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Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil

October 16, 2004

Crude oil is found in sedimentary rocks throughout the world, except, thus far, in Antarctica. In many places the oil has been degraded, so that it is represented by viscous black oil that is difficult to recover, transport, and refine. Depending upon the degree of degradation the result is extra-heavy oil or, in the extreme case, natural bitumen. Except in Canada, precise quantitative reserves and oilin-place data on a reservoir basis are seldom available because most countries and companies consider such information to be proprietary. Natural bitumen is the oil contained in clastic and carbonate reservoir rocks, most frequently in small deposits at, or near, the earth’s surface. These rocks are commonly referred to as tar sands or oil sands and have been mined since antiquity for use as paving. Occasionally such deposits are extremely large in areal extent and in contained resources, most notably those in northern Alberta, Canada. In 2003 only the Alberta bitumen deposits were being exploited as a source of crude oil. Similarly, reservoirs containing extra-heavy oil are geographically widespread but only one such deposit is sufficiently large to have a major supply and economic impact. That deposit is the Orinoco Oil Belt in Eastern Venezuela. Nowhere else in the world is such a concentration of extra heavy oil known or likely to exist. Definitions of terms used in this commentary may be found immediately prior to Table 4.1. The resource definitions are those of the World Petroleum Congress-Society of Petroleum Engineers-American Association of Petroleum Geologists, with minor additions. One such addition, e.g. is the term Original Reserves, comprised of Proved Reserves plus Cumulative Production, which tends to place new and mature reservoirs on a more nearly comparable basis than either term alone

Publication Year 2004
Title Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil
Authors R. F. Meyer, Emil D. Attanasi
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70206008
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse