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Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil

October 17, 2010

Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil are characterised by high viscosity, high density (low API gravity), and high concentrations of nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur, and heavy metals. These characteristics result in higher costs for extraction, transportation, and refining than are incurred with conventional oil. Despite their cost and technical challenges, major international oil companies have found it desirable to acquire, develop, and produce these resources in increasing volumes. Large in-place resource volumes provide a reliable long-term flow of liquid hydrocarbons and provide substantial payoff for any incremental improvements in recovery. High oil prices during 2007 and 2008 spurred new development and production which, in turn, have intensified concern about environmental effects of production increases.

Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil are the remnants of very large volumes of conventional oils that have been generated and degraded, principally by bacterial action. Chemically and texturally, bitumen and extra-heavy oil resemble the residuum generated by refinery distillation of light oil. The resource base of natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil is immense and not a constraint on the expansion of production. These resources can make an important contribution to future oil supply if they can be extracted and transformed into usable refinery feedstock at sufficiently high rates and at costs that are competitive with alternative sources.

Publication Year 2010
Title Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil
Authors Emil D. Attanasi, Richard F. Meyer
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70200473
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Energy Resources Science Center; Energy Resources Program