The iconic image associated with Canada’s oil sands development is that of a huge open pit mine, gargantuan dump trucks and enormous tailings ponds, but this production method is being outmoded as producers move to develop deeper bitumen deposits. Although it relies on a relatively young technology, in situ oil sands development is the wave of the future in Northern Alberta’s oil patch.
Commercial oil sands mining operations date back to the 1960′s and the technology that undergirds the process continues to evolve. Notably, some of the most interesting new technology is invisible, as companies are using horizontal drilling technology to recover oil from deposits located greater than 200 feet below ground. These deeper deposits account for 80 percent of total proven oil sands reserves and are expected to account for 80 percent of total oil sands production over the medium term, from about 50 percent mining and 50 percent in situ today. Keep reading →