The Process Explained

Turning oil sands into crude oil starts at the SAGD well pads. Horizontal wells are drilled in pairs to access the oil sands deposits that are located more than 200 metres underground. One well injects steam into the oil sands deposit. The heat from the steam melts the bitumen, enabling it to flow along with water that forms as the steam cools, to the lower well. The bitumen and water are then pumped to the surface.
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The next step: Production separation & treating. Bitumen and water are separated into two streams: water (which is cleaned and reused to generate more steam) and bitumen (which is mixed with diluent, a light hydrocarbon that dilutes the very thick bitumen and enables the separation process).
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The diluted bitumen is sent to the OrCrude™ unit. Bitumen is partially upgraded and asphaltenes (the lowest value portion of the bitumen) are removed. The diluent is also removed and returned to the separation and treatment facility where it is reused.
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The next step in the process occurs within the gasifier. This technology takes the asphaltenes and converts them into synthetic gas or "syngas". Hydrogen is removed from the syngas and sent to the hydrocracker. The remainder of the syngas is used as fuel that supplies most of the site’s energy needs.
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Next up is the hydrocracker. The hydrocracker is where hydrogen is combined with the partially upgraded oil to remove sulphur and improve the oil quality to produce Premium Synthetic Crude.
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Transport to market. A pipeline connects Long Lake to the Cheecham Terminal, located about 20 km south, where it links into the Athabasca Pipeline system. Crude oil from Long Lake is processed in refineries throughout North America to generate a range of consumer and industrial products including gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel and petroleum-based products such as plastics, beauty products, paint and carpet.
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Supporting the entire facility is the cogeneration unit. Long Lake features a cogeneration unit that provides steam for the SAGD operations and electrical power for the site. Nexen generates more electricity than the site requires, selling this excess to the Alberta power grid.
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The final step in the process: Reclaim the land. All oil sands producers are required to restore the landscape to its equivalent capacity. At Long Lake, portions of our lease are already undergoing reclamation, even though the facility will be in operation for decades to come. Reclamation efforts to date include the planting of more than 660,000 trees and shrubs to mitigate areas disturbed by seismic and core hole exploration.
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