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OFR 2018-13

On the Origin of Oil Sand and Related Bedrock Erratics in Glacial Sediments of Central Alberta

Abstract: This report is a compilation of both published and unpublished observations of hydrocarbons (bitumen) in glacial sediments and landforms in central Alberta. The recognition of bituminous and non-bituminous sandstone erratics in central Alberta spans more than a century of observations. Yet, their distribution, both spatially and stratigraphically, is poorly understood, and, when encountered within glacial sediments, bitumen erratics have been historically viewed as an anomalous and rare occurrence. Converging lines of petrological, palynological, and field-observational evidence suggest many bituminous, and non-bituminous, sandstone erratics in central Alberta were derived from glacial quarrying and plucking of the Grand Rapids Formation, specifically from the Wabasca oil sand deposit. These were transported into central Alberta relatively intact within southwest flowing ice-streams, and emplaced by glacial melt-out sedimentary processes.  The knowledge that bituminous deposits can be naturally occurring within glacial sediments in central Alberta should preclude any a priori suppositions that such deposits are anthropogenic, resulting from inadvertent releases of industrial activity into natural systems. It is likely that future excavations or borings in glacial sediments of central Alberta will encounter more bituminous sand anomalies, as commented almost a hundred years ago by Rutherford (1928). At the very least, this report should move knowledge of the occurrence of bituminous erratics in central Alberta out of the realm of the unknown, to that of a known, and perhaps more predictable, geological phenomenon.   Place Keywords 73d 73e 73l 73m 74d 74e 83a 83b 83g 83h 83i 83j 83o 83p 84a 84b 84g 84h alberta barrhead canada cooking lake holden nakamun lake Theme Keywords erratic glacial geology glacial history grand rapids formation oil sand

Andriashek, L.D.  2018-12-12