Oil sands, tar sands, or heavy oils are a mixture of water, sand, clay, and bitumen. The bitumen can be extracted from the mixture and be upgraded into a higher-value synthetic crude oil for producing the same petroleum products as from conventional oil. Bitumen content in the sands is usually between 1 and 20 %.
Oil sands can be recovered by surface mining or from subsurface reservoirs by steam injection and they can be classified into two types. If the bitumen is separated from the sand by a film of water, the oil sands are called water-wet. The other type is oil-wet, where the bitumen is bonded directly to the sand, or with little water between them.
Because bitumen content is low in the oil sand, it is important to keep tight control during the extraction process to maximize bitumen recovery and quality.
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