What are oil sands?
Oil sands are a mixture of sand, clay, water, and bitumen. Bitumen is extra-heavy crude oil, some of which is so viscous that it cannot flow on its own. When bitumen is deposited at shallow depths, it can be surface mined. However, about 80 per cent of the recoverable bitumen reserves in Alberta are buried too deep to mine and can only be recovered by drilling wells. This is referred to as “in situ” recovery.
We distinguish between heavy oil and crude bitumen geographically:
- crude bitumen: heavy oil production inside designated oil sands areas
- crude oil: heavy oil production outside designated oil sands areas