Part of Oil sands

Gas over bitumen

Gas over bitumen occurs when natural gas pools are found above bitumen reservoirs.


Industry and the Alberta government are collaborating to find technical solutions to the issue of gas over bitumen, which can affect future bitumen recovery.

Why is it an issue?

Technical and financial factors

Depletion of a gas pool causes lower pressure in the zone above a bitumen reservoir. This makes it more difficult to recover the bitumen.

In addition, when steam is injected into the bitumen reservoir, there is a high potential for it to escape into the depleted gas pool, requiring significantly more steam to recover the bitumen. This increases the cost of the operation.

Bitumen and natural gas rights can be leased separately. Technical and regulatory solutions are needed to maximize the recovery potential and minimize costs of recovering both resources.

Shut-in order

In April 2000, the Alberta Energy Regulator issued Decision Report 2000-02, which shut in production from 146 natural gas wells in the Surmont area.

A joint industry and government committee was struck to find a technical solution that would allow independent production of both bitumen and natural gas, the task was outlined in the Gas Over Bitumen Project Scope.

Finding a solution

This Technical Solution Roadmap helps companies decide how a research project could aid in finding a technical solution to the gas-over-bitumen issue.

More information

Read this 1998 report, Bitumen Conservation Requirements Affecting Gas Production in Oil Sands Areas, by the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (now known as the Alberta Energy Regulator) on gas and bitumen production in the oil sands areas.

Progress reports

The following progress reports from (2003 – 2008) detail the industry and government collaboration to find a technical solution to the gas-over-bitumen issue:


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