Tar Sands

Last updated: May 29, 2017

What Does Tar Sands Mean?

Tar sands or oil sands consist of a mixture of earth, water and bitumen. Oil can be extracted from bitumen, and this has led to the mining of tar sands for refining into oil. Tar sands are accessed using strip-mining techniques or open cast mining. Alternatively, the tar sands can be heated underground making it possible to separate and extract the oil.

Safeopedia Explains Tar Sands

Tar sands represent a relatively cost-effective way of extracting oil, but the Enbridge spill that led to serious pollution of surface water in Michigan sees the EPA expressing concerns regarding its risks to the environment, while also observing that the extraction process itself could cause a significant increase in carbon emissions. In addition, spills can give off harmful gases that can affect communities according to the EPA. With the US pursuing an ambitious carbon emissions program, and thanks to EPA concerns, the future of the tar sands industry is presently in doubt, and it is certain that all operations will be carried out under strict regulatory requirements.


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