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Cyclic Steam Stimulation (CSS)

Cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) is an enhanced oil recovery technique used for the in situ extraction of bitumen from oil sands. Also classified as a thermal recovery method, it works similarly to steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), though there are some key differences.

Unlike SAGD, where two wells are drilled, CSS only requires one vertical well. This is used to inject the oil reservoir with high-pressure steam, which is done over a period of time to ensure the heat from the steam is distributed evenly. During this period, the steam soaks through the oil sands and thins the bitumen.

Bitumen is heavy crude oil that is unable to flow on its own. Through CSS, the bitumen liquefies and mixes with the steam. This mixture is then extracted through the same wellbore using a pump.

Key fact: Typical recovery factors for cyclic steam stimulation are 20–35% of original bitumen-in-place

With this in mind, CSS can be broken down into three stages: the injection stage, the soak stage, and the production stage. To maximise production rates, these three stages are repeated until oil recovery is no longer possible.


  • Increases production rates

  • Only one wellbore required

  • Appropriate for thinner interbedded reservoirs

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