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Mining refers to the oil sands extraction process whereby large amounts of earth are removed, mixed with water and transported by pipeline to a plant, where the bitumen is separated.

Oil Sands Mining

Definition

Oil sands are a mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen found in several locations around the globe, with the largest reserve located in Alberta, Canada. Oil sand can be upgraded into synthetic crude oil and other petroleum products[1]Alberta Energy. What is Oil Sands? (2015). Retrieved from http://www.energy.gov.ab.ca/oilsands/793.asp Alberta Energy. What is Oil Sands? (2015). Retrieved from http://www.energy.gov.ab.ca/oilsands/793.asp Alberta Energy. What is Oil Sands? (2015). Retrieved from http://www.energy.gov.ab.ca/oilsands/793.asp Alberta Energy. What is Oil Sands? (2015). Retrieved from http://www.energy.gov.ab.ca/oilsands/793.asp Alberta Energy. What is Oil Sands? (2015). Retrieved from http://www.energy.gov.ab.ca/oilsands/793.asp .

There are two different methods of producing oil from oil sands: open-pit mining and in situ. Bitumen that is close to the surface (less than 75 metres) is mined. Approximately 20% of oil sands are recoverable through open-pit mining.

Bitumen is extremely thick and too heavy to flow or be pumped, and therefore requires dilution and/or heating during the production process.

Open pit mining is similar to coal mining operations – large shovels scoop the oil sand into trucks that then take it to crushers where the large clumps of earth are broken down. This mixture is then mixed with water to form a slurry that is transported to a plant, where the bitumen is separated from the other components in a froth process. Bitumen normally undergoes a process called upgrading to create synthetic oil that can be refined

 
 

Context

In general, unconventional forms of oil including oil sands mining are becoming important in global energy supply due to decreasing reserves of conventional oil. For the Canadian oil sands, debate continues over the industry’s environmental impacts and capacity for export. The International Energy Agency has warned that expanding Canadian production hinges on transportation capacity[2]Hussain, Yadullah, (2014). Financial Post. Retrieved from http://business.financialpost.com/news/energy/new-emissions-from-canadas-oil-sands-extremely-low-says-ieas-chief-economist?__lsa=bfcb-b3b5 Hussain, Yadullah, (2014). Financial Post. Retrieved from http://business.financialpost.com/news/energy/new-emissions-from-canadas-oil-sands-extremely-low-says-ieas-chief-economist?__lsa=bfcb-b3b5 Hussain, Yadullah, (2014). Financial Post. Retrieved from http://business.financialpost.com/news/energy/new-emissions-from-canadas-oil-sands-extremely-low-says-ieas-chief-economist?__lsa=bfcb-b3b5 Hussain, Yadullah, (2014). Financial Post. Retrieved from http://business.financialpost.com/news/energy/new-emissions-from-canadas-oil-sands-extremely-low-says-ieas-chief-economist?__lsa=bfcb-b3b5 Hussain, Yadullah, (2014). Financial Post. Retrieved from http://business.financialpost.com/news/energy/new-emissions-from-canadas-oil-sands-extremely-low-says-ieas-chief-economist?__lsa=bfcb-b3b5 

Environmental concerns regarding oil sands mining focus on the toxic waste byproduct of the extraction process and land disturbance. After the sand is brought to an extraction plant, it undertakes a dilution process in which it is mixed with hot water and chemicals so that it may flow freely into pipelines. The water that cannot be recycled is contained in tailings ponds, where the thick sediment emits toxins. Additionally, as with all mining, there are significant land disturbances. 

References

  1. ^ Alberta Energy. What is Oil Sands? (2015). Retrieved from http://www.energy.gov.ab.ca/oilsands/793.asp 
  2. ^ Hussain, Yadullah, (2014). Financial Post. Retrieved from http://business.financialpost.com/news/energy/new-emissions-from-canadas-oil-sands-extremely-low-says-ieas-chief-economist?__lsa=bfcb-b3b5 

Sorry, we do not yet have a video specifically for Oil Sands Mining.  We are adding new  videos to StudentEnergy.org weekly, but in the meantime check out this video on Oil Sands.

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INTERNATIONAL OR PROMINENT INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

National Petroleum Council (US)

Canadian Heavy Oil Association (CHOA)

RESEARCH INSTITUTION

Canadian Energy Research Institute 

Total-EP Canada

Alberta's Petroleum Heritage Edukits

Canadian Centre for Energy Information

ACADEMIC JOURNAL

Oil & Gas Journal

Oil Sands Review

Energy

Energy & Fuels

HISTORY

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)

SunCor

University of Alberta

Fuel Chemistry Division 

CRS Report for Congress - North American Oil Sands: History of Development, Prospects for the Future

POLITICS

Alberta Government - Rules, Reports and Regulations

The Economist - Oil sands

Alberta Energy Regulator

Parlee - Avoiding the Resource Curse: Indigenous Communities and Canada’s Oil Sands

ECONOMICS

Alberta Energy: Oil Sands Sustainable Development Secretariat

The Oil Sands Developers Group

Alberta Government - Alberta's Oil Sands 

Canadian Energy Research Institute - Refining Bitumen: Costs, Benefits and Analysis

Canadian Energy Research Institute - Economic Impacts of New Oil Sands Projects in Alberta (2010-2035)

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Alberta Centre for Reclamation and Restoration Ecology

Total-EP Canada

Canadian Energy Research Institute - Oil Sands Environmental Impacts

The Royal Society of Canada - Environmental and Health Impacts of Canada's Oil Sands Industry

Alberta Government - Oil Sands Environmental Management

BUSINESS ANALYSIS

Alberta Energy: Oil Sands Sustainable Development Secretariat

Canada's National Energy Board

IHS - The Role of the Canadian Oil Sands in the US Market

HEALTH IMPACT

The Globe and Mail - Oil-sands link to health concerns

The Royal Society of Canada - Environmental and Health Impacts of Canada's Oil Sands Industry

SUSTAINABILITY

BP

Canadian Oil Sands

Oil Sands Review

OTHER INTERESTING ESSAYS/ARTICLES

The Wall Street Journal

New York Times

NASA

Oil Sands Review

The Wall Street Journal

Huffington Post - Alberta Oil Sands Articles

Financial Post - Majority of oil sands ownership and profits are foreign, says analysis

Take a Step Back

Oil Sands

Oil Sands is a form of heavy oil found in sand and rock primarily in the Athabasca region of Northern Alberta, Canada.

Heavy Oil

Heavy Oil is a form of unconventional oil that is thick and highly viscous, and therefore does not flow to production wells under normal reservoir conditions.

Unconventional Oil

Unconventional Oil refers to crude oil that is not produced by traditional extraction methods. This includes but is not limited to offshore, oil sands, and tight oil.

Keep Learning! Progress To

In Situ

In Situ refers to methods of oil sands production that use drilling and steam to produce bitumen. The most common in situ method is called Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD).

Oil Transport

Oil Transport refers to the various methods of transportation used to move oil from one location to another. These include pipelines, rail, shipping, and trucking.

Oil Storage

Oil Storage refers to tanks or terminals (a group of tanks) used to store produced oil above or below ground.