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Oil Sands Mining

Oil sands is unconventional oil that contains sand, clay, water, and bitumen. Oil sands mining is the process of extracting the bitumen, and it can be done in two ways, depending on the depth of the reserve.

Shallow deposits of oil sands are surface mined, whereby large amounts of earth are removed and transported to a refinery. Here, hot water is mixed with the oil sands, and the bitumen is gravity separated.

Key fact: Less than 5% of the world’s oil sands have been produced

For deep deposits, in situ extraction is used. This involves injecting the oil sands with steam to heat up and liquify the bitumen. Next, the mixture of bitumen and condensed steam is pumped to the surface. A separation plant then separates the water from the bitumen.

Oil sands are the second largest oil field in the world. One of the largest oil reserves is the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada. Over 96% of Canada’s oil reserves are contained here, and the deposits amount to nearly two trillion barrels of oil.

Key fact: About 10% of the world's oil reserves are located in the Athabasca oil sands


  • Large supply

  • Massive growth potential

  • Economically recoverable

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