Football season, the presidential election and concert tour by British boy band sensation One Direction aren’t the only sources of excitement in the United States these days.
News earlier this year of a significant increase in the country’s estimated energy resource base also has Americans talking.
U.S. proved reserves increased sharply
According to the Energy Information Administration(EIA), proved reserves of oil and natural gas in 2010 rose by the highest amounts ever recorded in the 35 years EIA has been releasing such estimates. As defined by the EIA, proved reserves are those deemed to have a reasonable certainty (normally at least 90 percent confidence) of being recoverable under existing economic and political conditions, with existing technology.
Simply put, the U.S. is now better off for energy than pundits previously thought.
While higher commodity prices played a role in boosting estimates, it was technology which really changed the game. Recovery techniques such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are being used to unlock tight geological formations, providing access to hydrocarbons once unattainable.
Are oil sands still viable?
With a key target market now seemingly awash in new resources, some are questioning the viability of oil sands as an energy source. Do we still need to work on oil sands development, especially given the unique social, economic and environment challenges involved? Or should the industry take its heavy haulers and go home?
We think the oil sands should continue to be developed. With some of the largest oil sands reserves around, Suncor could, of course, be accused of bias on this question.
World energy demand to grow
But the bigger reason for forging ahead with oil sands development is the global energy outlook. Energy demand is slated to rise significantly over the next few decades and it looks like the world will need every drop of oil it can get, and then some.
As stated in a previous OSQAR, the independent International Energy Agency is pegging energy demand to grow by one-third between 2010 and 2035 with oil forecast to continue as the primary source in the world’s energy mix. Emerging economies are forecast to drive the majority of this growth and oil sands will be a crucial part of the energy mix for long time to come.
Overall, the rise in U.S. oil and gas reserves will help meet future energy demand challenges in North America and perhaps beyond.
Technology at work
It also serves as an excellent, inspiring example of technology and innovation at work in energy development. Just as it changed the equation for unconventional resources in the U.S, technology is being used in the oil sands industry to address key environmental and economic challenges.
Add to that the unprecedented levels of collaboration and you can see how the oil sands industry can reach the next level.
While advances in oil sands development may never trump pigskins or politics when it comes to generating excitement south of the border, they are important and will help meet energy demand in the years to come.
Live text chat slated for October 1
Join us here Monday October 1, 2012, 10 a.m. MT for the first-ever OSQAR live text chat. The topic is oil sands development. On hand to take your questions will be: Gord Lambert, Suncor’s vice-president, Sustainability; Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute and David Layzell (PDF), executive director, Institute for Sustainability Energy, Environment and Economy and professor, department of biology, University of Calgary.