Building a world of
resilient communities.



Researchers seek ‘holy grail’ of oil sands production via underground refineries

The University of Calgary has recruited two international heavy oil experts to chase some oil sands dreams, notably ways to refine raw bitumen underground.

Steve Larter of Britain and Pedro Pereira Almao of Venezuela will head up the research effort at the university’s newly opened Alberta Ingenuity Centre for In Situ Recovery.

University President Harvey Weingarten said new methods of developing the oil sands are vital because of the decline in conventional oil and gas reserves and increasing environmental constraints.

“Every 1 percent increase in the recovery rate of Alberta’s bitumen translates into C$26 billion in additional gross domestic product,” he said.

The challenge, said Almao, is to find alternatives to the use of water, natural gas and diluents in the extraction and processing of bitumen.

“Canada cannot sustain for … more than probably 20 years the use of natural gas and diluent to produce bitumen,” he said.

Larter, who has done research on heavy oil in the British North Sea, said that 10 years from now he hopes the oil industry is “very, very different ... using some technologies that we’ve contributed to.

“What we’re trying to do is essentially build the refinery in the reservoir … but we’re looking at a long-term program.”

Larter said oil and gas are not needed to heat homes or power cars — what is needed is energy.

“Maybe in the very long term we burn oil inside the reservoir and produce electricity directly for fuel cells,” he said.

Larter said early efforts to use chemicals to break down bitumen are already under way at a site operated by Devon Energy in northeastern Alberta.

A breakthrough there would be revolutionary, he said.

Through the facility, Devon has already gained experience in the use of steam-assisted gravity drainage technology to underpin plans for its C$500 million Jackfish project.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Sign up for regular Resilience bulletins direct to your email.

Take action!  

Find out more about Community Resilience. See our COMMUNITIES page
Start your own projects. See our RESOURCES page.
Help build resilience. DONATE NOW.


This is a community site and the discussion is moderated. The rules in brief: no personal abuse and no climate denial. Complete Guidelines.

Oil and the Global Economy  

How important is oil to the future of the global economy?

California Finding New Ways To Extend Benefits Of Solar To Low-Income, Minority Communities

The California legislature has sent a bill to Governor Jerry Brown’s …

Peak Oil Notes - Oct 8

 A midweek update. After three days of increases which took oil prices …

Richard Heinberg: After the Burn  

After a two-century-long burning bender, the globe is in for a heck of a …

Supply, Demand, and the Price of Oil

Could the price of oil be a value such that the current quantity produced …

Peak Oil Review - Oct 5

 A weekly update, including: -Quote of the Week -Oil and the Global …

"Blood and Oil," North Dakota, and dreams not exactly fulfilled

Last week a new television series set amidst the North Dakota oil boom …