Are Solvents the New Holy Grail for Alberta's Oil Sands?
Published On: July 15, 2016
Commodity Report - Crude Oil - June 2016
The majority of Alberta oil sands reserves (approximately 80 percent) is buried too deep to be recovered by open-pit mining, and are recoverable using in situ methods. The story of in situ bitumen development began in the 1960s, when Imperial Oil Ltd. built a test project to extract bitumen from Cold Lake deposits. This involved injecting steam under high pressure into the oil sand formation. Once the bitumen was heated by steam and inclined to flow, it could be pumped to the surface. This technique became known as CSS or Cyclic Steam Stimulation. But technological development continued. One key collaboration of the Alberta government, industry and academia was the Underground Test Facility near Fort McMurray, which demonstrated the value of horizontal wells for in situ bitumen production. This research led to the development of a new technology known as SAGD or Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage, widely used by industry today. SAGD consists of a pair of horizontal wells, situated 4 to 6 meters above one another, drilled from a central well pad. In a plant nearby, water is transformed into steam by use of natural gas-fired boilers which then travels through above-ground pipelines to the wells and enters the ground via a steam injection (top) well (Alberta Energy). The SAGD process has been constantly improving since 1987..... Download full report.June 2016