Review of groundwater information associated with in situ recovery

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  • The Athabasca Oil Sands cover an area of approximately 36,000 km2 and contain an estimated 626 billion barrels of bitumen (approximately 100 billion m3) in place. Recovery of this bitumen will be undertaken by strip mining where the oil sands are covered by less than 100 m of overburden. The total reserves that can be removed by strip mining are in the order of 74 billion barrels (12 billion m3). This leaves an estimated 552 billion barrels (88 billion m3) of bitumen (88%) to be recovered by the in situ process. At the time of preparing this report there were three pilot plants operated by Amoco, Gulf, and Texaco. Because of the size of the reserves and the increasing need to develop domestic oil sources it appears that commercial development will increase significantly over the next few decades. Such massive-scale development could have substantial effect on the groundwater resources of the region. These changes could, in turn, impact on other environmental parameters. The purpose of this project was to document existing hydrogeological data, identify areas of concern and to outline a plan for monitoring changes in groundwater flow or quality.

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