverable resources in billions
of barrels, assuming a 10% recovery factor
|Transcaucasia and Central Asia
|Venezuela (Orinoco) has deposits now claimed
to be in the same order as the Canadian deposits in Athabasca. Venezuelan
tar sands are less viscous than those at Athabasca, but they are buried
more deeply, and thus not so easily strip-mined..
Orinoco and Athabasca are presently estimated to hold three-quarters
of the world’s tar sand reserves. [June 2007]
of the world's oil (more than 5 trillion barrels) is in the form of
tar sands, although it is not all recoverable. While tar sands are found
in many places worldwide, the largest deposits in the world are found
in Canada (Alberta) and Venezuela, which each have about one-third of
the world's total tar sands resources, and
much of the rest is found in various countries in the Middle East. In
the United States, tar sands resources are primarily concentrated in
Eastern Utah, mostly on public lands. The in-place tar sands oil resources
in Utah are estimated at 12 to 20 billion barrels.”
“Tar sands (also referred to as oil sands) are a combination of
clay, sand, water, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil.” [Quoted
[Tars sands are also known as bitumenous sands.]
term oil shale generally refers to any sedimentary rock that contains
solid bituminous materials (called kerogen) that are released as petroleum-like
liquids when the rock is heated in the chemical process of pyrolysis.
Oil shale was formed millions of years ago by deposition of silt and
organic debris on lake beds and sea bottoms. Over long periods of time,
heat and pressure transformed the materials into oil shale in a process
similar to the process that forms oil; however, the heat and pressure
were not as great. Oil shale generally contains enough oil that it will
burn without any additional processing, and it is known as "the
rock that burns". ”
“While oil shale is found in many places worldwide, by far the
largest deposits in the world are found in the United States in the
Green River Formation, which covers portions of Colorado, Utah, and
Wyoming. Estimates of the oil resource in place within the Green River
Formation range from 1.2 to 1.8 trillion barrels. Not all resources
in place are recoverable; however, even a moderate estimate of 800 billion
barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale in the Green River Formation
is three times greater than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.”
[Quoted from osteis.anl.gov]
Current world oil reserves are approximately 1 trillion barrels and,
therefore, represent something like 35-40 years of current production.
(1 trillion is 1,000,000,000,000!)
Roughly similar amounts of both shale oil and tar sands resources are
currently claimed. But the EROEI for extraction is horrendously worse for ‘unconventional’
oil than for pumpable oil.
All the various oil claims from around the world should be regarded as
politically and commercially tainted. Therefore, they should only be regarded
as crude estimates.
Recoverable Shale Oil throughout
the World 
||Recoverable resources in billions of barrels, assuming
a 37% recovery factor
||Alternative estimates from utah.gov,
corrected to the 37% rate
|South America (Brazil)
|Northern and western Europe
The cost of extraction is much higher than most pumped oil and is, therefore,
commercially unattractive while there is a ready flow of cheaper, recoverable
pumpable oil. Then comes coal
extraction and renewable plant extraction potential. In Brazil, for
example, petrol contains 28% plant ethanol. See references to sugar
cane ethanol in Biofuels briefing document.
Shale oil is guesstimated as approximately half as efficient to produce
as oil from tar sands. American oil shales are also located in arid areas
which are more ecologically sensitive than the tar sand areas of Canada.
Excellent PowerPoint presentation on shale oils from geology.utah.gov.
On the presentation is the remarkably frank admission that there is “no
proven technology for commercial recovery”.
reality not dreams
“Oil & Gas Journal estimates close to 180 billion barrels
[in Canadian tar sands], second only to Saudi Arabia's approximately
260 billion, while BP Statistical Review of World Energy puts the figure
at about 17 billion barrels, based on oil sands under active development.
And the Canadian oil sands don't even turn up on the International Energy
Agency's industry lists of the 10 countries with the largest proven
“Even the higher industry estimate is only about a six-year world
supply, as the planet now consumes close to 30 billion barrels of oil
“Tar sands production is now 1 million barrels a day and is projected
to increase fivefold by 2030, still about half of Saudi Arabia's current
output and less than 5 percent of world production in 2030.” [Quoted
on oil sands
2 page3 page
“Take molasses out of your kitchen cupboard, put as much sand
in there as molasses, stir it up, and then put it outside where it gets
cold and thick and won't flow - well, that's what the tar sand is like.
It's extremely hard to work with, and it wrecks all your equipment."
“ [...] Based on current mining leases, the oil sands may transform
that Florida-sized swath of forest into a massive lunar landscape -
much of it unlikely ever to return to its original state. (Existing
projects have already stripped roughly 460 square kilometres.) As well,
the mining operations are licensed to draw 349 million cubic metres
of fresh water from the Athabasca every year, twice the amount used
by Calgary, a city of one million people. Some of the water is recycled,
but most of the muddy leftovers, or tailings, wind up in those toxic
"ponds" that are large enough to be seen from space.”