Alberta oil is produced in the Athabasca Tar Sands, located in Northern Alberta, Canada. It contains large deposits of an extremely heavy crude oil called bitumen. The oil sands are located in the McMurray Formation, which is the outcrop that is on the banks of the Athabasca River. The oil sands also contain silica sand, clay minerals, and water. It is the largest reservoir of crude bitumen in the world. There are also bitumen deposits near Peace River and Cold Lake. Alberta oil has the viscosity of heavy molasses.
Because Alberta oil is so heavy, it is not easily extracted by conventional methods. The oil company had to use a variation of the Clark Hot Water Extraction (CHWE) process. In this process, the ores are mined using open-pit mining technology. The mined ore is then crushed and hot water at 50 -- 80 ?C is added to the ore and the formed slurry is transported using hydro-transport line to a primary separation vessel (PSV) where bitumen is recovered by flotation as bitumen froth. The recovered bitumen froth needs to be cleaned to reject the contained solids and water to meet the requirement of downstream upgrading processes. Depending on the bitumen content in the ore, between 90 and 100% of the bitumen can be recovered using modern hot water extraction techniques. After oil extraction, the spent sand and other materials are then returned to the mine, which is eventually reclaimed. More recently, in-situ methods like steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) have been developed to extract bitumen from deep deposits by injecting steam to heat the sands and reduce the bitumen viscosity so that it can be pumped out like conventional crude oil.
Most of the Alberta oil is unconventional oil. That means that the oil is not extracted using conventional methods. The extraction process for Alberta oil is costly because it requires a huge investment in equipment, manpower, land, and electricity. Some projects are in danger of not being completed because of a worker shortage, even after attempts by several oil companies to locate construction to other areas to save money on overhead.
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