Technology Makes It Possible
Modern oil sands production technology has transformed the ability to provide the United States with a supply of oil that is not only close to home, but also from a country that shares our American interests.
Scientists have known of the existence of oil sands in Canada for a very long time, but advances in technology have transformed how oil can be extracted. These include processes, such as in-situ, which means in-place drilling, and new technology, such as Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD).
The in-situ process involves drilling two wells deep underground, and shaping them horizontally, eventually placing one above the other. Using SAGD, the higher well is filled with extremely hot water creating steam, which therefore heats the ground and releases the oil sands into the lower well. From this point, the oil sands are liquefied and brought to the surface, where the refining process begins.
The video below will provide you, in a few short minutes, an understanding of the in situ and SAGD processes.
Source: Video Courtesy of EnCana