Advancement in refining technologies enabling the crude oil refiners to process and refine the heaviest and dirtiest of crude has boosted the drilling activities pertaining to heavy oil and oil sands. Oil sands are the sandstones saturated with viscous petroleum (bitumen). In addition to the petroleum sandstones are also enriched with a mixture of sand, water and clay. Rapid industrialization driving the demand for fossil fuels especially in the developing nations such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa and others is the major factor augmenting the drilling activities pertaining to the oil sands. Bituminous sands or the oil sands are the unconventional sources of fossil fuel with majority of production coming out of Canada and Venezuela.
Segmentation of oil sands market can be done on the basis of technology used for extraction and geography. The two major technologies used for the extraction of oil sands include the Cyclic Steam Stimulation (CSS) and Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD). Cyclic steam stimulation process is carried out by injecting the high pressure steam into the oil well for several weeks. Once the oil gets melted due to high pressure and temperature of steam it is pumped out of the well. Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage is a two horizontal well process. Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage is done by injecting the low pressure steam into the reservoir to separate the sand from oil and gas. Oil accumulated at the bottom is the pumped to the surface. Other technologies used for extraction includes Vapor Extraction, Combustion Overhead Gravity Drainage (COGD), Toe to Heal Air Injection and Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sands (CHOPS).
Oil sands production is limited with only Canada, Venezuela, and Democratic republic of Congo producing in significant levels. North America is the leading oil sand extraction market. The Alberta oil sands in Canada are one of the largest oil sands reservoirs in the world. Currently, a large percentage of oil production is contributed by the oil sands of Alberta. Venezuela’s heavy oil deposits are mainly concentrated in the Orinoco Belt of the country. The political turmoil in the country has negatively affected its heavy oil production and Venezuela is now facing an intense competition from Canada for the export of heavy oil to the U.S. Democratic Republic of Congo is produces only a small amount of heavy oil. The heavy oil production in the country was commenced by the Italian oil and gas company ENI in 2008.
Increasing energy demands arising as a result of rapid industrialization in emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa are the major drivers for the oil sands market. Moreover, the advancement in the refining technology enabling the refiners to process the heaviest of crude oil has also augmented the drilling activities pertaining to the extraction of oil sands. Rigorous efforts by the U.S. government to reduce country’s energy imports (oil sands) coupled with the shale gas boom within the U.S. has negatively affected the oil sands market.
Some of the key players in the global Oil Sands Market include companies such as Suncor Energy, Inc. Royal Dutch Shell plc, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), Eni S.p.A., Canadian Oil Sands Limited, Alberta Oil Sands Inc. and others.