The size of Alberta’s heavy oil resource has been well documented with all the superlatives regarding its size. It is truly enormous with established reserves of 178 billion barrels and potential recoverable reserves of 315 billion barrels. However, the logistics of recovery, upgrading, and transportation to market are daunting.

Even after the challenges of production, utilization of the produced bitumen is far from straightforward. It is too viscous to transport by pipeline and not processable by the vast majority of existing refineries. Thus in order to develop a mass market, the bitumen must be upgraded to a quality that can be processed by the existing North American refinery market.

The intent of this paper is to analyze the factors impacting which method of upgrading to follow and give some illustrative examples.

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