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Home > Alberta's Resource Inventory > Hydrocarbons > Oil Sands Resources > Resource Development > In-situ Bitumen Recovery

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In-situ Bitumen Recovery

Comparing the bitumen content of oil samplesIn-situ production methods are used on bitumen deposits buried too deep for mining to be economical. These techniques include steam injection, solvent injection and firefloods, in which oxygen is injected and part of the resource burned to provide heat. So far, steam injection has been the favoured method.

Imperial Oil Limited's Cold Lake project is Canada's largest in-situ bitumen recovery project. The underground oil sands reservoir is heated with steam. This melts the semi-solid bitumen and separates it from the accompanying sand. The bitumen is pumped to the surface and diluted with condensate (liquids obtained from natural gas production) for shipping by pipeline. Several other companies operate large in-situ projects, and more are planned.

Horizontal drilling increases the production per well considerably in some heavy oil and bitumen formations, but the technology is not economical for all types of reservoirs.

Petroleum Communication Foundation. Our Petroleum Challenge: Exploring Canada's Oil and Gas Industry, Sixth Edition. Calgary: Petroleum Communication Foundation, 1999. With permission from the Centre for Energy.

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