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Oil Sands Glossary of Terms

Alberta Energy Regulator (AER):

is the regulator of energy development in Alberta—from application and exploration, to construction and development, to abandonment, reclamation, and remediation

American Petroleum Institute (API):

is a national trade association that represents America’s oil and natural gas industry


a container that holds 159 litres or 42 US gallons of liquid


is petroleum in a solid or semi-solid state in natural deposits. In its natural state, it usually contains sulphur, metals and other non-hydrocarbons

Carbon Capture and Storage:

is technology which can help reduce CO2 emissions by capturing carbon from conventional fossil fuels, and storing it in geological reservoirs deep underground

Carbon Dioxide (CO2):

a naturally occurring gas that also results from burning fossil fuels and biomass

Carbon Price: the concept of requiring consumers and companies to pay for the carbon dioxide or

other greenhouse gases they cause to be emitted


is sedimentary rock, primarily composed of calcium carbonate (limestone) or calcium magnesium carbonate (dolomite), which forms many petroleum reservoirs

Climate Change:

variations in global climate or in regional climates over time, which may produce changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events

Conventional oil and gas industry:

is a category that includes crude oil - and natural gas and its condensates, collected through drilling oil wells, and pumping or compression operations


the production and discharge of gas

Energy Efficiency:

consuming less fuel or electricity with the same or better results, either by using different products or changing behaviour

Fossil Fuels:

are fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal that are a result of the decay of dead plants and animals over millions of years

Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

gases that are believed to contribute to climate change, through natural processes such as decomposition, but also through human activities such as transport using internal combustion engines

Heavy Oil:

another name for bitumen, a thick, black sticky hydrocarbon

Hydrocarbons: consisting of carbon and hydrogen, hydrocarbons are the main components of fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal and natural gas

In situ:

is a relatively new method used to get bitumen oil in sand that is buried too deep below the earth’s surface to be recovered with mining. With in situ technology, steam is injected deep beneath the earth to separate the viscous bitumen from the sand and pump it up to the surface, where the bitumen then goes through a refining process

International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts

Oil Sands:

are a natural mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen. Mainly located in the province of Alberta, Canada, they are found at varying depths and in some cases are directly exposed to the surface Open-pit mine:

is a surface mining technique of extracting rock or minerals from the earth by their removal from an open pit, which is a large area of land that is cleared of trees and brush, and then the removal of top soil and clay


are chemical products made from raw materials of petroleum or other hydrocarbon origins


a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons that is present in certain rock strata and can be extracted and refined to produce fuels including gasoline, kerosene, and diesel oil; oil


a long pipe, typically underground, for conveying oil, gas, etc., over long distances

Reclamation Process:

is the process of restoring land that has been mined to a natural or economically usable state


removal of pollution or contaminants from soil, groundwater, sediment or surface water for the general protection of human health and the environment or for a site intended for redevelopment


the decontamination or cleansing of soil or water


are estimated remaining quantities of oil and natural gas and related substances anticipated to be recoverable from known accumulations, as of a given date, based on the analysis of drilling, geological, geophysical, and engineering data; the use of established technology; and specified economic conditions, which are generally accepted as being reasonable


the physical reclamation process involving re-contouring, replacing topsoil, and re-vegetating to restore the surface of the land to its equivalent land capability

Settling Ponds:

also known as a settling basin, or decant pond, is an earthen or concrete structure using sedimentation (the natural process in which material - stones and sand, is carried to the bottom of a body of water and forms a solid layer) to remove settleable matter and turbidity (a measure of water clarity) from wastewater


person, company, or organization with an interest or concern in something, especially a business

Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD):

is in-situ drilling technology that uses steam injection to heat and mobilize bitumen, allowing it to be pumped to the surface more easily. The process does not require tailings ponds and reduces habitat disturbance


are a byproduct in the process to extract bitumen from oil sand, and are composed of a mixture of water, sand, clay, fine solids, residual hydrocarbon and salts – all of which are naturally found in oil sands deposits. Tailings are placed in large landforms commonly referred to as settling basins or tailings ponds.

Tailings Ponds:

hold tailings, and have two uses – one, as the recycled water source for processing plants and, two, as a containment area which enables tailings to segregate prior to further dewatering for use in reclamation activities.

Tar Sands:

a deposit of sand filled with bitumen

Unconventional oil and gas:

is petroleum produced or extracted using techniques other than the conventional (oil well) method, such as in situ. Oil industries and governments across the globe are investing in unconventional oil sources due to the increasing scarcity of conventional oil reserves.