The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Canada Bound

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted August 5, 2009

Occasionally, I'm offered the opportunity to visit oil and natural gas field operations at various places around the Northern Hemisphere. This week I'll be traveling to Ft. McMurray, Alberta, Canada, to see how oil sands are converted into crude oil.

Oil sands are thick, gooey deposits containing a mixture of heavy oil, water and sand. The heavy oil is called bitumen, which is too thick to flow or be pumped without being diluted or heated. Two different processes are used to produce oil from the oil sands--surface mining and in-situ--where the oil sands are heated with steam and pumped to the surface.

During the trip to Canada, I'll see both extraction techniques. I'll also have access to a camera and a videographer. As long as there are no technical glitches, I should return with photographs and video tape of the oil field operations that can be shared on this blog.

It has been estimated that Canadian oil sands could become an increasingly important source of energy for America. Cambridge Energy Research Associates projects that Canada could potentially account for as much as 37 percent of U.S. oil imports by 2035, up from 19 percent in 2008. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says oil sands now account for more than half of western Canada's total oil production. By 2020, production from Canada's oil sands is expected to rise from about 1.2 million barrels per day to about 3.3 million barrels per day. Overall, it's estimated that Canada has total proven oil reserves of more than 178 billion barrels with 173 billion barrels coming from oil sands.

I plan to provide daily updates on my trip to Canada on this blog and on Twitter. I hope you'll "tune in" for one person's perspective on oil sands operations.