The Underground Test Facility (UTF) is on the verge of ompletely demonstrating the technical feasibility of the dual well steam assisted gravity drainage (SACD) method of extracting bitumen from the one trillion barrel (E 12) Athabasca deposit near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Production rates and SORs are following the expected trends and as of May 1994 the peak expected rates have been reached and over 500.000 barrels of bitumen have been produced in the Phase B test. The project is funded to August 1996 by which time it is expected to have demonstrated the ustainability of these rates and come close to the 60% recovery expected. Bitumen production costs are estimated to be ﹩6/bbl for a 30,000 BPD commercial plant at the UTF. This cost is competitive with any other bitumen recovery technology in use today and in the foreseeable future. The process is environmentally friendly in that open pits and ailings ponds are not required. This technology makes available an additional 230 billion (E9) barrels of recoverable bitumen from the Athabasca deposit which was previously not economically recoverable. This enormous resource could supply North America with 25% of its petroleum energy needs for 140 years. It would create up to 1.3 million jobs in Alberta dding 60% to its CDP. AOSTRA is searching for an industry operator to lead the way to commercial development.


This paper presents an update on the status of the Underground Test Facility (U1F) since the last comprehensive paper was presented to the CIM in 1991(1.1). It also eviews the enormous commercial potential of the dual well SAGD (Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage) technology developed at the UTF.

The previous paper(1.1) was written in April of 1991 as the last of three Phase B well pairs was being drilled and prior to operating the wells. A summary of the project history and the dual well SAGD process is presented in this paper, however, the reader is referred to the previous paper for a more detailed presentation of the history of the UTF project up to 1991 and details of the shafts, tunnels, drillingsystem, Phase A and Phase B test facilities.

The UTF is located 70 kilometers northwest of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada (Figure 1.1). Its purpose was to develop and test promising in situ methods to economically extract the deeper bitumen from the Athabasca deposit (one trillion barrels (E12.) in place) of which 90% is too deep (> 70 m) for surface mining. It currently consists of an above ground process plant and wells drilled from undergroundtunnels (photos A and B, Figure 1.2).

The UTF is owned and operated by the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA), which is currently being incorporated into the Oil Sands and esearch Division of the Alberta Department of Energy. The UTF was started in 1984 with the construction of a road to the site. Industry participants began to join the project after the completion of the access stage (shafts, tunnels, Phase A wells) in late 1986.

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