Swan Hills/Athabasca Basin

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The Athabasca basin covers over 100,00 square kilometers in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta- an area larger than New Brunswick. The year was 1888 when Geological survey of Canada geologist Richard McConnel first mapped the sandstone found along the shore of Lake Athabasca. Most of this comes from the mineral rich geological formation that is within the boundaries of Alberta,Canada. Inside the Athabasca basin is home to Swan Hills where a significant amount of light tight oil is becoming more prevalent with a significant reservoir type and reservoir quality across Swan Hills.

A map of Athabasca Basin


Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin Most of Canada's oil and gas production occurs in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin which stretches from southwestern Manitoba to northeastern BC. The basin also covers most of Alberta, the southern half of Saskatchewan and the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories.

The Athabasca Basin is best known for being the leading source of the world's uranium and currently supplies about 20% of the world uranium. This with a vast amount of oil sands has accumulated in the Athabasca Area, Alberta Canada. These Oil Sands https://wiki.seg.org/wiki/Oil_sands consist of Bitumen and unconsolidated sand distributed from the surface down to 750 meters. [1] John Richardson did the first serious scientific report on the oil sands in 1848 on his way to search for a lost expedition. the first government sponsored survey of the oil sands was done by John Macoun in 1875. Robert Bell pointed out that Athabasca and the Mackenzie Valleys were or could be the most extensive petroleum fields in North America. In 1958 a project was started known as project Oil Sands to exploit the athabasca oil sands using underground detonation of nuclear explosives, however before the project started the Canadians government viewpoint on the use of nuclear weapons changed and Canada opposed the use of such weapons and in 1962 the project was cancelled.The oil sands are typically 40 to 60 meters thick an sit on top of relatively flat Limestone and are easily accessed. Athabasca Basin had the first oil-sands mine and in 1967 opened the Great Canadian Oil Sands plant in Fort McMurray.

Workers working in tar sands in the earlier times

Production History

The Alberta oil sands Nasa View| NASAboast wide variations in heavy oil/bitumen fluid properties, which dictate the recovery strategies and market value of these viscous oils. The significant economic incentives to locate and produce the richest, best quality reserves from the three trillion barrels of heavy-oil and bitumen in the Western Canada oil sands has inspired geological and geochemical mapping to assess charge oil source facies, fluid quality controls and biodegradation of oils in the Lower Cretaceous reservoirs. Due to the high viscosity of the bitumen, primary production is only possible in some areas of the Peace River and Lloydminster oil-sands and these operations yield low oil recoveries (ca. 15 to 20%). Here we focus on the Peace River oil-sands, which host[2] bitumen with viscosity values that straddle the primary oil production threshold (a dead oil viscosity of ~50,000 cP at reservoir conditions) and thus careful assessment of the resource fluid quality is required for choice of optimal bitumen recovery process.[[1]]

Petroleum and Facility Engineering

The current state of the Athabasca oil sands using water extraction methods are being reviewed to see if it is the best and most efficient way to remove the oil sands. The bitumen extraction process has been analyzed individually processes. One thing that is being done is to reduce the size of the oil sand lump, bitumen liberation,aeration,flotation and interactions among the different components that make sand Slurry. How to improve bitumen recovery and bitumen froth quality from poor processing ores is still a future challenge in oil sands processing.[oil]

Today on a molecular level processing the sand has been able to processed much more efficiently by Physical, chemical,interfacial, and hydrodynamic conditions were found to play a major role in the benefits of oil sands production cost and revenue generated. the sands still proved to be difficult to separate the fine sand from bitumen and the reduction of bitumen froth, reduce water and solids in the content.[3]

oil sands process using water

Geologic Risks and Uncertainties

The Athabasca Group in Alberta was deposited between 1730 Ma and 1600Ma in four sequences, separated by unconformities, and largely deposited in separate sub-basins, in a tectonic environment dominated by regional compressive stress. [4]Uranium mineralization in and near Alberta is repeated, but minor reactivation of major shear zones bordering the Athabasca Basin and its sub-basins.[4] While the areas remain abundant with oil,gas, and uranium the potential for pollution and spills into Canada's waterways is still a great possibilitySands.

