Oil sands

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Oil Sands are a combination of clay, sand, water and bitumen. Bitumen is a heavy and thick oil that is extracted from the ground, and is primarily used in road construction.


Oil sand deposits are found in about 70 countries throughout the world, with the largest reserves, and majority of the industry, located in Canada. Some bitumen is found about 200 feet under Earth’s surface, but the majority of it is found much deeper underground. Oil sands that are located near Earth’s surface can be mined using open-pit techniques, but oil sands that are deeper in the ground are mined through steam-assisted methods called in situ techniques [1]On average, mined oil sand contains about 10-12 percent bitumen, 4-6 percent water, and 80-85 percent mineral water and clay. (Freedman). Roughly 75 percent of the bitumen from an oil sand is recovered each time. An estimated two tons of oil sands are required to produce one barrel of oil. After oil extraction, the sand and other materials that are not needed are returned to the mine and eventually reclaimed. (OSTEIS).


The first pilot plant for processing oil sands was constructed in Alberta, Canada in 1962. Between 1964 and 1967, the first full-scale oil sand facility was developed, with an initial processing of approximately 31,000 barrels per day. During the 1990’s, the mining and processing of Alberta’s oil sands were significantly increased due to large investments made in the industry. About 97 percent of Canada’s total oil reserves are derived from oil sands.

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