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Technical presentations, 6K
Evolution of Heavy Oil Mining and In-Situ Extraction Techniques from the Alberta Tar Sands


The speaker began by presenting the case for oil (tar) sands.  There was an estimated 163.5 billion barrels of oil economically recoverable equivalent to 11% of the world’s oil reserves.  Production was economic at 35-40$ per barrel.  The current price of oil was 90$ per barrel.  The Athabasca deposit is the only large oil sands reservoir in the world which is suitable for large-scale surface mining.

The Athabasca Oil Sands contain 11% bitumen, 5% water, and 84% solids (primarily quartz).  The recovery techniques included Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD), which has been developed to extract bitumen from deep deposits by injecting steam to heat the sands and reduce the bitumen viscosity so that it can be pumped out like conventional crude oil.wells.  It was important to keep the Steam to Oil Ratio (SOR) to as low as possible.  One of the main problems is unconsolidated soil.

Economic drivers included the cost of natural gas, product quality, and successful project execution.  Nevertheless, the major challenges were reclamation and the environment, continuous innovation, and community development.  It is estimated that the reserves have a life expectancy of 100 years.

(Scott Brown, Nexen - 12 December 2007)

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