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Bitumen Upgrades Begin (1967)

OilBitumen was originally used as paving material as it is a semi solid or solid material of hydrocarbons and sand. It presents a problem, however, because the oil is difficult to separate from the sand.

Since Kerosene was expensive, companies sought to utilize oil sands as an energy source. The development of the technology to separate bitumen was developed by Dr. Karl Clark. Several decades had passed since the hot water process of separating bitumen from oil sands was created. An upgrade of the technology was needed. In 1945, the first Alberta Research Council investigations of water flooding methods of dislodging bitumen from deeply buried deposits were initiated. The many improvements that resulted in increased bitumen recovery to between 80 and 90 percent from good grades of sand.

In 1965, many in the oil industry recognized the need for a new pilot facility. The Research Council's Clover Bar pilot plant was established and it created a closer partnership between industry and government research projects. It was not until 1967 that the new technology was used by the Great Canadian Oil Sands (now Suncor) operations near Fort McMurray. At the time, it was the largest industrial enterprise built in Alberta. The long term effects have been substantial: oil and bitumen production from the oil sands in Alberta from 1967 to 1999 annually were 35.0 million m3 and cumulatively 400 million m3.


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