Oil Sands Mining and Processing

Oil Sands Mining and Processing
MINE 292 – Lecture 22
John A. Meech
Map of Athabasca Oil Sands
Athabasca Oil Sands Facts
• Oil Sands occupy ~140,000 km2 (96.6% in situ/3.4% mining)
• First oil sands mine opened in 1967 – GCOS (now Suncor)
• 60% of the total area has been leased to companies for extraction
• Oil sands operations involve both mining and in-situ extraction
• Surface mineable area is larger than Greater Vancouver
• Mining operations occupies and area over 700 km2
• Alberta’s oil sands petroleum second in size to Saudi Arabia
• In 2008, 45% of Canada’s total oil production came from oil sands
• A doubling of current industry size by 2030 has been approved
Oil Sand Reserves and Resources
1,409 years
at current planned
production rate
Production Rates
Year bbl/day
1978 145,000
1985 245,000
2005 745,000
2010 1,489,000
2015 2,200,000
2025 3,500,000
247 years
at current planned
production rate
133 years
at current planned
production rate
Oil Sands Production
Oil Sands Production
Canada's Position in the World
Oil Prices from 1861 to 2007
Oil Crisis
Oil Sands
Oil Sands Constituents
Simplified Petroleum Refining
For centuries before Europeans arrived, first nations
peoples used bitumen, which naturally seeped into the
banks of the Athabasca River, as a sealant for canoes.
1771: Sample presented at Hudson Bay trading post
1778: Fur trader Peter Pond was first European to see
the bitumen deposits.
1875: Canadian Geological Survey provides the first
formal government look at the oil sands.
1892: Earliest picture of oil sands along the
Athabasca River.
(D.B. Dowling/Geological Survey of Canada / Library and Archives Canada)
Bitumen Seep
First Experiments
1915: The city of Edmonton begins to experiment
with bitumen for paving roads.
First Experiments
1920s: Provincial scientist, Karl Clark, develops hot
water-flotation system to separate bitumen
from sand.
First Experiments
1927: Workers tackling the face of a bitumen sand
quarry in Fort McMurray, Alta.
(Sidney Clarke Ells/Library and Archives Canada)
Move to Commercialization
1929: After field tests in 1924, Clark and an associate
patent the hot-water-flotation system.
Move to Commercialization
1930: Clark begins producing from a small plant at
Bitumount, on shores of the Athabasca River
near Fort McMurray (shown here in 2011).
Move to Commercialization
1930: 300 barrels/day with a crew of seven. Product is
largely for roofing and paving.
(Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)
Move to Commercialization
1938: First commercial oil project - Abasand Oils Ltd.
begins producing diesel from the oil sands.
Move to Commercialization
1938: Photo of Abasand camp at Horse River in 1936,
shows mess hall and bunk house at left and
separation plant on right.
Move to Commercialization
1938: Plant sold to government after WWII.
Not rebuilt after it subsequently burned down
(/National Archives of Canada / Canadian Press)
Major Development -GCOS
1953: Great Canadian Oil Sands is formed. Company
builds first major commercial oil project in 1962
after regulatory changes in Alberta.
Major Development
1963: Sun Oil acquires GCOS, with $250M purchase, at
the time, biggest private investment in Canadian
history – "the biggest gamble in history".
(The Globe and Mail)
Major Development
Pre-1965: Fort McMurray’s first hotel, Oil Sands Hotel
along its main street, Franklin Ave.
Major Development
1967: Oil begins flowing at 45,000 bbl/d from Sun Oil
(The Canadian Press)
Syncrude Consortium
1964: Syncrude consortium is formed.
1973: Work begins on the first Syncrude mine.
1978: First Syncrude oil produced.
Syncrude Consortium
1964: Syncrude consortium is formed.
1973: Work begins on the first Syncrude mine.
1978: First Syncrude oil produced.
Syncrude Consortium
1979: Syncrude plant at Mildred Lake, Alta. $2.2B
Syncrude oil sands mine and plant achieves
100,000 bbl/day production.
In-Situ Extraction Commences at Cold Lake
1985: Imperial Oil Ltd. produces first “in-situ” oil.
1989: Production rate hits 140,000 bbl/day.
- Initally high water requirements
- Over 4 bbl water / bbl oil
- Today, ratio is 0.5
- Reduction achieved via recycling
- 95% of water recovered with
oil is recycled.
Mining operations: Athabasca oil sands.
NASA Earth Observatory image, 2009.
Total Oil Company Consortias
Initial Mining – Dragline and BWE/Conveyors
Mining today – Shovel-Truck
Operating Costs
Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage
Suncor's SAG-D Process
Bitumen &
Steam flows to
interface and
Heated bitumen
flows to well
Toe-and-Heel Air Injection In-situ Recovery
Toe-and-Heel Air Injection In-situ Recovery
THAI technology upgrades bitumen during production
Oil Sands GHG Profile 1990-2012
90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12
19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20
GHG Emission Intensity
GHG Emissions (KT)
GHG Emissions Intensity
GHG Emissions (KTs)
Oilsands Greenhouse Gas Emissions 1990-2012
Clark Hot-Water Process
• Clark hot-water process uses caustic water solution
to emulsify oil from the oil sand particles.
• Sand particles are hydrophilic but surrounded by
• Process initially recovered ~85% of the bitumen.
• Recent process improvements have increased
recovery to between 88 and 92 percent.
• Unrecovered bitumen discharged with the tailings,
leads to significant environmental concern.
Clark Hot Water Processing Plant
Primary Flotation Vessel
Bitumen Upgrading Process
Conventional Tailings Dam Management
Oils Sands Tailings Pond Reclaimed
Oil Sands Tailings Dam
Other Oils Sands and Oil Shale Deposits
There are 598 deposits in 23 countries
Total Oil in place is estimated at:
Total estimated:
2.5 trillion barrels
3.3 trillion barrels
Natural bitumen reserves are estimated as:
U.S. (Utah):
250 billion barrels
177 billion barrels
42 billion barrels
32 billion barrels
28 billion barrels
0.5 – 2.5 billion barrels
Heavy crude oil reserves:
~260 billion barrels
Oil Shales (Kerogen):
~ 3.0 trillion barrels
1.8 trillion barrels
Bitumen Characteristics
Bitumen is diluted with Naphtha to allow it to flow
Nevertheless, it is viscous and highly corrosive
When spilled, it behaves differently than does crude
In water, it sinks rather than floats
So skimmers are useless for cleanup.
In 2010, pipelines transported 600,000 barrels of bitumen
to the U.S.
• Spills are rare but very expensive to deal with and
damaging to the environment
• First oil-sands bitumen spill occurred into the Kalamazoo
River in 2010. Clean-up is still on-going.
Bitumen Pipeline Spills
Keystone Pipeline
Northern Gateway Pipeline
Northern Gateway Pipeline
• Concerns
– Oil spills along the pipeline
– Traditional territory of First Nations
– Oil spills along the B.C. coastline
– Desire to not use fossil fuels (particularly dirty ones)
West to East Pipeline
Impacted Birds
Shale Gas – the game-changer

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