What is Heavy Oil?

Simply defined, heavy oil is liquid petroleum of less than 20° API gravity. It has a high viscosity which keeps it from easily flowing.  Its difficult transportation is also due to the lower ratio of hydrogen to carbon as well as the presence of other minerals.

  • The main difference between light and heavy oil is the density and hence, its ability to flow.

Heavy oil is asphaltic, dense, and contains very large molecules of sulfur, resins, and metals found within oil, adding to its heavy density. Also, it can sometimes contain waxes and carbon residues which should be removed before refining oil. It is crucial to understand heavy oil’s properties to develop and operate efficient processes to extract oil from the ground.

Canada is one of the leading countries in the production of heavy oil. Therefore, there are different methods implemented across the country for the extraction of heavy oil.

The most common methods are:

  1. Cold heavy oil production with sand
  2. Steam assisted gravity drainage
  3. Steam injection
  4. Vapor extraction
  5. Toe-to-Heel air injection
  6. Open-pit mining
  7. In-SITU Operations

At Plainsman, we manufacture and distribute products for oilfield production, pipeline maintenance, construction and gas and water distribution. Check our products & services or learn more by calling our experts today 1-877-448-0586

Where does heavy oil come from?

Like most forms of petroleum, heavy oil originated from plant life millions of years ago. Formation of oil occurs when plants and organisms die and decompose. Their sediments are buried and compressed onto the bottom of the sea. Throughout time, weather conditions, the pressure of rocks as well as heat will take the carbohydrates and turn them into hydrocarbons. Then, these reservoirs of oil are most likely found in porous rocks like sandstone and limestone due to these rock’s characteristic permeability.

Canada holds the most extensive areas where oil can be found in the sand and rock commonly referred to as the Oil Sands. Oil sands are a kind of heavy oil and play a big role in our everyday Canadian economy. They contain mixtures of sand, water, and clay known as bitumen.

Heavy Oil Pros and Cons

Currently, heavy oil plays a big role as a large contributor to the world’s energy, specially as new methods for renewable energy are being sought.  However, new technologies are looking to replace our existing energy sources. For instance, ethanol, and hydrogen will more easily replace oil, similarly to how oil replaced coal. You can read more about coal and carbon in our blog about the end to Alberta’s carbon taxes by following this link: http://plainsmanmfg.com/blog/albertas-carbon-tax-and-what-it-means-for-you/

Furthermore, Canada’s economy heavily relies on the production of heavy oils, seeing as the region, along with Venezuela, has the largest oil sand reserves in the world.

  • Advantage: The energy density that creates an alternative source for transportation fuel and other products like plastics.
  • Disadvantage: These processes pose environmental obstacles such as greenhouse gas emissions.

At Plainsman manufacturing we are committed to finding the best ways to produce energy and reduce harmful gas emissions. We deliver superior quality products that meet our customers expectations in a timely, waste-free manner.