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About Oil Sands

Laricina is focused on leading-edge bitumen (oil sands) exploration, development and production. For reasons of resource opportunity, cost-efficiency and environmental footprint, Laricina has chosen to focus exclusively on in situ or drillable recovery rather than surface mining opportunities.


What are oil sands?

The oil sands are buried sedimentary deposits composed primarily of sand, bitumen hydrocarbon, mineral-rich clays and water. Bitumen is a heavy, viscous form of crude oil that can be recovered from the surface through mining techniques or from deeper underground using drilled wells and some form of chemical or thermal stimulation, which is known as in situ production. The depth of the resource determines the development approach. Generally, 75 metres is considered the lower practical limit of surface mining.

Alberta’s oil sands are contained in three regions.
(Map courtesy of Alberta Energy Regulator (AER))

Alberta’s oil sands are contained in three regions: Athabasca, Cold Lake and Peace River. Respectively, these areas hold approximately 82 percent, 10 percent and 8 percent of Alberta’s estimated bitumen resource. Athabasca is the most developed of the three regions, holding all of Alberta’s large oil sands surface mines as well as numerous in situ projects. Cold Lake has a number of thermal developments, including Canada’s first large in situ venture. Peace River is the least developed region but has seen substantial investment in thermal as well as primary "cold-pumped" projects in recent years.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) estimates the total bitumen resource-in-place in Alberta to be approximately 1.8 trillion barrels (which would be greater than all of the world’s known conventional reserves). Of this amount, 315 billion barrels are considered potentially recoverable using future technologies and economic conditions, and of that amount, 167.9 billion barrels are considered to be established or proved reserves that can be recovered using current, known technology. This estimate has been accepted by major international forecasting agencies such as the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Stratigraphy of the target bitumen-bearing zones: McMurray, Grand Rapids, Grosmont and Winterburn.

Of the estimated 1.8 trillion barrels of total bitumen resource-in-place, roughly 536 billion barrels are attributed to carbonate formations. At 406 billion barrels, the Grosmont Formation is by far the largest carbonate reservoir in Alberta. The Grosmont Formation is a dolomitized, shallow marine and tidal flat carbonate complex characterized by high bitumen saturation, extensive vertical fracturing, karsting and high permeability. With the successful development of the Grosmont carbonates, Canada’s oil reserves could surpass those of Saudi Arabia.

Overall, 20 percent of Alberta’s bitumen reserves are estimated to be recoverable from mining and 80 percent from in situ production. In 2012, Alberta's production of crude bitumen reached over 1.9 million bbl/d; of this surface mining accounted for 48 percent and in-situ for 52 percent. As of January 2013, there were 127 operating oil sands projects in Alberta, with only five of them being mining projects.

Where Energy
Meets Innovation

Laricina is advancing in situ technology and innovation, through its forward thinking approach and practices. Our ideas begin with people whose knowledge is based on years of in situ experience, redefining and shaping several of the processes we are implementing today.

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