Oil sands

BP is working with our partners to develop Canada’s oil sands responsibly

Canada’s oil sands are the third-largest proven crude oil reserves in the world, after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Oil sands projects can remain productive for many years - typically 30-50 years with today’s technology. Working alongside our partners, we are developing this resource to help meet the growing demand for energy and ensure future energy security in a changing world.

Our projects

BP is involved in three oil sands lease areas - Sunrise, Pike and Terre de Grace - all of which are located in Alberta.

The Sunrise project, operated by Husky Energy, began producing oil in early 2015 and is currently producing approximately 20,000 barrels per day. Pike, operated by Devon Energy, is at the design stage. Terre de Grace, which is BP-operated, is currently under appraisal for future development. 
Where we are not the operator of these assets, we work with our partners to confirm our projects are planned, overseen, managed and monitored effectively. All operators are required to meet or exceed industry practice and regulatory requirements.

Our decision to invest in Canadian oil sands projects takes into consideration factors including commercial viability, impacts on the landscape, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use and local communities.

Commercial viability

BP requires oil sands projects, like all of its investments, to be commercially viable over the life of the project. In light of changing global oil prices, some of our oil sands opportunities remain under evaluation as we assess the best manner and timing of development.

Impact on the landscape

Due to the depth at which our oil sands resources are located, BP and our partners use or plan to use a production technology called steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). SAGD involves pumping steam into the oil sand reservoir through a horizontal well to heat the oil, which is then extracted through a second, lower horizontal well. This process results in less land disturbance than mining as the operations have a smaller physical footprint and do not require tailings ponds.

Steam assisted gravity drainage

Our partners use a production technique called SAGD at Sunrise oil sands sites

A: Steam injection well
B: Production well
C: Bitumen
D: Steam
E: Oil sands layer
Alongside our partners, we work to promote the regeneration of habitat after the completion of our activities. This includes tree planting, landscape assessments and erosion control. In 2015 we planted approximately 12,000 trees at Terre de Grace, which will help to restore the landscape following our exploration programme.

Greenhouse gas emissions

In ‘well-to-wheels’ studies - which measure GHG emissions from producing the oil (well) through to combustion (wheels), crude produced from oil sands applying SAGD technology is around 8% more GHG intensive than the average crude refined in the US. We are working with our partners to reduce emissions and to continue to meet the comprehensive and rigorous regulatory requirements.

We are working to deliver improvements through heat integration and recovery techniques in our processing facilities. These allow us to use energy that would otherwise be lost into the atmosphere, for example to improve our operational performance or heat buildings on site. We are exploring new high-efficiency boiler options along with lower-carbon fuel alternatives. We also aim to reduce energy use at well sites through the use of insulated tubing and electric submersible pumps. We encourage our partners to use the best available energy efficient technologies in the design of plant and field facilities.


Water supply and management are key elements in planning a SAGD project. BP is committed to maintaining a high level of water conservation and our oil sands projects are designed to meet or exceed regulatory requirements. At Sunrise, the water used to make steam is primarily recycled from the wells. Where additional water is required, this is recycled from other operators in the area or drawn from deep underground aquifers that are not suitable for human consumption. Any water that cannot be recycled is injected into a deep disposal well, isolated from drinking water aquifers.

Local communities

BP recognizes that some aboriginal communities living near Alberta’s oil sands region are concerned about the potential impacts of oil sands development. We engage with local communities, including neighbouring First Nations and Métis, on activities relating to the Terre de Grace lease. We work to maintain relationships with local communities through regular meetings, field site visits - including those by our board committee for sustainability issues - and support for local community events.

Our partners operating the Sunrise and Pike projects have similar stakeholder consultation processes and keep us informed of developments.


The information on this page forms part of the information reviewed and reported on by Ernst & Young as part of BP's 2015 sustainability reporting. View the full assurance statement.

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