Part of About oil sands

Oil sands glossary

These terms appear on this site and are commonly used by the oil sands industry.

The glossary



Converting a drilled well to a condition that can be left indefinitely without further attention


Imperial unit of area measurement that equals 43,560 square feet. There are 640 acres in a section. Imperial measures are no longer used in Alberta legislation and area is now measured in hectares.

Actual financial transaction

A transaction that has actually been incurred, is supported by documentation, and has specific, practical application for an oil sands royalty project

Advance ruling

The Department of Energy and Minerals' (the department) statement on how it will interpret the applicable laws, policies and guidelines with respect to proposed business arrangements or specific allowed costs that relate to oil sands royalty projects

Agreement holder

The holder of an oil sands permit or lease

Allowed cost

Costs or other amounts under the Oil Sands Allowed Costs (Ministerial) Regulation that may be eligible for deduction from project revenues in the calculation of oil sands royalty

API gravity

The gravity of crude bitumen as measured by a hydrometer and expressed in degrees on the American Petroleum Institute scale. API gravity = (141.5/specific gravity) - 131.5. The lower the API gravity, the heavier and more viscous the bitumen. Athabasca bitumen has an API gravity number of less than 10°.


Benzene, toluene and xylene. These chemicals are used to increase the octane of gasoline.


Large hydrocarbon molecules found in low percentages within light crude oil, but larger percentages within heavier crude oils and even higher proportions in bitumen. Asphaltenes have a very high viscosity and low hydrogen-to-carbon ratio. Asphaltenes are soluble in aromatic solvents but not soluble in straight-chain solvents such as pentane or heptane.


A test performed on a sample of ores, minerals or oil to determine the substance’s physical and chemical properties. For crude oil and bitumen, the assays typically identify the viscosity, density, acidity and amount of sulphur.



A measure of volume equivalent to 0.159 m3 or 159 litres. Many of the examples used in these guidelines use 1,590 m3, the equivalent of 10,000 barrels.

Basic service

Any service provided by an affiliate, using a capital asset that is not part of the project, to recover or obtain oil sands products or clean crude bitumen obtained from oil sands products, produced pursuant to the project.


A system of tanks or surface equipment that receives natural gas or bitumen from one or more wells prior to delivery to market or other disposition. A battery may include equipment for separating and measuring oil, gas and water.


A thick, sticky form of crude oil that is so heavy and viscous that it will not flow unless it is heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons. At room temperature, bitumen looks much like cold molasses. It typically contains more sulphur, metals and heavy hydrocarbons than conventional crude oil.

Bitumen cracking

The process of breaking the large, complex bitumen hydrocarbon molecules into smaller, lighter molecules that are often more easily refined into more useful feedstocks or products

Blended bitumen

Cleaned crude bitumen that has been blended with diluent so that it can be transported by pipeline

Blended heavy oil

Heavy crude oil to which lighter oil has been added to make the product transportable by pipeline


The amount paid for Crown mineral rights. The Crown receives a bonus regardless of whether the rights are sold directly or through a public offering.


The higher-boiling residue of crude oil that is removed from the bottom of a fractionating column

Brackish water

Water that has total dissolved solids exceeding 4,000 milligrams per litre (as defined in Part 1(1)(z) of the Alberta Water (Ministerial) Regulation, May 6, 1999), also referred to as saline groundwater. Source: Alberta Energy Regulator’s (AER) – formerly Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB)

Bucketwheel reclaimer

A colossal mining machine that uses toothed buckets on a revolving wheel to scoop up oil sand from the ground and deposit it on a conveyor belt system. That system then moves it to an extraction plant. Bucketwheel reclaimers are the size of a football field. Oil sands mine operators replaced the bucketwheel-and-conveyor system in the mid to late 1990s. They now use the shovel-and truck method.


Carbon capture and storage

The removal of CO2 from effluent streams in industrial processes and the subsequent injection of that CO2 into underground chambers

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

A naturally occurring gas resulting from respiration and combustion. It is the most common greenhouse gas produced by human activities.


Assists a chemical reaction by lowering temperature or pressure requirements

Cleaned crude bitumen

Crude bitumen that has had enough impurities removed that it can be blended with diluent and transported by pipeline.

