The most common way to get bitumen out of Alberta’s oil sands is through Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage, or SAGD. It involves injecting steam into one horizontal well to heat the bitumen. The bitumen then travels, often with gas and water condensation, through a parallel well that runs a few meters below the first. This process creates significant GHG emissions because it requires a tremendous amount of heat to create steam. With growing demand for energy, GHG emissions from in situ operations are set to rise 300% by 2030 (Council of Canadian Academies Report, p. xv). It presents a tremendous opportunity for technologies to address the challenge.

One opportunity to reduce GHG emissions from SAGD operations is through solvent-assisted technologies where solvent replaces steam, like the technology N-Solv is testing .