Canadian oil sands
Canada’s oil sands have the third-largest proven crude oil reserve in the world, after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela
Oil sands have the potential to contribute to energy security for Canada, the US, and other markets for many decades to come. BP's Energy Outlook 2030 projects that the world’s population will increase by 1.4 billion over the next 20 years, boosting the world’s primary energy consumption by as much as 40% over that same time period. Even with increased reliance on renewable forms of energy, oil and gas will remain important components of the energy mix. The province of Alberta contains recoverable oil sands reserves of approximately 170 billion barrels, the third largest reserves in the world. The world will be relying on Alberta to help meet the global energy challenge.
What are oil sands?Mainly located in the province of Alberta, the oil sands are a natural mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen. They are found at varying depths and in some cases are directly exposed to the surface.
How are the oil sands developed?Oil sands are currently developed using two methods. The method used is determined by the depth of the reserves.
- Surface mining: Approximately 20% of the oil sands recoverable resource lies within 70 metres, or 200 feet, of the surface and can be recovered through mining.
- In situ drilling: Approximately 80% of oil sands recoverable resource is located more than 70 metres, or 200 feet, below the surface and to extract these resources, in situ techniques such as steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) are used.
BP plans to use in situ technology to recover the resource. A key method of in situ recovery is steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD).
Steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) technology is used to recover bitumen without mining. The process uses well pairs working in tandem: an injection well and a production well. These wells are drilled as a horizontal well pair where the injection well sits five metres above the production well. Steam is pumped through the injection well to heat the bitumen, allowing it to flow into the production well and be lifted to the surface. The bitumen is then separated from the water and sand. It may then be upgraded into synthetic crude oil (SCO) or it may be sent directly to oil refineries capable of processing it. Due to the viscosity of bitumen, it must be diluted before it can be transported for upgrading.