CO boiler

Combusts carbon monoxide and off-gas to recover energy and reduce emissions


Concurrent production of usable forms of energy from a single fuel source using electricity and thermal and/or mechanical energy


High-carbon byproduct of coking


The process of applying high temperature and pressure to crude oil to produce coke and light liquid hydrocarbons

Combustion overhead gravity drainage

An experimental production method that uses an array of vertical air-injection wells above a horizontal production well. Bitumen is partially combusted underground, with air fed from the array of vertical injection wells. Gravity then causes the hot bitumen to flow down to the horizontal well, where it is pumped to the surface.

Composite tailings

Fine tailings combined with gypsum and sand. Composite tailings settle more rapidly than standard tailings, resulting in faster reclamation times.

Concept audit

An advance review conducted by the department. This process verifies that a proposed or current research project or activity is directly attributable to an oil sands royalty project.


A mixture of hydrocarbons that is present as a gas in an underground reservoir but that condenses into a liquid upon recovery


The system that allows lessees to retain the productive rights in their agreements past the initial term's expiry date

Continued lease

An oil sands lease that is granted for an indefinite term once the holder of a primary lease (or equivalent) has met the required minimum level of evaluation. Continued leases are classified as producing or non-producing. Non-producing continued leases are subject to escalating rent.

Conventional crude oil

Petroleum in liquid form that can be pumped without processing or dilution


The Government of Alberta (that is, the Crown in Right of Alberta)

Crown rights

Surface rights or mineral rights that are owned by the Government of Alberta

Crude bitumen

Defined in the Mines and Minerals Act as a naturally occurring viscous mixture, mainly of hydrocarbons heavier than pentane, that may contain sulphur compounds. In its naturally occurring viscous state, crude bitumen will not flow to a well.

Crude oil

A combustible hydrocarbon usually processed into a variety of petrochemicals. These include gasoline, diesel, propane and many more.

Cumulative cost

With regard to an oil sands royalty project, the sum of (1) the project’s prior net cumulative balance, (2) the project’s allowed costs and (3) royalty paid to the Crown during the project’s pre-payout period.

Cumulative cost balance

See net cumulative balance

Cumulative revenue

With regard to an oil sands royalty project, the sum of project revenue and other net proceeds received or receivable from the project’s effective date onwards

Cyclic steam stimulation

An in situ method of bitumen recovery that uses steam injection to reduce the viscosity of bitumen deposits. This makes it possible to pump bitumen to the surface. The process occurs in cycles. Steam injection is followed by a resting period, then a production phase. This cycle repeats.


Deeper rights reversion

The requirement that unproven zones are returned to the Crown at the expiry of an agreement

Deeper Rights Reversion Zone Designation (DRRZD)

Identifies a zone by its name. DRRZDs are used primarily for deeper rights reversion, but can also be used for other purposes, such as offsets. See also zone designation.

Designated representative

In relation to an Oil Sands Agreement, is defined in 1 of the following 2 ways. It can refer to the person designated as the representative of the lessee(s) of the agreement, according to the notice of the designation given to the minister. It can also mean the lessee of the agreement. This is the case if the agreement is held by only one lessee who has not given the minister a notice of a designation of a representative, or has given the minister a notice of the revocation of a previous designation of a representative.

Development area

The lands and subsurface strata included as part of an oil sands royalty project


Bitumen diluted with a diluent


A hydrocarbon substance used to dilute crude bitumen so that it can be transported by pipeline

Direct purchase

The purchase of Crown-owned oil sands rights by private sale rather than through the public offering process

Directly attributable costs

Costs that are solely, completely, entirely or wholly attributable to the project, not just indirectly related to it


A grant, transfer or agreement. Where any reference is made in the Oil Sands Royalty Regulation (OSRR), 2009, to the disposing or disposition of any thing, the reference shall be construed as referring to a sale or any other disposition of the thing to a person who by reason of the sale or disposition becomes its owner.


Separating the various components of crude oil or bitumen by adding heat


Effective date

With regard to an oil sands royalty project, the date from which royalty begins to be calculated under the terms of the OSRR 2009 or OSRR 1997.

End-of-period statement

A type of royalty report. The department requires an annual end-of-period statement for both pre-payout and post-payout oil sands royalty projects. This provides a detailed summary of the project’s financial- and production-related operations.

Escalating rent

A payment due from developers who wish to retain their oil sands rights to non-producing continued leases. Rent for such leases is charged on an escalating basis according to a schedule published in the Oil Sands Tenure Regulation.

