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Surface Mining Oil Sands

When oil sands are located deep underground, in situ extraction is used. This involves injecting steam into wellbores to liquefy and extract the bitumen. However, when deposits of oil sands are within 75 metres of the Earth’s surface, surface mining techniques can be used.

However, when deposits of oil sands are within 75 metres of the Earth’s surface, surface mining techniques can be used.

The extraction process of shallow deposits involves large shovels that scoop up the oil sands. Haul trucks then transport the oil sands to a refinery.

Key fact: Two tonnes of oil sand must be obtained and processed with 2-4 barrels of water to produce a single barrel of synthetic crude oil

The next step is conditioning. This is when crushers break down large clumps of oil sand before mixing it with water, which breaks the bonds holding everything together. Pipelines then transport the mixture to an extraction facility, known as an upgrader.

To separate the bitumen from the oil sands, hot water is added to the water-oil sand mixture. The bitumen is then gravity separated inside a vessel, whereby the sand sinks to the bottom, the tailings stay in the middle, and the bitumen froth floats on top.

Benefits

  • Economical recovery

  • Oil sands are in large supply

  • Land can be reclaimed

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