Oil Sands, Tar Sands, Bitumen, Oil Sands Define, Oil Sands news


Oil sands are a mixture of sand, water, clay and a highly viscous, dark and tar like petroleum substance called bitumen.

Here are some facts about bitumen:

  • comprises polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
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  • is soluble in carbon disulfide.
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  • is highly inflammable.
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  • has been used in construction from its earliest times.
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  • can be separated from oil sands.
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  • helps to extract synthetic oil.
  • Canada dominates the production of bitumen. In 2006, Canada’s daily production of crude bitumen averaged roughly 1.1 million barrels. The 2007 oil market outlook indicated by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers predicts a huge increase in its daily production to 4.4 million barrels by 2020.

    Large reserves of oil sands, also called as tar sands, were discovered in Venezuela and Canada. There are about 1.7 trillion barrels of reserves in Athabasca Oil Sands (Canada) and 1.8 trillion barrels of extra heavy crude in the Venezuelan Orinoco oil sands. In fact, the oil sands account for around 66% of the world’s total oil reserves, according to the energy business reports published in 2008.

    Oil Sands: Uses

    Oil sands and bitumen have various uses. Some are:

    • Bitumen is used in construction and maintenance of roads.
    • Bitumen is often used for waterproofing the rooftops of buildings.
    • Ever since oil prices soared in 2003, oil sands have been used to extract synthetic crude oil.

    Oil Sands: Importance

    Decades ago, oil sands were too costly and unprofitable to pursue but now it has emerged as a key commodity in international trade. Further, outputs from the Athabasca Oil Sands are highly in demand with the US and China. These two countries compete to gain a larger share of Canada’s oil sand outputs. The political and economic importance of oil sands is predicted to soar in proportion to its four fold increase in output by 2020.

    Oil Sands: Extraction and Processing

    Oil sands are usually extracted by surface mining, which involves the removal of soil and rock that cover the mineral deposits.

    Originally, draglines, bucket wheel excavators and conveyer belts were used for mining and transporting oil sands deposits to the processing plants. Now this is done by power shovels and dump trucks. Strip mining method is also used to reduce the viscosity of the deposits.

    After excavation of the oil sands, they are treated with caustic soda and hot water. This helps to break the clumps. It converts them into the liquid form so that the resulting substance or slurry can be sent for processing to extraction plants.

    The demand for oil sands is bound to grow as the world is poised to pursue profitable ventures in every sector and industry.

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