Oil sands, heavy oil, and bitumen : from recovery to refinery
During the late 1970s, when I was a graduate student just stepping into the petroleum arena and working toward my doctorate, the biggest fear in this field was the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). At that time, OPEC had an extraordinary influence over world oil industries. Baby boomers will remember the notorious “OPEC shock” of the ’70s, which caused panic in this country and had an immediate economic impact all over the world. More than a quarter-century later, that worry has diminished. OPEC’s ability to control the industry has immensely decreased, mostly because of the increasing availability of unconventional resources around the world. The vast oil sands deposits found in Canada—which are the second largest reserve, after the conventional resources in Saudi Arabia—changed everything. Few would disagree that the balance of power has shifted from the Middle East to the West. Canadian oil sands have become the focal point and comprise a major future energy source for the entire world—and will remain such as long as the price of conventional oil remains high.
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