Established reserves

Hydrocarbon reserves considered to be recoverable using currently available technology and at present economic conditions


The process of gathering descriptive technical data about the oil sands zone or zones included in oil sands agreements. This includes geological, geophysical, engineering and production information. Evaluation data provides valuable information about the nature and characteristics of the oil sands resource.


The process of separating sand from bitumen



Includes, but is not limited to, a bitumen battery, battery compressor station, gathering system, gas processing plant, reprocessing plant, gas injection facility, commercial storage facility, field dehydrator or separator, water disposal or injection plant, oil cleaning plant, waste processing and disposal facility, loading facility, truck or pipeline terminal.

Fair market value

The department’s determination of the value of a good or service based on the value of comparable goods or services available on the open market

Fine tailings

Water that contains very small particles of suspended clay produced by the mining extraction process

Fluid coking

Fluid coking occurs when the recycling of coke particles of less than 44 microns in diameter to the coking reactor is minimized by passing the stream of coke taken from the coking reactor to a vessel containing a fluidized bed of solids. The coke withdrawn from the coker is passed into 1 zone where the seed generation is performed. Here, the coke particles combine to create larger, heavier particles. Coke recycled to the coker is withdrawn from the second zone, where separating occurs between the light and heavy coke particles. This process is suitable for once-through fluid coking to minimize small fines in the coker liquid product.

Fractional Crown rights

When the Crown holds less than 50% of the rights to the smallest applicable spacing unit, as established by the AER (formerly ERCB)

Freehold rights

Mineral rights that are not owned by the federal or provincial governments or by the Crown in Right of Alberta

Freehold well

A well that is drilled on freehold rights

Function (direct or primary)

A complete operating function of a project. This includes mining of oil sands, recovery of crude bitumen from a well, processing of oil sands to recover crude bitumen and upgrading of crude bitumen.


Good faith estimate

A monthly royalty report required by the department for post-payout oil sands royalty projects. The estimate provides a detailed summary of the financial- and production-related operations of the project. It includes actual (or best estimates of) figures for previous months and forecasted figures for future months.

Greenhouse gases

Mainly, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). These all contribute to the warming of the Earth's atmosphere.

Gross revenue

For an oil sands royalty project, the project revenue minus the cost of diluent contained in any blended bitumen included in the calculation of the project’s revenue


Handling charges

For an oil sands royalty project, all charges incurred in moving an oil sands product from the royalty calculation point to the disposition point

Heavy crude oil

Crude oil that is very dense, highly viscous and has a high boiling point, with an API gravity of less than 25 degrees.


A metric unit of area measurement approximately equal to 2.5 acres. There are 256 hectares in a section.


Transactions that use actual commodities, futures, contracts, swap arrangements and other financial instruments. These counterbalance price fluctuations and reduce the risk of an investment.


Liquid, solid or gaseous organic compounds that contain only carbon and hydrogen. Hydrocarbons are the basis of almost all petroleum products.

Hydrogen sulphide

A flammable, colourless gas, commonly known as sour gas or H2S, that has an odour of rotten eggs. It is corrosive and poisonous and, if allowed to escape into the atmosphere, potentially lethal to humans and animals. Great care must be taken when drilling into a reservoir known to contain hydrogen sulphide.


Mixing mined oil sand with hot water and caustic for transport by pipeline from mine site to the extraction facility


In-fill drilling

Drilling of crude bitumen wells on undrilled drilling spacing units, as defined by the AER.

Information Letter

Publications issued periodically by the department to industry clients. They explain changes in policy and pricing, communicate proposed changes to legislation and business rules and solicit feedback to proposals.

Information Bulletin

Publications that notify industry about a variety of items. These include proposed changes to legislation, regulations or operating procedures with the intent of soliciting feedback. Bulletins also explain new programs or changes to existing programs, projects, services, strategies or organizational structure. They also describe industry participation in department initiatives.

Injection well

A well drilled for the purpose of injecting solvents, air or steam underground. This facilitates recovery of crude oil or bitumen.

'Inside' a project

Lands, leases, operations, facilities and infrastructure specified in an approved project description. These can also be described as “part of the project.” See “outside” a project.

In situ

Latin for 'in place.' In oil sands recovery, all non-mining methods employed to collect bitumen deposits are in situ.


Land sale

See Oil sands public offering.


An oil sands agreement that grants rights to develop and use oil sands resources. Under the Oil Sands Tenure Regulation, there are primary and continued leases.

