The oil, of course, is what Devon wants.
The company is planning to triple its operations in the oil sands by 2015, officials said, with additional capacity for the future thanks to a joint venture with industry giant BP.
Devon's deal with BP triples its land base in the oil sands to about 95,000 acres.
That is a good position to be in, given the fertile resource base that is Canada.
Canada is the largest supplier of oil imports to the United States, no surprise given the country's status as the world's third-largest natural gas producer and sixth-largest oil producer.
Canada's production has doubled since 1980, with ample resources for the future.
The country ranks behind only Saudi Arabia in its reserve base. Its production is expected to grow to 3 billion barrels a day by 2025.
About 97 percent of Canada's oil reserves are contained in the oil sands, found in three deposits in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The oil there, known as bitumen, is as thick as peanut butter. Most of it is more than 200 feet underground, too deep to mined, so producers have developed another method to harvest it.
â€œIt doesn't move, so you've got to add some heat to it,â€ said Cal Watson, general manager of Devon's thermal operations and production. â€œThat's where the steam comes in.â€
Most oil sands operators use a process called steam-assisted gravity drainage, which was developed by a University of Calgary professor and a consortium of government and independent partners.
It involves pumping steam into the ground to make the bitumen more fluid.
Watson said it takes about 2.5 months to create a steam chamber underground at about 450 degrees, then an additional two weeks to reach full production.
Devon's Jackfish project near the town of Conklin in northern Alberta is licensed to extract 35,000 barrels of oil a day. Future projects with that name will have the same capacity.
Jackfish is the first commercial steam-assisted gravity drainage operation in the oil sands to use only saline water, instead of freshwater.
â€œI think going forward, this will be the standard,â€ Watson said.
Devon pulls water from nearby sand formations for use in its steam generators. That water is cycled through the operation about eight or nine times before it is put back into a deeper well.
At Jackfish, about 80 percent of the water is recycled, but officials are working to push that figure to at least 85 percent.
The operation is an elaborate warren of pipes that run between the well sites and the production area.
Those pipes carry steam, emulsion and natural gas, which is used instead of pumps to push the softened bitumen to the surface.
Jackfish draws from four pads, each with seven paired wells. One injects steam into the ground, while the other produces the oil.
At the production facility, about 70 percent of the equipment is devoted to steam generation and water treatment, operations coordinator Dale Emery said.
Massive boilers turn about 85 percent of saline water into steam, then separators filter out the remaining water.
The facility also has filters to strip oil out of the water that returns from the wellheads.
â€œWe try to make sure we capture every drop of oil,â€ Watson said.
The technology that allows operators to profit from their efforts in Canada's oil sands isn't likely to translate right away into oil-laden shale formations in the United States.
Will Yakymyshyn, vice president of Devon's heavy oil division, said it is easy to separate the oil from sand in Canada, but that hasn't proven to be the case in U.S. shale formations where oil has been found.