| Arc Gis

A Map showing where swan hills is in relation to Edmonton,Canada

Petroleum Elements

Source Rock

Swan Hills Field is in the upper part of the Athabasca Basin is home to the vast hydrocarbons that can largely be attributed to occurence of abundant mature excellent to good qualityDevonian Devonian Source Rocks[5] Located within the Athabasca Basin, that is a large, oval, dish-shaped structure, 425 km by 225 km 80 000 km 2 containing about 1500 m of mainly flat-lying quartz-rich sandstone of the Athabasca Group. The basin lies with marked angular unconformity across a Hudsonian basement of deformed and metamorphosed Archean and Aphebian sedimentary, volcanic and plutonic rocks trending north to northeast beneath the basin. In the Carswell Circular Structure in the central western half of the basin rocks are brought to surface through 1200 m of sandstone. The rocks of the basin are less than one percent exposed.[6] Overburden locally reaches 90 m thick. Uranium deposits have been found near the southeast edge of the basin, within the Carswell Circular Structure, and along the northern rim of the basin. They are at the unconformity as high-grade masses elongated in and parallel to major faults, hosted mainly in highly-altered white clay feldspar-rich basement rocks and associated with graphitic metasediments and calc-silicate rocks; within the first 40 m above the unconformity in grey to black and multicoloured Athabasca sandstones and shales as a coating on quartz grains, as disseminations in the clay matrix and as veins; and within 100 m below the unconformity as fracture fillings and disseminations in basement rocks.[7]


The Duvernay Formation has sourced prolific quantities of oil in the Late Devonian. This oil has migrated | stratigraphically stratigraphically downward, but structurally | updip updip, in the Peace River Arch and Swan Hills areas of west-central Alberta.[8] This migration of Duvernay oil into older Devonian strata terminates in a series of stratigraphic pinch-out traps in basal [2]Devonian sands and carbonate platform margins, with no leakage from the Devonian system. A leak point of the Devonian closed' system is in the northeastern end of the Rimbey Meadowbrook-Leduc trend, where Duvernay sourced oil is stratigraphically trapped in Leduc Age reefs, but has also escaped via overlying Grosmont and Nisku Formations into the Early Cretaceous Mannville system.[8] The reservoirs at swan hills were possible from Athabasca Basin this is determined by the study of Peace River and has been correlated by the type of source rocks from across Alberta that were analyzed in these were the Debolt,Exshaw,Duvernay,Gordonale,DOig,Gething,Triassic,and Pekisko formations. Lower Cretaceous reservoirs charged in part with Exshaw sourced oil are scattered west of the Peace River oil-sands pasteurization line, controlled by vertical oil migration through faults (e.g. at the Progress and Spirit River fields). These reservoirs typically contain slightly biodegraded oil and/or have lower API gravities and high asphaltene contents compared to adjacent oil fields[9]

Migration Pathways of the athabasca system

Structural Features

Swan Hills buildup and basal platform adjacent to faults, thinning to less than 10 cm thick in the buildup between 5 and 8 km away from the faults. This ‘plume-like’ geometry suggests that early and late | dolomitization dolomitization events were fault controlled. Late diagenetic fluids were, in part, derived from the crystalline basement or Palaeozoic siliciclastic aquifers, based on 87Sr/86Sr values up to 0·7370 from saddle dolomite, calcite and sphalerite cements, and 206Pb/204Pb of 22·86 from galena samples. Flow of dolomitization Dictionary:Dolomitization and mineralizing fluids occurred during burial greater than 500 m, both vertically along reactivated faults and laterally in the buildup along units that retained primary and/or secondary porosity.[10]


Inside the Athabasca Basin lies Swan Hills | glossary Reservoirs of the Beaverhill Lake Group developed within Swan Hills Fm fringing-reef, isolated bioherms and reef-fringed carbonate bank; Slave Point Fm barrier-reef, platform reefs, shoals and carbonate banks. [11]The limestone framework of Swan Hills carbonates is preserved, whereas some Slave Point reservoirs are enhanced by dolomitization. Porous carbonates are sealed by the enveloping argillaceous sediments of the Waterways Fm (Horn River and Muskwa formations in British Columbia). Beaverhill Lake Group hydrocarbon traps often exhibit both stratigraphic and structural components. Regional dip influences the distribution of hydrocarbons within stratigraphic traps such as carbonate banks (e.g. Ante Creek), shelf edges (e.g. Sawn Lake) and some isolated reefs (e.g. Snipe Lake, Virginia Hills); hydrocarbons being confined to the up-dip edge of these build-ups. Relief of the reservoir may be affected by Precambrian topography, imposing a structural constraint on some stratigraphic traps [11]

