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How Big Are Canada’s Oil Sands?

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Infographic: How Big Are Canada's Oil Sands?

Infographic: How Big Are Canada’s Oil Sands?

There’s no shortage of discussion on Canada’s oil sands. Even Leonardo Dicaprio has recently toured them while subsequently providing commentary that ruffled the feathers of the province of Alberta.

All conversation aside, our team at Visual Capitalist was curious to see how big they actually were. In this infographic, we look at their overall size as well as what portions can be recovered by mining or “in situ” methods.

As a whole, the oil sands are about as big as the state of Florida. The mineable portion makes up about 3% of that total, which is for bitumen deposits less than 75 metres below ground. For perspective, this is about 6x the size of New York City. Meanwhile, the rest (about 97%) must be recovered by “in situ” methods such as SAGD where heavy oil is pumped to the surface.

Surely something with this size and scope must have a big impact in other places – and it does. The oil sands produce more than 56% of Canada’s oil and contains over 98% of Canada’s proven reserves. Over the next 25 years, $783 billion in royalties and taxes will be paid to the government.

This is not without significant costs, as greenhouse gas emission numbers are also staggering. Between 1990 and 2011, emissions from the oil sands have increased 267%. Now, Alberta produces 69 tonnes of GHG emissions per person. If it were a country, the province would have 3x the emissions as the USA or Canada per capita. Also, tailings ponds make up 176 sq. km of Northern Alberta, which is roughly the size of two Manhattans.

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Economy

Ranked: Countries with the Most Sustainable Energy Policies

Which countries are able to balance prosperity and sustainability in their energy mixes? See the countries with the most sustainable energy policies.

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strongest energy policies index

Ranked: Countries With Most Sustainable Energy Policies

The sourcing and distribution of energy is one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Just under one billion people still lack basic access to electricity, and many more connect to the grid through improvised wiring or live through frequent blackouts. On the flip side of the socioeconomic spectrum, a growing chorus of voices is pressuring governments and corporations to power the global economy in a more sustainable way.

Today’s visualization – using data from the World Energy Council (WEC) – ranks countries based on their mix of policies for tackling issues like energy security and environmental sustainability.

The Energy Trilemma Index

According to WEC, there are three primary policy areas that form the “trilemma”:

1. Energy Security
A nation’s capacity to meet current and future energy demand reliably, and bounce back swiftly from system shocks with minimal disruption to supply. This dimension covers the effectiveness of management of domestic and external energy sources, as well as the reliability and resilience of energy infrastructure.

2. Energy Equity
A country’s ability to provide universal access to reliable, affordable, and abundant energy for domestic and commercial use. This dimension captures basic access to electricity and clean cooking fuels and technologies, access to prosperity-enabling levels of energy consumption, and affordability of electricity, gas, and fuel.

3. Environmental Sustainability
The transition of a country’s energy system towards mitigating and avoiding environmental harm and climate change impacts. This dimension focuses on productivity and efficiency of generation, transmission and distribution, decarbonization, and air quality.

Using the dimensions above, a score out of 100 is generated. Here’s a complete ranking that shows which countries have the most sustainable energy policies:

