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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Canadian Petroleum Heritage
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Oil Sands

Refining processes for oil sands adds hydrogen atoms or removes carbon atoms, which converts the bitumen into a product similar to conventional light crude oil.

Oil sandsUpgrading is usually a two stage process. First, bitumen is heated and hydrogen is added under high pressure to break down the large hydrocarbon molecules into simpler, smaller compounds. This process is called hydro-cracking. Some upgraders also use a process called coking, which removes carbon from the bitumen to produce lighter hydrocarbons and coke, a carbon material that resembles finely ground asphalt. During the second stage, hydrogen is added to the hydrocarbon compounds to stabilize them and remove impurities such as sulphur. This process is called hydro-treating. After this process, the oil is ready to be further broken down, like the crude oil in a distilling tower that breaks up the oil into different products using heat.





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