In 2009, a study done by researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada showed that Canadian oil sands increase the levels of air and water pollution in surrounding environment. The Canadian researchers were conducting experiments along the Athabasca River and its tributaries from Fort McMurray to Lake Athabasca and have concluded that the increased levels of air and water pollution in this area was a direct result of nearby oil sands (tar sands) operations.
According to a latest study that was recently published in the Geophysical Research Letters the scientists have concluded that the levels of oil sands pollution are comparable to those of a large power plant.
The Canadian scientists used satellites to measure nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide emitted from the oil sands. In an area 30 kilometers (19 miles) by 50 kilometers (31 miles) around the mines, they found elevated levels of these pollutants comparable to levels what satellites usually see over a large power plant.
Extracting oil from oil sands is bound to have negative environmental effects since this type of oil production requires the burning of fossil fuels. Not only this, extraction of oil from tar sands often uses more water and require larger amounts of energy compared to conventional oil extraction.
The exceeded levels of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide can lead to acid rain formation so their levels should be monitored frequently in order to avoid a possible environmental disaster.
Oil sands are certainly in need of more independent studies because world's hunger for oil is constantly growing and with it there will be also more pressure on oil sands to generate more oil. This will no doubt have a negative impact on our environment.