Falling Prices, Falling Production: Alberta's Oil Sands (GEOG3210)

by koreilly3 on October 16, 2015 - 9:04pm

Due to recent economic downfall in regards to Canada’s mild recession, companies are beginning to feel the heat of investing so much money into Alberta’s oil sands. The price of gas has fallen dramatically over the past year and the oil sand companies have begun to push back project start dates and goals. When a company invests in the oil sands, it is based on a 40-year time frame and, therefore, the companies have to wait out the low times such as this in order to benefit in the future.  Many companies are pushing projects to start business in the oil sands by 5 years with hopes that oil prices will soon rise again. Fort McMurray in Alberta is home to camp for many workers, but in recent months, much of it has been shut down. These workers spend 3 long weeks on site and are given a 10-day break to return home. Will they return to work if the companies boom again or will it be too much of a risk to return to a job where they could get laid off again in the near future? Environmental concerns have also increased over the development the Keystone XL pipeline and how it will impact fragile ecosystems and human life. This push for environmental safety has cause many people to stop supporting the expansion and investment of the oil sands. This ‘green’ concern is causing a loss in revenue for the companies involved. For now, Alberta’s oil sands are operating as usual, day-by-day, waiting for the price of its resource to rise once again and to continue expanding its operations.


“Environmental protections will kill new investments, even if prices start to rise”. This one statement within this article gave me hope that maybe the day has come that society is finally seeing how detrimental the continuous expansion of Alberta’s oil sands could be. I support economic growth for Canada’s economy but I do not support how the companies are running the production of the oil sands. The moment the prices of gas rise again, the oil sands will boom in production and other countries and investors will want to support the expansion of it. It will create a positive feedback loop. Soon Alberta will no longer have any healthy, natural ecosystems due to the need for land to extract the resource and the pollution from the process of extraction. The New Democratic Party that is now in place of government in Alberta has chimed down on the oil sands and is trying to make it “clean up its environmental act”. Here we can see evidence of values conflict. The government wants the oil sands to attempt to reduce its environmental impacts, while the oil sands companies want to increase its production and investors.


Do you believe the Alberta oil sands can change its process and lower its impact on the environment?

Do you believe there will be a major cut in production for the oil sands anytime soon?


Link to Article:






This was a very interesting topic and I had enjoyed reading your blog. You presented some very good points regarding the Alberta oil sands and the impacts it is having not only on the environment but also human health. I do believe the Alberta Oil sand can change its process and lower its impact on the environment and think the companies already have the ability to do so. However, these processes included constant evaluation and assessment which all costs a lot of money. If there is one way to cut corners and lower the costs of production, its done by lowering environmental standards and regulations. With regards of whether there will be major cuts in the production of oil. I do not think that any major cuts will be done until there has been a new and secure alternative to crude oil, and especially due to the development of the keystone XL pipeline. The development of the Keystone XL pipeline is an obvious indication that the oil companies have no intention on making cuts to oil production and potentially increasing production.