Քnչարյանի nւնեցվածքը պետшկանացվում Է

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The Athabasca oil sands lie along the Athabasca River and are the largest natural bitumen deposit in the world, containing about 80% of the Alberta total, and the only one suitable for surface mining. With modern unconventional oil production technology, at least 10% of these deposits, or about 170 Gbbl (27×109 m3) are considered to be economically recoverable, making Canada’s total proven reserves the third largest in the world, after Saudi Arabia’s conventional oil and Venezuela’s Orinoco oil sands.

The Athabasca oil sands are more or less centered around the remote northern city of Fort McMurray. They are by far the largest deposit of bitumen in Canada, probably containing over 150 billion cubic metres (900 billion barrels) of oil in place. The bitumen is highly viscous and is often denser than water (10°API or 1000 kg/m3). The oil saturated sands range from 15 to 65 metres (49 to 213 ft) thick in places, and the oil saturation in the oil-rich zones is on the order of 90% bitumen by weight.[24]

The Athabasca River cuts through the heart of the deposit, and traces of the heavy oil are readily observed as black stains on the river banks. Since portions of the Athabasca sands are shallow enough to be surface-mineable, they were the earliest ones to see development. Historically, the bitumen was used by the indigenous Cree and Dene Aboriginal peoples to waterproof their canoes. The Athabasca oil sands first came to the attention of European fur traders in 1719 when Wa-pa-su, a Cree trader, brought a sample of bituminous sands to the Hudson’s Bay Company post at York Factory on Hudson Bay.

Oil sands on the banks of the Athabasca River, c. 1900
In 1778, Peter Pond, a fur trader for the rival North West Company, was the first European to see the Athabasca deposits. In 1788, fur trader and explorer Alexander Mackenzie from the Hudson Bay Company, who later discovered the Mackenzie River and routes to both the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, described the oil sands in great detail. He said, «At about 24 miles (39 km) from the fork (of the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers) are some bituminous fountains into which a pole of 20 feet (6.1 m) long may be inserted without the least resistance. The bitumen is in a fluid state and when mixed with gum, the resinous substance collected from the spruce fir, it serves to gum the Indians’ canoes.»

In 1883, G.C. Hoffman of the Geological Survey of Canada tried separating the bitumen from oil sand with the use of water and reported that it separated readily. In 1888, Robert Bell of the Geological Survey of Canada reported to a Senate Committee that «The evidence … points to the existence in the Athabasca and Mackenzie valleys of the most extensive petroleum field in America, if not the world.» In 1926, Karl Clark of the University of Alberta patented a hot water separation process which was the forerunner of today’s thermal extraction processes. However, it was 1967 before the first large scale commercial operation began with the opening of the Great Canadian Oil Sands mine by the Sun Oil Company of Ohio.

 

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