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

Resource Inventory

Production Technologies

Oil RefineryIn-situ projects need to somehow generate the steam that loosens the bitumen. Current projects use boilers fired by enormous amounts of natural gas, a process that uses a lot of water—the equivalent of three cubic metres for each cubic metre of bitumen produced. However, more than 80 percent of the water used is able to be recycled and used again (the remaining 20 percent remains in the reservoir). After the bitumen is separated from the sand and water, it is shipped by pipeline to a refinery or an upgrader.

In-situ production is able to recover between 25 and 75 percent of the bitumen found in the reservoir, which is a higher recovery percentage than that of most conventional light crude wells. However, scientists continue to look for a way to improve these percentages. In-situ bitumen recovery is more attractive than mining because it disturbs considerably less land and requires less land-reclamation activities once the project is finished and all the trucks leave.

New technologies are constantly being developed in the area of bitumen recovery, and other in-situ production systems have been tested for accuracy and cost-effectiveness. Solvents, microwaves, and ultrasound have all been experimented with. "Fireflooding" is another experimental production technique where air or oxygen is injected into the formation and the bitumen ignited in order to heat the oil sand. However, only solvents have moderately stood the test of time—all other experimental technologies have been more or less abandoned. Cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) and Steam—Assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) are the most often used technologies today.

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