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Gov. Mary Fallin touts ties between Oklahoma, Canada

Oklahoma has a lot in common with the Canadian province of Alberta, Gov. Mary Fallin said after a tour of oil sands operations in northern Alberta.
BY JAY F. MARKS Published: June 13, 2012

Gov. Mary Fallin has only been in Canada for a couple of days, but she's already noticed many similarities between her state and the province of Alberta.

Oklahoma and Alberta are home to about the same number of people, with economies stronger than the rest of their countries and a wealth of natural resources, including abundant oil and natural gas reserves, she said.

Fallin, who will speak Wednesday at the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary, spent much of Monday touring Alberta's oil sands. The trip included a visit to Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp.'s Jackfish operation.

She said the trip helped her understand the connection between Oklahoma and Canada, with state companies lending their expertise to the development of a massive resource base in Alberta.

“It all comes back to benefit Oklahoma,” the governor said, pointing to figures from the Alberta government indicating oil sands development will contribute at least $80 million a year to the state's economy through 2035.

Fallin was joined on the oil sands trip by Oklahoma Energy Secretary Mike Ming and several staff members.

Marvin Schneider, Alberta's head of U.S. relations, offered the Oklahoma delegation an overview of the oil sands as the group headed north from Calgary on Monday morning. He said the area of northern Alberta that is home to the oil sands is about 78 percent of the size of Oklahoma.

The oil sands have proved reserves of about 177 billion barrels of oil, but the area ultimately may be able to produce as much as 315 billion barrels of oil as technology develops. Only about 7.5 billion barrels have been produced so far.

Schneider said most companies mine the oil sands in shallow areas or use a process known as steam-assisted gravity drainage to free the oil from the sand in deeper formations.

Mining accounts for 20 percent of the oil sands operations but 55 percent of the production, he said. Most operators, including Devon, use steam to heat the thick oil, known as bitumen, so it can be moved out of the ground.

The bitumen is as thick as peanut butter.

“That stuff, you could leave it there for hours and it wouldn't move,” Devon Canada President Chris Seasons said, placing a jar of bitumen upside down.

Officials said most of Devon's oil sands operations are devoted to water treatment.

“A very small part of the footprint is tied to creating oil,” operations manager Kelly Hansen said. “The bulk of the footprint is tied to recycling, retreating and reheating water so we can get steam.”

Devon produces about 55,000 barrels of oil a day from Jackfish 1 and Jackfish 2, which is still ramping up operations after it began injecting steam last May. Jackfish 3 is under construction, with plans proceeding with joint venture partner BP for several similar operations at nearby Pike.

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