RankCountryTrilemma ScoreLetter Grade*
1🇨🇭 Switzerland85.8AAA
2🇸🇪 Sweden85.2AAA
3🇩🇰 Denmark84.7AAA
4🇬🇧 United Kingdom81.5AAA
5🇫🇮 Finland81.1AAA
6🇫🇷 France80.8AAA
7🇦🇹 Austria80.7AAA
8🇱🇺 Luxembourg80.4BAA
9🇩🇪 Germany79.4AAA
10🇳🇿 New Zealand79.4AAA
11🇳🇴 Norway79.3CAA
12🇸🇮 Slovenia79.2AAA
13🇨🇦 Canada78.0AAC
14🇳🇱 Netherlands77.8BAB
15🇺🇸 United States77.5AAB
16🇨🇿 Czech Republic77.4AAB
17🇺🇾 Uruguay77.2ABA
18🇪🇸 Spain77.0BAA
19🇭🇺 Hungary76.8AAB
20🇮🇹 Italy76.8BAA
21🇮🇸 Iceland76.2BAB
22🇱🇻 Latvia76.1ABA
23🇸🇰 Slovakia75.6ABA
24🇧🇪 Belgium75.2BAA
25🇮🇪 Ireland75.2CAA
26🇷🇴 Romania75.1ABA
27🇭🇷 Croatia74.9ABA
28🇦🇺 Australia74.7BAB
29🇵🇹 Portugal74.0BBB
30🇪🇪 Estonia73.8BAB
31🇯🇵 Japan73.8CAB
32🇮🇱 Israel73.3CAB
33🇲🇹 Malta72.9DAA
34🇭🇰 Hong Kong (China)72.5DAB
35🇦🇷 Argentina72.4BAB
36🇱🇹 Lithuania72.4CBA
37🇰🇷 South Korea71.7BAC
38🇨🇷 Costa Rica71.6CBA
39🇧🇷 Brazil71.6ABA
40🇲🇽 Mexico71.3ABB
41🇧🇬 Bulgaria71.3BBB
42🇷🇺 Russia71.2AAC
43🇸🇬 Singapore71.2DAB
44🇻🇪 Venezuela70.3ABB
45🇪🇨 Ecuador69.6ABB
46🇵🇦 Panama69.5CBA
47🇬🇷 Greece69.5CBA
48🇨🇱 Chile69.4BBB
49🇨🇴 Colombia69.3BCA
50🇲🇺 Mauritius69.0CBB
51🇲🇾 Malaysia68.5BBC
52🇦🇪 U.A.E.68.3BAD
53🇵🇱 Poland68.3BBB
54🇨🇾 Cyprus67.9DBB
55🇶🇦 Qatar67.9AAD
56🇧🇳 Brunei67.7CBC
57🇦🇿 Azerbaijan67.7BBB
58🇵🇪 Peru66.8ACB
59🇰🇿 Kazakhstan66.6BBC
60🇦🇲 Armenia66.3CBB
61🇺🇦 Ukraine66.0ACC
62🇸🇻 El Salvador66.0BCA
63🇴🇲 Oman65.5BAD
64🇲🇪 Montenegro65.4CBB
65🇰🇼 Kuwait65.2CAD
66🇹🇷 Turkey64.9CBC
67🇵🇾 Paraguay64.7DBA
68🇹🇭 Thailand64.6CBC
69🇮🇩 Indonesia64.1BCC
70🇷🇸 Serbia63.8BBC
71🇲🇰 North Macedonia63.7CBC
72🇨🇳 China63.7BBD
73🇦🇱 Albania63.7DBA
74🇮🇷 Iran63.6ABD
75🇹🇳 Tunisia63.6BBC
76🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago63.3CAD
77🇬🇪 Georgia63.1CBC
78🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia62.8CAD
79🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herz.62.1BBC
80🇧🇭 Bahrain62.1BAD
81🇱🇧 Lebanon61.6DAC
82🇩🇿 Algeria61.3CBD
83🇲🇦 Morocco61.1CCC
84🇧🇴 Bolivia60.4BCC
85🇱🇰 Sri Lanka60.1BCB
86🇦🇴 Angola60.0ADB
87🇪🇬 Egypt59.9BBD
88🇬🇹 Guatemala59.7BCC
89🇬🇦 Gabon59.5CBD
90🇳🇦 Namibia59.1CDA
91🇻🇳 Vietnam58.9ACD
92🇿🇦 South Africa58.9DBD
93🇮🇶 Iraq58.9BBD
94🇵🇭 Philippines58.6BCC
95🇯🇴 Jordan58.5DBC
96🇧🇼 Botswana57.7DCC
97🇩🇴 Dominican Republic57.6DBB
98🇯🇲 Jamaica56.9DBC
99🇹🇯 Tajikistan55.7DCC
100🇭🇳 Honduras55.3DCC
101🇸🇿 Eswatini55.1DCC
102🇳🇮 Nicaragua54.5DCC
103🇬🇭 Ghana52.9CDC
104🇲🇲 Myanmar51.9BDB
105🇰🇭 Cambodia51.6CDC
106🇰🇪 Kenya51.3BDB
107🇲🇩 Moldova51.2DCD
108🇲🇳 Mongolia51.1DCD
109🇮🇳 India50.3BDD
110🇵🇰 Pakistan49.6CDD
111🇨🇮 Côte d’Ivoire49.3BDC
112🇿🇲 Zambia47.8CDB
113🇨🇲 Cameroon47.4BDD
114🇧🇩 Bangladesh47.1DDC
115🇿🇼 Zimbabwe46.0CDC
116🇲🇷 Mauritania45.6BDD
117🇳🇵 Nepal44.3DDC
118🇸🇳 Senegal43.4DDD
119🇹🇿 Tanzania42.5DDC
120🇪🇹 Ethiopia42.3DDC
121🇲🇬 Madagascar42.2CDC
122🇲🇿 Mozambique41.4DDC
123🇳🇬 Nigeria40.7BDD
124🇲🇼 Malawi39.1DDB
125🇧🇯 Benin36.3DDD
126🇹🇩 Chad33.8DDD
127🇨🇩 D.R.C.33.8DDC
128🇳🇪 Niger30.0DDD

