Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil

By:  and 
Edited by: J. A. Trinnaman and A. Clarke



Since 2005, oil price increases have greatly increased investment in the production of extra- heavy oil and natural bitumen (tar sands or oil sands) to supplement conventional oil supplies. These oils are characterised by their high viscosity, high density (low API gravity), and high concentrations of nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur, and heavy metals. Extra-heavy oil and natural bitumen are the remnants of very large volumes of conventional oils that have been generated and subsequently degraded, principally by bacterial action. Chemically and texturally, they resemble the residuum produced by refinery distillation of light oil. Although these viscous oils are much more costly to extract, transport and refine than conventional oils, production levels have increased to more than 1.6 million barrels per day, or just under 2% of world crude oil production. The resource base of extra-heavy oil and natural bitumen is immense and can easily support a substantial expansion in production. This resource base can make a major contribution to oil supply, if it can be extracted and transformed into useable refinery feedstock at sufficiently high rates and at costs that are competitive with alternative resources. Technology must continue to be developed to address emerging challenges (both environmental and economic) in the market supply chain.

Study Area

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil
Year Published 2007
Language English
Publisher World Energy Council
Contributing office(s) Eastern Energy Resources Science Center, Energy Resources Program
Description 25 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title 2007 survey of energy resources
First page 119
Last page 143
Country Canada, Venezuela
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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