In order to soften the oil sand before pumping, for several weeks high-pressure steam is injected into
the oil sand formation. Steam helps recover the resource in several ways. The
heat softens the oil sand and the water vapour helps to break up the bitumen from the sand. The pressure created in the underground environment causes
cracks to be formed that adds drive to move the bitumen to producing wells.
After a portion of the reservoir has been satisfactorily saturated, the steam is turned off and the
reservoir allowed to sit for several weeks. After it has been allowed to sit and
soak up the steam and moisture, the production phase brings the bitumen to the
surface. It either flows on its own, or is pumped up the well to the surface.
When the rates of production start to decline, the reservoir is pumped with
steam once again.