Oil Recovery

Table of Contents

There are two ways to recover oil from oil sands: In Situ and Mining


Mining is used for bitumen close to the surface of the earth (75m and higher)

-Also called Open Pit Mining

-Electric and hydraulic shovels and trucks are used to dig up bitumen

-These new methods introduced in the 1990s considerably improved the efficiency of tar sands mining, thus reducing the cost

-Bitumen is loaded into enormous trucks that can carry up to 320 tons of tar sands per load

-Materials are separated from bitumen in hot water

-“Wastes” are sent to tail ponds while the bitumen goes on to be processed

Truck used to transport mined materials
Truck used to transport mined materials

In Situ

In situ is used for bitumen that is no longer available for practical mining (deeper than 75m)

-Steam, solvents or thermal energy make the bitumen flow to the point that it can be pumped by a well to the surface

-There are steam injection, solvent injection, and firefloods, in which oxygen is injected and part of the resource burned to provide heat

-So far steam injection has been the favoured method

-Fairly new technology

Illustration of In Situ Mining
Illustration of In Situ Mining