As the price of oil rises and as conventional hydrocarbon resources become scarcer, increased exploration and production activity is occurring in heavy oil, tar sands, and bitumen deposits. While these contribute significantly to the global energy budget, they also contribute a greater share to the global carbon budget and to the detriment of the global environment. The balancing act between economics and environmental concerns is demonstrated on a grand scale in the evaluation of these geologic deposits. This paper is intended to present the concerns relating to the “carbon footprint” of the development of these deposits in northern Alberta, Canada (referred to hereafter as “tar sands” for brevity), and to outline opportunities for more balanced tar-sands development by improved integration of geoscience and engineering disciplines.

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