Lease continuation

The process of continuing the term of a lease to a company or individual who holds a primary lease (or equivalent)

Lease selection

The process of converting an oil sands permit to a primary lease


The holder of a lease according to the department’s records

Light crude oil

Low-density, low-viscosity crude oil

Lloyd Blend

A blend of condensate and heavy oil from the Lloydminster, Alberta area


The surface area of an agreement and the zones and rights contained within that agreement

Long-term bond rate (LTBR)

Published weekly by the Bank of Canada. The LTBR is used to establish the return allowance applied to the net cumulative balance or net loss of an oil sands royalty project.


Mature fine tailings

Fine tailings that have separated into a sediment layer of clay and silt and an upper layer of clarified water

Mineral rights

The rights to explore for, produce and sell the minerals contained in a parcel of land. This entitlement may accrue through freehold ownership or through a Crown leasing arrangement.

Minimum level of evaluation (MLE)

See evaluation. Applications for lease selection or lease continuation must be supported by technical data. The data must meet a MLE, as outlined in Section 3 of the Oil Sands Tenure Regulation.

Minimum level of production

A department-defined benchmark that establishes the minimum level of production that must be met for an oil sands lease to be classified as producing. The required minimum level of production per term-year is 2,400 m3 of bitumen per section, on average, over the lease term.


As defined in the Oil Sands Royalty Regulation, 2009, the period commencing at 8 am on the first day of a month and ending before 8 am on the first day of the next month

Monthly royalty calculation

A monthly royalty calculation required by the department for pre-payout oil sands royalty projects. It reports production, sales and royalty information for each oil sands product for the month.


An acidic soil common in boreal areas. It consists of dead plant material, peat, moss and water.



The portion of a crude barrel with a boiling point between 145°F and 400°F. Naphtha can be used as diluent.

Natural gas

A gaseous hydrocarbon consisting mainly of methane, found in conjunction with petroleum and coal

Natural gas liquids

Ethane, propane, butane and pentanes plus

Net book value

For a capital asset, the original cost less accumulated depreciation

Net cumulative balance

The amount by which the cumulative costs exceed cumulative revenue. Sometimes referred to as the cumulative cost balance or the unrecovered balance

Net loss

For an oil sands royalty project, the amount by which the allowed costs for a period exceed the sum of revenues and other net proceeds for the period

Net revenue

For an oil sands royalty project, the amount by which project revenue exceeds net project costs in a given reporting period. Net project costs are allowed costs less other net proceeds.

Non-basic pipeline

Pipelines for transporting bitumen (or blended bitumen) to market (from a royalty calculation point to the point of disposition)


A bitumen lease classification that indicates a lease has not met the required minimum level of production. Non-producing continued leases are subject to escalating rent.


Oil sands

Sand, clay or other minerals saturated with bitumen. Defined in the Mines and Minerals Act as “(i) sands and other rock materials containing crude bitumen, (ii) the crude bitumen contained in those sands and other rock materials, and (iii) any other mineral substance (except natural gas) associated with the above-mentioned crude bitumen, sands or rock materials and includes a hydrocarbon substance declared to be oil sands under section 7(2) of the Oil Sands Conservation Act.”

Oil sands agreement

A permit or lease that grants rights in respect of oil sands

Oil sands product

Any product (directly or indirectly) recovered from oil sands or obtained by processing oil sands, not including solution gas

Oil sands royalty (OSR) project

An oil sands project for which royalty calculation and reporting is governed by the Oil Sands Royalty Regulation, 2009. This does not refer to a larger integrated project of which the royalty project may form a part.

Oil sands well

A well that is drilled to penetrate an oil sands deposit for the purpose of evaluating the deposit or bringing it into production

Once-through steam generator

A unit that vaporizes water. Water is pushed through tubes that are in contact with a heat source, such as natural gas-fired burners. This system does not incorporate feedback loops, such as an economizer, which Heat Recovery Steam Generators use for generating steam.

Opening balance

See prior net cumulative balance


The person or corporation responsible for the management and operation of an oil sands royalty project. Project operators have the legal authority to represent the project and its owners.

Other net proceeds

Revenue (proceeds) earned as a result of selling, leasing or licensing project-related assets, technology or substances other than oil sands products

“Outside” a project

Lands, leases, operations, facilities and infrastructure that are not specified in an approved project. See “inside” a project.


The layer of soil, rocks and organic material on top of a deposit of oil sand



The location on the surface of a well head or multiple well heads

Par price

The price in Edmonton for 40° API light sweet crude oil.

