A Bit about Bitumen

A brief beginner summary about the Oil Sands of Alberta

James Knight, famous explorer who perished during the Northwest Passage Expedition of 1719-1722, was a Director of the Hudson’s Bay Company and a military commander who was sent to take possession of York Factory in Manitoba.  In his travels, his writings refer to a gum or pitch that flows out of the banks of a river, referring to the Athabasca River that flows throughout northern Alberta.

Mr. Knight had observed what we know as Bitumen, a heavy, thick oil that typically is located deep underground but can be found as close as 200 feet from the surface. The problem with Bitumen however has always been how to extract it. According to CAPP (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers), at 10 degrees Celsius, “Bitumen is as hard as a hockey puck.” How to extract such a thick oil in a manner that is economical and environmentally responsible has been the quest for many years now.

What is referred to The Oil Sands are three locations in the Northern parts of Alberta; Fort McMurray being the largest, Peace River and Cold Lake. Oil sands (the substance) are a mixture of sand, clay, water and bitumen.

Bitumen is recovered through one of two processes; either open pit mining or ‘in situ’ drilling, from the Latin meaning, “in place.”

Open pit mining goes after the Bitumen that is located closer to the surface. Large shovel machinery digs out the banks loading it into trucks that deliver the raw material to a crushing site. The material is then broken up and mixed with water at a rate of just over three barrels of fresh water to produce one barrel of Bitumen. This diluted material is then sent by pipeline to an oil plant where the Bitumen is extracted and the watery mix is sent to a tailing pond for the material to settle, and the water to be recycled for later use. According to the AER 2013, it is estimated that 80-95% of all water is recycled.

In Situ drilling, which accounts for approximately 80% of all oil sands work, involves very little surface disturbance. It also requires less water (just under one half a barrel of fresh water to produce a barrel of Bitumen) and no tailing ponds are used. In this process, shafts are drilled into the ground in which heat (typically steam) is pumped into, making the Bitumen more fluid and therefore capable of being pumped to the surface through recovery wells.

Since the late 1930’s, the oil sands have gained recognition as being one of the largest oil reserves in the world. Efforts to tap into its wealth have continued ever since.

 

As of 2014, CAPP recorded that there are over 100 active projects in Alberta along with just four mining operations and one under construction. Regarding the size of the oil sands, it weighs in as the world’s third largest reserve with an estimated 167 billion barrels. The Oil Sands hold 97% of Canada’s reserves and account for half (approximately 1.8 million barrels per day) of Canada’s current oil production.

 

 

Just Posted

County of Wetaskiwin approves Land-use Bylaw Apr.12

County council discusses public hearing comments

Three suspects charged with 38 crimes after Wetaskiwin carjacking

RCMP Rural Crime Reduction Project starts strong in Wetaskiwin

Millet mayor concerned about weight of recycling on towns

Tony Wadsworth says Alberta falling behind in recycling

County council hears about Winfield Arena break-ins

County of Wetaskiwin looking at regional recreation guide

Pigeon Lake plan presented to county council

County of Wetaskiwin wants more time to peruse management plan

WATCH: Central Albertan receives award for aiding RCMP officer in arrest

Lonnie Amundson, rugby player, tackled a fleeing suspect to help ailing officer

WATCH: ‘Battle of the Badges’ event raises money for Humboldt Broncos

Red Deerians get together at charity hockey tournament April 20th at Servus Arena

Producer, DJ Avicii found dead at 28

Swedish-born artist Tim Bergling, was found in Muscat, Oman

Trudeau ends 3-country tour with global reputation, alliances intact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finds footing on the world stage after China and India controversies

Leafs’ Matthews has top-selling jersey, edging Crosby, McDavid: NHL

Austin Matthews jersey sales top Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid

Victims grant may miss needy parents due to eligibility rules: report

Only 29 of 50 applicants between 2013 and 2017 received the grant across Canada, a federal report says

4-20: Pot activists continue their fight beyond legalization

Cannabis activists say there is still a lot to fight for beyond legalization

Comey memos: Trump talks of jailed journalists and ‘hookers’

A 15 page document written by former FBI Director James Comey about dealings with Trump is released to press

UPDATED: Prince Charles to be next Commonwealth leader

Prince Charles to succeed his mother Queen Elizabeth II as head of the 53-nation alliance

Most Read