How is it possible to produce oil from sand?

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Have you ever heard about oil sands? This geologic formation is mixture of water, clay and viscous, heavy oil known as bitumen. Majority of the oil sands reserves are located in Canada where have been intensively exploiting for about 50 years. The largest accumulation of them is located across 54,000 square miles in three Alberta deposits. Oil is derived from the oil sands and may be refined and used to make e.g. jet fuel, gasoline or asphalt.
Canadian oil sands’ production has grown and nowadays is estimated to be more than 1 million barrels per day of U.S. oil imports.
Depending on depth of the reserves, producers used to deploy one of two methods: Surface Mining and In Situ drilling.
First of them is using when oil sands reserves are close to surface. Huge mining shovels dig into formation, then transport sandy mixture to large trucks. During the transport, bitumen begins to separate from the sands and other formations. Finally, the bitumen is removed and transported to refinery.
If reserves are deeper than 250 feet, using of mining shovels is unprofitable. In that case, producers use second method called In Situ Drilling. Average depth of single well drilled into the ground is about 1,300 ft. Bitumen oil is too heavy to flow automatically without being heated or diluted. Therefore, in  majority of in situ operations, steam is injected into the well to liquefy the bitumen, which is  pumped to the surface through another well.

What are Oil Sands? |oilsandsfactcheck

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About author

Maciej Wawrzkowicz

Fifth year student of Mining and Geology at Faculty of Drilling, Oil and Gas at AGH University of Scince and Technology in Krakow, Poland. In YoungPetro, Deputy Editor-In-Chief, social media co-conductor, manager of the 'Ambassadors' project and 'How it works' section. HR manager of SPE AGH UST Student Chapter Poland. As a Lab assistance conducts also researches in terms of water recovery from drilling fluids. Interested in various sources of energy. Privately, loves high mountain tourism and low cost traveling.

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