Participating interest

The proportion of ownership that is held by any 1 project owner in the whole of a project


The point when the developer has recovered invested costs (capital and operating) plus the return allowance prescribed by the Oil Sands Royalty division

Payout date

For a pre-payout project, the date at which the project’s cumulative revenue first equals the cumulative cost of the project

Pay thickness

The average thickness of an oil or oil-sand zone. Differs depending on the type of oil and method of recovery.

Pentanes plus

A mixture of pentanes and some butanes. A key source of diluent for bitumen


Each calendar year that occurs between a project’s effective date and the date when project approval is revoked


An oil sands agreement, which is granted for a 5-year term


The holder of a permit according to department records


As defined in the OSRR, 2009, the term “person” includes firms, trusts, partnerships, joint ventures, associations, governments or government agencies.


Naturally occurring liquid hydrocarbons


The percentage by volume of void space in a given rock or sand matrix, potentially containing oil or water

Post-payout period

Each period commencing on or after the payout date of an oil sands royalty project.

Pre-payout period

Each period commencing before the payout date of an oil sands royalty project

Primary lease

An oil sands lease that is granted for a 15-year term

Primary separation vessel

The first tank in a mining operation that begins the separation of the liquids (water and bitumen) from the solids (clay and sand). It is usually a large-diameter cylindrical tank with a conical bottom. The top portion of the vessel is where the bitumen-rich stream (bitumen froth) leaves for further processing. At the bottom of the vessel, a large portion of the solids and some water exit and make up the main tailings stream.

Primary wells

Wells producing bitumen without any additional recovery technologies

Prior net cumulative balance

For an oil sands royalty project, the opening balance of costs less revenues incurred prior to the project’s effective date

Processing plant

A facility for the extraction, cleaning or upgrading of crude bitumen


A lease classification indicating that a continued lease has met the required minimum level of production and is therefore not subject to escalating rent

Production month

The month in which an oil sands product was recovered or obtained

Project description

The section of an oil sands royalty project approval order that specifies the lands, leases, operations, facilities and infrastructure that are considered to be “part of the project” or “in the project.” The approved project description for a new oil sands royalty project is called the “initial project description.” When a project is amended, the approved description is referred to as the “amended project description.”

Project operator

See operator.

Project owner

The lessee of oil sands rights and the person who, according to Land Titles Office records, has the right to recover oil sands from the development area of an oil sands royalty project

Project payout date

The date upon which the cumulative cost of the project equals the cumulative revenue

Project revenue

The sum of the volume of each oil sands product times the unit price

Project substances

Oil sands and oil sands products recovered from the development area of an oil sands royalty project

Public offering

A public auction during which oil sands rights are awarded to the highest bidder. Public offerings are also called sales or land sales.


Qualifying joint venture project

An oil sands royalty project that meets all the ownership and operational requirements specified in the OSRR 1997. The cost rules for qualifying joint ventures are slightly different from those for other OSR projects. Does not apply to OSRR 2009.

Quality differential

The difference, measured in dollars per m3, between the price of an oil sands product and the price of an appropriate benchmark crude oil such as Edmonton Light Par or Hardisty Heavy


Realized revenue

The sum revenues from all crude bitumen-based oil sands products less handling charges. The realized revenue plus revenue from other oil sands products determines the project revenue.

Recovery factor

The volumetric percentage of oil or bitumen that can be recovered

Return allowance

A return on investment to cover risk. For oil sands royalty projects, the allowance is calculated using Canada’s long-term bond rate.

Ring fence

Refers to the definition of an oil sands project and the eligible expenditures deemed necessary for operation


A share of production or equivalent revenue that is paid to the owner of a mineral resource in exchange for the use of that resource. Owners of mineral rights may lease these rights to oil and gas companies in exchange for a royalty.

Royalty calculation point

For an oil sands royalty project, the point at which the Crown’s royalty share of the project’s sales is measured


The process of the Crown receiving resources, such as bitumen, in lieu of cash royalties


Sales price

The calculated value of the sales revenue divided by the sales volume

Sales revenue

The total proceeds from the sale of an oil sands product

Sales volume

The actual volume of the oil sands product sold

Saline groundwater

Water that has total dissolved solids exceeding 4,000 milligrams per litre (as defined in Part 1(1)(z) of the Alberta Water (Ministerial) Regulation, May 6, 1999), also referred to as brackish water. Source: AER (formerly ERCB) Requirements for Water measurement, reporting and use for thermal in-situ oil sands schemes.