Future Potential

The of MontrealBMO|Bank of Montreal estimates that there are an additional 397 million m³ (2.5 billion barrels) of oil in place in these potential unconventional developments around the Swan Hills Field. It is highly uncertain, however, what the ultimate recovery will be. In Alberta, the Slave Point Formation, which is stratigraphically equivalent to the Beaverhill Lake tight oil play, has also undergone a limited amount of horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing in the Otter and Evi Fields, north of the Swan Hills Field. There is more than 840 sections of undrilled lands in the Swan Hills Field.[12]Athabasca has the worlds[3] largest uranium field with some of the highest grade content found on the planet.Oil sands production is expected to increase from 1.9 million barrels per day in 2012 to 3.8 million barrels per day in 2022, keeping pace with demand, providing jobs to Canadians, and creating a sound economic basis for the future.[| Canadas Future] Canadian oil production 1950 to 2030.svg| Canadian conventional oil production peaked in 1973, but oil sands production is forecast to increase until at least 2020. In addition, the Alberta Energy Regulator has recently identified over of unconventional shale oil resources in the province. This volume is larger than the province's oil sands resources, and if developed would give Canada the largest crude oil reserves in the world. However, due to the recent nature of the discoveries there are not yet any plans to develop them. Currently Canada is fixing to stop using coal as a power source well before their 2030 goal that had been stated.

Canada's Future for clean Energy

References[edit source]

  1. Takahashi, A., & Torigoe, T. (2008, January 1). Oil Sands Reservoir Characterization in Athabasca, Canada. International Petroleum Technology Conference. doi:10.2523/IPTC-12205-MS
  2. Adams, Jennifer & Larter, S.R. & Bennett, Barry & Huang, Haiping. (2012). Oil Charge Migration in the Peace River Oil Sands and Surrounding Region.
  3. TY - JOUR AU - Masliyah, Jacob AU - Zhou, Z.A. AU - Xu, Zhenghe AU - Czarnecki, Jan AU - Hamza, Hassan PY - 2008/08/01 SP - 628 EP - 654 T1 - Understanding Water-Based Bitumen Extraction From Athabasca Oil Sands VL - 82 DO - 10.1002/cjce.5450820403 JO - The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering ER -
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ramaekers, P. (2004): Development, stratigraphy and summary diagenetic history of the Athabasca Basin, early Proterozoic of Alberta and its relation to uranium potential; Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, EUB/AGS Special Report 62, 94 p.
  5. The Western Canada Basin in Alberta (Figure 1 ) is a mature petroleum province with several significant source rocks, including the Devonian Duvernay and Exshaw formations, the Upper Cretaceous Second White Speckled Shale, and the Jurassic Nordegg Member of the Fernie Formation. The Duvernay-Leduc petroleum system ranks 28th among petroleum systems (12.88 BBOE) outside of the United States by total volume of known oil and gas (Magoon and Schmoker, 2000) and is the most prolific source rock in the Western Canada Basin in Alberta (Fowler et al., 2001). The Second White Speckled Shale-Cardium and Exshaw-Rundle petroleum systems rank 42nd and 52nd among petroleum systems (7.46 and 6.16 BBOE, respectively) outside of the United States by total volume of known oil and gas (Magoon and Schmoker, 2000). ...
  6. Tremblay, L.P. (1982). Geology of the uranium deposits related to the sub-Athabasca unconformity, Saskatchewan (GSCan-P--81-20). Canada
  7. Slimmon, W.L. and Pana, D.I. (2010): Geology and mineral resources of the Athabasca Basin and environs, Saskatchewan and Alberta; Energy Resources Conservation Board, ERCB/AGS Map 538
  8. 8.0 8.1 Allen, S. &. (n.d.). Hydrocarbon generation and migration in the Western Canada. Retrieved from Pennsylvania State University: https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
  9. Jennifer Adams1 *, Steve Larter1 , Barry Bennett1 , Haiping Huang1 1 PRG, Department of Geosciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada *now at ConocoPhillips, 600 N Dairy Ashford, Houston, TX, 77041, USA; [email protected]
  10. Duggan, James & Mountjoy, Eric & Stasiuk, L.D.. (2001). Fault-controlled dolomitization at Swan Hills Simonette oil field (Devonian), deep basin west-central Alberta, Canada. Sedimentology. 48. 301 - 323. 10.1046/j.1365-3091.2001.00364.x.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Perry, R. M. (n.d.). Chapter 3 Beaverhill Lake Group. Retrieved from CSEG: https://cseg.ca/assets/files/atlas/H_Chapter_3.pdf
  12. Wendy Smith, J. K. (2011, June). The Sleeping Giant. Retrieved from BMOADDEALS: https://www.bmoaddeals.com/uploads/pdf/The-Sleeping-Giant-June-21-2011.pdf

External links[edit source]

find literature about
Swann Lake Basin
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