Always interested in exploration and production, geologic discoveries and new engineering technologies, David Lawrence, a retired Shell executive, once headed exploration projects for Shell’s Global and Upstream Americas operations, as well as the Upstream Americas Commercial, LNG and wind businesses. As an energy advisor, investor and current chairperson of the advisory board of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute, David Lawrence keeps current on many industry and Shell developments, including heavy oil and the Athabasca oil sands project in Canada.
The Athabasca oil sands project (AOSP) is situated in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada. Because of the processing method used at the site, crude oil can be produced for the later manufacture of petroleum and diesel fuel. About 20% of the bitumen in the region can be extracted from the surface with massive electric shovels and trucks.
The trucks carry the mined oily sand to a treatment facility where the viscous mix is treated with water to separate the sand and bitumen. Almost all of the bitumen that is used for making synthetic crude is derived from oil sand mining activities. Bitumen in the area is piped to an upgrader facility to complete the processing of the product. The byproduct is then sent to refineries to produce diesel gas and fuel.
While oil sand is found in a number of locales worldwide, such as the United States, Russia, and Venezuela, the Athabasca deposit is the largest development of its kind.