Secondary recovery

Additional recovery of crude oil achieved by adding pressure to a reservoir in the form of water or gas


An area of land comprised of approximately 256 hectares. In the Imperial system it is 1 square mile or 640 acres. The size of a section may deviate from the standard, but for most purposes it is deemed to contain 256 hectares.

Sour gas

Natural gas with a high concentration of hydrogen sulphide and other sulphur compounds

Sour oil

Crude oil with a relatively high concentration of sulphur, hydrogen sulphide and other sulphur compounds

Spacing unit

Specifies the spacing of wells drilled into individual reservoirs for the purpose of producing oil, gas or oil sands products. This regulates production rates and ensures efficient drainage of the resource. The standard spacing unit for oil and oil sands is 1 well per quarter section.


Commencement of the drilling of a well

Steam assisted gas push

A variance on the steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) process. Here, a non-condensable gas is added to the injected steam. The gas rises to the top of the bitumen reservoir and acts as a buffer or insulator between the bitumen deposit and the overburden. This reduces the amount of heat loss from the reservoir, reducing the amount of steam required to produce the same amount of oil as compared to normal SAGD.

Steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD)

An in situ method of bitumen recovery using horizontal wells and steam stimulation


A blend of cleaned crude bitumen mixed with SCO for diluent to meet pipeline viscosity and density specifications

Synthetic crude oil

Similar to crude oil, created by upgrading bitumen from oil sands



Materials remaining suspended in water after bitumen is separated from oil sand

Tailings oil recovery unit

Recovers residual oil from tailings following the extraction process

Total Acid Number (TAN)

The number of milligrams (mg) of potassium hydroxide needed to neutralize the acid in 1 gram of oil. The test is used to indicate the amount of oxidation that the fluid has undergone. The TAN increases as the fluid undergoes increased amounts of oxidation.


The system through which Crown-owned mineral rights, including oil sands rights, are leased and administered

Term year

The term year for an oil sands agreement is defined by the anniversary date of the agreement. For example, if a lease is signed on October 18, 2002, the anniversary date is October 18 of each subsequent year. Each term-year spans from October 18 to October 18 of the following year.

Toe-to-heel air injection

A method of in-situ bitumen recovery. Air is continuously injected into a bitumen deposit to propagate a wave of combustion. This pushes recoverable and partially upgraded oil towards a production well or production portion of a well. The name is derived from the initial design of the process. Air is injected at the end (or “toe”) of a horizontal well and the wave travels along the horizontal well length to the “heel.”


A term used in the Alberta Township System. Depending on the context, it refers either to a 6-square-mile area (36 sections) or to a row of townships spanning from east to west across Alberta. Township 1 lies at the southernmost boundary of Alberta and Township 126 lies at the northernmost boundary.



Refers to Crown-owned mineral rights that have not been assigned. Undisposed rights can be acquired through oil sands agreements.

Unit operator

The party designated by a unit agreement as the operator of the unit

Unit price

For an oil sands royalty project, the net value of sold substances measured at the royalty calculation point

Unrecovered balance

See net cumulative balance


A facility used to upgrade bitumen to crude oil


The process by which heavy oil and bitumen are converted into lighter crude. This is done by increasing the ratio of hydrogen to carbon, normally using either coking or hydroprocessing.


Vacuum distillation unit

A distillation column that operates in a vacuum (where operating pressure is less than atmospheric pressure). Distillation separates substances based on their different boiling points. The vacuum allows for better separation of heavier hydrocarbon feedstock into its base hydrocarbon components. The lighter, more valuable hydrocarbons are removed from the top of the column. The less valuable, very heavy hydrocarbons, such as asphaltene, are removed from the bottom of the column.


The upgrading or refining of resources into products of a higher value (for example: synthetic crude, petrochemicals, plastics)

Vapour extraction process

A gravity drainage process in which solvent vapours are dissolved into bitumen. This reduces its viscosity and allows it to be pumped to the surface via a traditional well.


West Texas Intermediate

The light, sweet crude oil from the United States against which all light and medium crude oils in North America are priced

Western Canadian Select

Canada's largest commercial heavy oil stream, comprised of bitumen, conventional oil, synthetic crude and diluent. It is a unique benchmark crude produced exclusively in Western Canada. (source:


Zone designation

A description of the stratigraphic interval for a particular set of mineral rights