Oil Sands

Frequently Asked Questions

Does oil sands mining affect the environment?

A large part of mining operations involves clearing trees and brush from a site and removing the overburden - the topsoil, muskeg, sand, clay and gravel - that sits atop the oil sands deposit. The topsoil and muskeg are stockpiled so they can be replaced as sections of the mined-out area are reclaimed; the rest of the overburden is used to reconstruct the landscape when mining is complete.

Developers are required to restore oil sands mining sites to at least the equivalent of their previous biological productivity, which means the region as a whole forms an ecosystem landscape at least as healthy and productive as that which existed before development.

Oil sands operations emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas (GHG), which is considered to be a contributor to climate change. Oil sands developers have been actively working towards reducing CO2 emissions by 45% per barrel by 2010, compared to 1990 levels.

More information about climate changeexternal link icon is available from Alberta Environment and Parks or see the Climate Leadership Planexternal link icon.

How can I find out about employment in Alberta’s oil sands industry?

There are numerous opportunities in the oil sands industry. You should contact the individual companies with projects in the oil sands or visit their respective websites for information regarding potential positions.

Fort McMurrayexternal link iconlabour market news provides links for opportunities in the oil sands and northern Alberta.

For information on training, apprenticeship and employment in trades in Alberta, you may wish to visit Government of Alberta Tradesecretsexternal link iconor visit the Alberta Public Service Commissionexternal link icon.

What is the difference between the Department of Energy and the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER)?

They are not the same but both are part of the Ministry of Energy. The Department of Energy is responsible for ensuring Albertans receive their fair share of value and benefit from the development of the province's energy resources as well as encouraging value-added investment into the energy sector. The Department also issues and manages resource leases.

The AER is responsible for the conservation of energy resources, effective and efficient recovery of those resources, and the safety of recovery operations through approval and monitoring of appropriate recovery schemes for each resource.

What is oil sands petroleum coke? Is it the same as coking coal or conventional coke?

Petroleum coke is a carbonaceous material that results from the coking process during upgrading. There are two types of oil sands petroleum coke: fluid coke, produced by Syncrude, and delayed coke, produced by Suncor and most other upgraders. Fluid coke consists of fine particles, whereas delayed coke is coarser; both are smaller than 3 cm. Both types of coke have ash an content of approximately 7% by weight. The sulphur content can vary from 4% to 7% for both types. Oil sands petroleum coke ash is also high in nickel (1.5 wt%) and vanadium (5wt%).

Coke is used as a fuel to create the high temperatures necessary in blast furnaces to make steel. Unlike petroleum coke, there are very tight specifications for this coke: it is important that it have consistent physical properties (stability, strength, size, shape) and chemical properties (ash, sulphur, volatile matter, alkalis, moisture). The most important properties of coke are heating value (determined mainly by carbon content), ash and sulphur contents. Coke with low ash and sulphur contents are worth more. Typically coking coal must be bigger than 3 cm in size and have an ash content less than 10%.

The differences between the two types of cokes make it technically difficult to use petroleum coke for the same purposes as conventional coke.

What happens to the royalties collected from oil sands production?

Energy development supports a strong Alberta economy. Royalties are part of the overall revenue share received from energy development and help fund important programs like health, education and infrastructure.

Oil Sands Sales On Metis Lands.

Why has the Co-Management Agreement been amended?

The Co-Management Agreement has been amended to reflect an updated public offering process and to introduce a new direct purchase option available only to corporations wholly owned by Metis settlements.

What is a "Metis Settlements Benefits Proposal"?

A Metis Settlements Benefits Proposal (Benefits Proposal) is a document identifying the benefits a Bidder is willing to provide to the Metis Settlements General Council and the Affected Settlement Council in relation to the negotiated commitments identified in the General Terms and Conditions. The General Terms and Conditions are included as an addendum to the Public Offering Notice.

Where can I get information on completing the Benefits Proposal?

The Benefits Proposal forms an essential component of a complete bid. The Affected Settlement Council receives all eligible proposals at the same time, and evaluates these proposals to select the successful bidder. Information on completing a Benefits Proposal and the document template are available from Metis Settlement General Councilexternal link iconcontact the Oil & Gas Coordinator at 780-822-4096 or via e-mail.

How do I submit a "Benefits Proposal"?

Bidders for rights on Metis Settlements will be required to upload a Benefits Proposal when completing a bid submission through the Electronic Transfer System (ETS).  A bid that does not include a Benefits Proposal will not be accepted by the ETS system.

Who can apply for direct purchases on settlement lands?

The direct purchase option is limited to corporations wholly owned by the settlement where the mineral rights are being requested.  It is not available to other Metis owned corporations, or to any other corporations with a partial Metis interest. The direct purchase pricing is the same as published on Alberta Energy’s website.

How will Alberta Energy ensure corporations are eligible bidders?

The Co-Management Agreement includes provisions to verify corporations are wholly owned by Metis settlements. As well, where bids for rights on Metis settlements are submitted through a party acting solely as an agent, Alberta Energy will now require the agent to disclose the identity of its client to Alberta Energy for confirmation as an eligible bidder/purchaser. Otherwise, Alberta Energy will not accept the bid.

How do I maintain my company’s confidentiality when acquiring rights?

Companies may choose to submit bids through a land agent to maintain their confidentiality. When a bidder acts solely as an agent and acquires rights for a third party, the third party will be considered the eligible bidder. The eligible bidder is required to sign the development agreement with the Metis settlement for rights where they are the successful bidder. However, Alberta Energy will continue to accept the Land Agent as the designated representative or Address for Service for the mineral agreement.

How do I acquire complementary rights in Metis Settlements?

Under the 1990 Co-Management Agreement the direct purchase of mineral rights on Metis settlement lands was not permitted. This remains in effect in the updated Agreement, except for wholly owned Metis corporations. Other lessees wishing to acquire complementary rights, single substance or portions on Metis settlements will be required to request these rights through public offering.