As of 2011, bitumen, dubbed tar sands, accounted for 168.7 billion barrels of the 170.2 billion in estimated oil reserves in Alberta. The provincial Energy Resources Conservation Board said that puts it behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela in terms of proven oil reserves. Production is expected to hit 3.7 million barrels per day by 2021.
Provincial Finance Minister Doug Horner said that's not necessarily good news for the economy. His government expects the Western Canada Select crude blend to fetch $68.21 per barrel for the year against $92.50 for U.S. blend West Texas Intermediate.
"The bitumen bubble continues to a have a severe impact on our revenues," he said in a statement.
Total revenues for the 2013-14 period are estimated at more than $38.6 billion, which is around $5 billion less than forecast for last year.
The government said the lower price differential means less royalties as well. Horner said the provincial government needs to plan ahead to address emerging trends in the Canadian oil economy.
"We need to spend smarter and focus on providing excellent public programs and services while expanding and maintaining our infrastructure for the future," he said.