The Carbon Underground Tar Sands 20TM

The World’s Top 20 Public Companies

Ranked by the Carbon Content of their Oil Sands Reserves

  • The Carbon Underground Tar Sands 20 - Emissions 2004 - 2016
Long opposed for their huge environmental footprint and resource-intensive production, oil sands reserves generate a premium of CO2 emissions over conventionally produced oil because of the energy required to extract and process them. FFI’s Tar Sands 20TM is the definitive identification tool for oil sands companies. Updated quarterly, it lists the largest publicly-traded holders of unexploited oil sands reserves and their equity issues worldwide. All six oil majors are represented in the Tar Sands 20 and as of October 2016 comprise 37% of total proven reserves for the list. The Tar Sands 20 tracks about 80 companies listed on more than 10 international stock exchanges.


The Tar Sands 20 builds on the work of The Carbon Underground 200TM, which ranks the top public fossil fuel companies based on the potential CO2 emissions embedded in their reported proven reserves. This potential reserves-based emissions methodology does not account for other life-cycle emissions such as extraction, transport, refining and distribution.

Recognizing that oil extracted from oil sands is the most energy-intensive type of oil to refine, FFI researches and tracks the companies holding oil sands reserves to produce The Tar Sands 20, ranking the holders of oil sands reserves by potential emissions. The Tar Sands 20 utilizes regulatory filings, Canadian government data, and other sources to rank companies by proven oil sands reserves and provide the context for their oil sands exposure relative to their complete fossil fuel reserves portfolio.

The growth rate of potential CO2 emissions from oil sands has far exceeded the growth rate of potential oil and gas emissions overall. Oil price volatility, government carbon regulations, and environmental activism force these unconventional high cost assets into the highest risk for becoming stranded.


Listed Companies

Updated quarterly, companies on the list are typically investable as of one week post-calendar quarter end. Subsidiaries with their own exchange listings that report reserves separately from their parent are eligible for inclusion. Companies that publicly trade only a portion of their overall shares are also eligible for inclusion.


The rankings are based on calculated carbon emissions data using reported reserves as of the latest available updates at calendar quarter end. For companies not reporting oil sands separately, these reserves are estimated.


Rankings are constructed using a reserves-based methodology with the underlying core data based on reported and, in some cases, estimated reserves. Companies are ranked on proven reserves (1P) net of royalty payments.

Emissions Calculations

The Carbon Underground 200 relies on the IPCC Revised 1996 Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories as a methodological framework. The calculation of CO2 emission potential requires several conversions to the raw reserves figures.

2016 Rankings
(as of 1-Oct-2016)
Reserves Holder Potential Emissions (Gt CO2)
1 ExxonMobil 0.806
2 Suncor Energy 0.606
3 Imperial Oil 0.602
4 Canadian Natural Resources 0.469
5 ConocoPhillips 0.375
Top 5 Tar Sands 2.86
Top 6 - 10 Tar Sands 1.16
Top 11 - 20 Tar Sands 0.887

Tar Sands 20 - 2014-16


Tar Sands 20 - 2004-16



Tar Sands 20 Subscriptions

With the Carbon Underground Tar Sands 20 list, those wishing to focus on carbon risk embedded in proven unconventional oil reserves now have a unique tool that targets or excludes those companies specifically.

Institutional investors, pension funds, family offices, endowments, foundations, NGOs, and other investment professionals who wish to integrate ESG and responsible investment into their decision processes can:

  • Isolate the most environmentally harmful reserves
  • Combine with The Carbon Underground Coal 100 and use as first step or bridge to full divestment
  • Assess portfolio exposure to high potential stranded assets
  • Create investment strategies based on unconventional reserves ownership
The Carbon Underground Tar Sands 20 Factsheet

The full Tar Sands 20 list is available to subscribers.
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