This resource requires special extraction methods to get it out of the ground and into a state where it is fluid enough for transportation by pipeline. Extracted oil sands crude can then be refined into gasoline and other hydrocarbon products.
Oil sands are recovered using two methods, depending on the depth of the reserves.
Surface mining is used when bitumen is within 250 feet of the surface.
In-situ recovery techniques are used to extract deep deposits of bitumen without removing the soil and materials above it.
While approximately 20% of the total oil sands’ recoverable reserves are close enough to the surface to be recovered through surface mining, the vast majority of oil sands deposits average depths of 1,300 feet below the surface. These deposits can only be recovered using in-situ recovery techniques, such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD).
SAGD involves injecting steam underground through a horizontal well to liquefy the bitumen and pump it to the surface for further processing.
A pair of horizontal wells is drilled from a central well pad. In a nearby plant, steam generators transform water into steam, which then travels through above-ground pipelines to the wells. The steam heats the bitumen until it reaches a temperature where it can drain to the producing bottom well. Steam injection and oil production happen continuously and simultaneously.
The resulting oil and condensed steam mixture (emulsion) is then piped from the producing well to a nearby plant, where it is separated and treated. The water is recycled for generating new steam, and our heavy oil is blended with synthetic crude oil and shipped by pipeline to the United States for refining.