Saturday, February 28, 2009

Athabasca Oil Sands

Athabasca Oil Sands:
Oil sands, tar sands, or extra heavy oil is a type of bitumen deposit. The sands are naturally occurring mixtures of sand or clay, water and an extremely dense and viscous form of petroleum called bitumen. They are found in large amounts in many countries throughout the world, but are found in extremely large quantities in Canada and Venezuela. Because extra-heavy oil and bitumen flow very slowly, if at all, toward producing wells under normal reservoir conditions, the sands must be extracted by strip mining or the oil made to flow into wells by in situ techniques which reduce the viscosity by injecting steam, solvents, and/or hot air into the sands. These processes can use more water and require larger amounts of energy than conventional oil extraction.

At the present time, only Canada has a large-scale commercial oil sands industry, though a small amount of oil from oil sands is produced in Venezuela. The biggest oil sand operation in the world is taking place north of Fort McMarray in Alberta, Canada. These oil sands are called the Athabasca oil sands. There are three big mines in the Athabasca oil sand project which together form the biggest mining site in the world: The Syncrude mine
serving the Syncrude oil refinery:

The Suncor mine, serving the Suncor oil refinery:

and the Albian sands, 15km north of the Syncrude mine.

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