For the benefit of anyone who wants to tell me that I'm doing it wrong, or get more up-to-date data, or make their own chart in a very expensive report for clients without revealing that it's really off the Internet for free, here's what I did. First of all, there's various resources that you'd think would get you straight there, but don't. For example, the government of Alberta has a page of facts and statistics about tar sands. However, this doesn't give complete time series, but rather a smorgasbord of bits and pieces of data trying to make the case that "oil sands" (as they'd prefer you to call the mixture of sand and generally-non-flowing-at-room-temperature-rotted-petroleum-leftovers that the rest of us think would be more accurately described as "tar sands") are the most wonderful thing for the future of humanity, with just the teeniest little tiny impact on the environment. From my perspective, the most useful information is this:
In 2008, Alberta’s production of bitumen was 1.3 million bbl/d with surface mining accounting for 55% and in situ for 45%.and
Currently about 59% of bitumen production is sent for upgrading to SCO in the provinceSCO is "synthetic crude oil", which is what is made via an upgrading process from some of the tar sands bitumen. The rest, I assume, is sold directly as bitumen without upgrading ("bitumen" is, oddly, otherwise known as "tar" not "oil") . There's also a different set of Gov. of Alberta spin here, but it doesn't add much to the picture. I poked all over these websites and never could find even a decent annual production series, let alone monthly data.
So what you have to do instead is go to the Statistics of Canada web site, select "English" (unless, of course, you prefer to do your research in French which is fine with me but in that case you're on your own), then hit "Energy" in the "Browse By" section, and then follow the "Crude oil and gas" link. You'll end up here as of this writing, with a page that looks like this:
Follow the link for "Detailed tables from CANSIM", and towards the bottom of the resulting page, you'll see a region like this:
Click on the "126-0001" link to get the details of the supply and disposition of crude oil.
That gives you a page with a form like this:
In the first field, select "Alberta", in the second field, you are going to need to get the "Synthetic Crude Oil" and "Crude Bitumen" series (I got them separately because I didn't realize initially that it wasn't all being converted to syncrude, until I got numbers that were much too small). Select the time range you want, and then proceed (the two buttons at the bottom seem to do fairly similar things as far as I can tell). You will then proceed through a series of screens where you too will have the opportunity to contribute $6 to the great nation of Canada, and I'll let you figure that part out on your own. Since the "Description" link for the table a couple of steps back is useless, my evidence for the idea that adding these two series together is the right thing to do is that the resulting numbers appear roughly consistent with other claims about oil sands data (such as the Alberta governmental numbers quoted above).
Eventually, you'll get a table of data, from which you'll have to edit out many, many instances of the character "r". The data is in m3/month, so you'll adjust for barrels and the number of days in each month (not forgetting leap years if you want to be thorough), and you too will be able to make a graph like the one above.
As you can see, we do seem to be in shouting range of the "1.3mbd" in 2008, total. However, I actually got 1.25mbd average production in 2008, of which 52% was syncrude. Since I assume the bitumen has got to expand when being upgraded to syncrude, the Gov of Alberta's estimate of 59% of the bitumen being upgraded seems a bit high to me.
Anyway, there you have it - a monthly chart of oil sands production. Click on it for the bigger version in its own window:
Some interesting points to me:
- About half of tar sands production is actually tar, not oil.
- Compound annual growth rate from 2000-2009 (average of the first nine months of each) was 9.6%.
- Production did not appreciably slow down in late 2008/early 2009 as a result of the great recession.
Update: picture, for Datamunger (from a Treehugger piece aptly titled "Canadian Tar Sands Look Like Tolkein’s Mordor Says UN Water Advisor")