*The letter grade represents national performance in three dimensions. The first letter represents Security, the second letter represents Equity, the third letter represents the Environmental Sustainability. The top grade is AAA, the lowest is DDD.

Highs, Lows, and Outliers

Every country has unique circumstances — from strategic energy reserves to green energy ambitions — that shape their domestic energy policies. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more interesting situations around the world.

Sweden

sweden energy trilemma index

Qatar

qatar energy trilemma index

Singapore

singapore energy trilemma index

Dominican Republic

dominican republic energy trilemma index

Niger

niger energy trilemma index

Global Energy Outlook

Achieving the balance of prosperity and sustainability is a goal of nearly every country, but it takes stability and the right mix of policies to get the job done.

The fact that many trilemma scores are improving is an indicator that the world’s patchwork of energy policies are slowly moving in the right direction.

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Energy

Ranked: The World’s Largest Energy Sources

As global population grows, our energy demand grows as well. Here are the largest energy sources in the world and how much electricity they generate.

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The World’s Largest and Most Notable Energy Sources

Every day, humans consume roughly 63,300,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity to power our homes, workplaces, and vehicles─about the same produced by over 5,700 Hoover Dams.

While present-day electricity generation is slanted heavily in favor of coal and gas on a global basis, renewable sources have started to gain ground.

Today’s graphic from Information is Beautiful lists the world’s largest energy sources and their energy outputs. These power plants are ranked using the daily megawatt-hour (MWh), the amount of energy a power source generates in a day.

Relying on Renewables

Located in the United Kingdom, Drax Power Station is the world’s largest biomass plant, powered chiefly by burning wood. Originally a coal-fired plant, Drax is expected to fully phase out coal by the year 2025.

Meanwhile, Tengger Desert Solar Park in China was the biggest solar operation until 2018, but it has since been displaced by the Shakti Sthala plant in India. The latter uses only solar panels─no mirrors─to generate energy from the sun.

Overall, solar photovoltaics have experienced the highest growth of all energy source segments, showing 31% annual growth─nearly triple the rate of wind power according to the International Energy Association (IEA).

Untapped Potential?

Currently, 27% of the world’s power comes from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and other similar resources.

However, according to back-of-the-envelope calculations, the potential for renewables is far beyond existing generation capacity. In fact, humans are just using 0.81% of solar’s potential generation capacity, and 0.57% of the potential from wind.

 WindSolarHydroGeothermal
Potential Energy Generation Capacity480,000,000 MWh401,850,000 MWh86,400,000 MWh48,767,123 MWh
Energy Generated (Current)3,884,983 MWh2,304,000 MWh11,465,753 MWh201,761 MWh
% of Potential Used0.81%0.57%13.3%0.41%

Non-renewable Energy Sources

Nuclear power plants have perhaps the strongest stigma against them─largely due to international disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.

However, nuclear power plants are still the most efficient energy sources, sitting at over 90% average capacity.

The largest nuclear plant (by MW) in the world, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, is currently shut down due to damage from a 2007 earthquake, and awaiting confirmation to restart operations. As a result, the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Canada now holds the title of the largest operating reactor in the world. The plant currently generates about 30% of Ontario’s power.

In 2018, coal is still being used to generate roughly 38% of the world’s total electricity, followed by natural gas with a 23% share.

The Future of Energy Potential

Fittingly, the graphic also shows daily energy outputs for Google and Bitcoin usage. This data helps remind us that our online activity also consumes energy─something that will be top of mind as technology continues to advance and humans need to use more energy through our internet-enabled devices.

Understanding humanity’s need for energy is a daunting endeavor, but it’s critical to ensuring our planet has a sustainable source of energy for generations to come.

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