New Production Techniques for Alberta Oil Sands

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Science  19 Dec 1986:
Vol. 234, Issue 4783, pp. 1515-1518
DOI: 10.1126/science.234.4783.1515


Low world oil prices represent a serious threat to expanded commercial development of the Canadian oil sands in the near term, as they do to all of the higher cost alternatives to crude oil such as oil shales and coal liquefaction. Nonetheless, research and field testing of new technology for production of oil from oil sands are being pursued by industry and government in Alberta. New production technology is being developed in Canada to produce synthetic oil from the vast resources of bitumen trapped in the oil sands and bituminous carbonates of northern Alberta. This technology includes improved methods of mining, extraction, and upgrading of bitumen from near-surface deposits as well as new drilling and production techniques for thermal production of bitumen from the more deeply buried reservoirs. Of particular interest are the cluster drilling methods designed to reduce surface disturbance and the techniques for horizontal drilling of wells from underground tunnels to increase the contact of injection fluids with the reservoir.