Making the oil sands industry leaner and cleaner

Making the oil sands industry leaner and cleaner

University of Calgary develops ways to reduce the cost and environmental impact of extracting bitumen from Alberta’s lucrative oil sands
March 2, 2012

Nexen Inc., an oil and gas company that employs more than 2,000 people in Alberta and 4,000 worldwide, is working with researchers at the University of Calgary to make its processes more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Alberta’s oil sands represent the world’s second largest hydrocarbon basin. Royalties from the Alberta oil sands totalled $1.9 billion in 2009-210 alone. It has been estimated that the oil sands will create more than $307 billion in tax revenue across Canada and more than 450,000 annual jobs over the next 25 years.

At the CFI-funded In Situ Energy Centre at U of C, researchers are developing processes that reduce the cost and environmental impact of bitumen extraction. Once tar-like bitumen is removed from the ground, it must be upgraded to heavy oil — a process that consumes large amounts of fresh water and energy. The centre is testing innovative ways of converting the bitumen before it leaves the ground — processes that are now being employed at Nexen’s facilities in northern Alberta.