Originally posted on 10/14/2010 by D. Platt; republished here with permission
The term tar sands, also known as oil sands or bituminous sands, refers to a type of petroleum deposit that is so viscous that it is difficult to extract. In order to get the petroleum to flow as it does in more conventional deposits, heat must be used. So it’s necessary to invest energy (heat) to extract energy (petroleum). Consequently the extraction process is more expensive than that required by conventional deposits. But as oil prices increase, it becomes profitable to obtain oil from tar sands despite the greater extraction costs.