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Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD)

Steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) is an in situ technique for extracting bitumen from deep deposits of oil sands.

Oil sands are an unconventional oil type composed of sand, clay, water, and bitumen. While shallow deposits can be surface mined, deeper deposits require enhanced oil recovery methods, like SAGD.

Key fact: SAGD produces approximately 970,000 barrels per day of bitumen, the equivalent of around 38% of Alberta’s total bitumen production

The process of SAGD starts with a drill creating two 1km long horizontal wells: an injection well and a producing well, spaced around five metres apart vertically. The injection well is flooded with steam, which travels down to the oil reservoir and heats up the bitumen, causing it to liquefy.

Bitumen is heavy crude oil and very viscous, meaning that it doesn’t flow on its own. The purpose of SAGD is to reduce its viscosity so the bitumen flows into the producing well. From here, the bitumen is pumped to the surface for further processing.

In this way, SAGD improves production rates by reaching oil deposits that are too deep to extract via traditional methods.


  • Reduces environmental impact

  • Produces minimal tailings

  • Improves production rates from wells

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