In Situ Oil Sands Alliance - Integrity and Ingenuity


Oil fuels the global economy.  It enables people and goods to travel by sea, land and air.  It enables industry.  It is used in thousands of consumer products.

In the future, oil will also power an increased standard of living in the developing world.  As conventional production decreases and energy demand rises, this will increase demand for more unconventional oil resources.

The Canadian oil sands form the third largest deposit of oil reserves in the world and are approximately half of the world’s reserves not controlled by sovereign states.  The oil sands play a vital role in the future development of the world oil supplies and will continue to power the Canadian economy for decades.

The In Situ Oil Sands Alliance (IOSA) was formed in 2008 by a group of independent oil companies dedicated to the development of Canada’s vast oil sands using advanced in situ technology.  IOSA is dedicated to sustainable development.

Meeting Demand Responsibly

When conservation efforts and demand side management are taken into consideration, global primary energy demand is expected to increase by 30 per cent between now and 2040. Biomass, wind, hydro and other renewables will fulfill a small, but growing, portion of that demand.

As energy becomes an increasingly valued commodity, North America's geopolitical interest in a secure supply of energy will only grow. Diversification into other alternatives is a positive step forward, but alternative fuels will not eliminate the need for responsibly developed hydrocarbons. In developing a secure source of energy, all sources (hydrocarbon and non-hydrocarbon) will have a role in North America’s energy future.

With enough bitumen resource to produce more than five million barrels per day for more than 50 years, Canada’s oil sands resources will help North America achieve energy independence.

Economics, Environment, Energy

IOSA companies have invested more than $10 billion developing their resource bases. The benefits of development will continue to positively impact Albertans, and Canadians. For example, in situ processing equipment is built in fabrication shops across North America.

The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) forecasts that new oil sands development will contribute over $4 trillion to the Canadian economy during the next 20 years. This includes capital spending of about $55 billion a year and approximately $676 billion of royalty payments. Economic and employment benefits will be spread across every province and territory.

Millennia Past

The story of the Alberta oil sands begins some 200 million years ago

The oil sands were formed approximately 200 million years ago during the Cretaceous period of the earth’s development. A great expansive sea extended along the swampy shores of the Canadian Arctic and the prairies. There, dinosaurs and fern-like trees would be seen amid the sands of a mighty river delta flowing northward. Over many millions of years this great delta was buried and oil found its way into the sands.  In recent times the Athabasca River cut its way through the delta, laying bare black outcroppings of bituminous sand.


More than one would-be prospector shook his head in bewilderment

In J. Joseph Fitzgerald’s book, Black Gold with Grit: The Alberta Oil Sands, there is a chapter entitled “Harnessing Help From Hades.” Fitzgerald talks about hot water separation as being one of the methods of recovering oil from the crude bituminous sands. 

“More than one would-be prospector (at the turn of the century) shook his head in bewilderment…why the devil do we have to dig it all out of the ground? It’s only the oil we want. Let’s just take it away from the sand underground and save all the trouble.”


Major technological and engineering advances in directional/horizontal drilling

Major technological and engineering advances in directional/horizontal drilling in the Athabasca, Cold Lake and Peace River areas continued to refine in situ methods of recovery.  Moreover, improved clarity of regulation, environmental advances and social and Aboriginal engagement have provided major improvements in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and enabled stakeholder collaboration rather than confrontation.


This decade has seen the greatest number of technological advances for in situ recovery

Approximately 97 per cent of the total oil sands surface area is available for in situ drilling processes with only three per cent close enough to the surface for open pit mining. Moreover, the first two decades of the 21st century have witnessed dramatic in situ recovery advancement and IOSA member companies have played a major part in this development.

IOSA member companies continue to improve the efficiency of in situ technologies and are working diligently to reduce environmental impacts. For example, the use of natural gas liquids in the steam phase of an in situ well can reduce the amount of steam used, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Resource, Technology and Transportation

Continuing to improve the efficiency of in situ technology

Today horizontal wells are drilled to recover the heavy oil (bitumen) from the oil sands fulfilling the experiments of the in situ pioneers of 100 years ago. Alberta’s oil sands are located in three regions: Athabasca (north of Edmonton), Cold Lake (northeast of Edmonton) and Peace River (northwest of Edmonton).

Athabasca is the largest of the three regions, containing about 80 per cent of estimated reserves. The area is the centre of oil sands surface mining as well as numerous in situ operations. The Cold Lake deposits southeast of Athabasca hold about 10 per cent of Canada’s oil sands reserves. Cold Lake has a number of thermal developments including Canada’s earliest large in situ ventures. Peace River, west of Athabasca, is the smallest of the three oil sands deposits and the least developed. Substantial investment in thermal as well as primary “cold pumped” projects has occurred in recent years.


The safest, most reliable and least energy intensive method to get crude oil to markets is by pipeline. Pipelines reaching across North America offer a rich network of energy integration and, in fact, oil sands production has reached Canadian and U.S. markets through pipelines for more than 40 years.

Today, Canadian crude oil exports amount to more than three million barrels per day, making Canada the leading supplier of oil to the U.S. market, ahead of Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Venezuela. Oil sands production will play a key role in maintaining this strong and secure energy relationship between the world’s largest trading partners in the years to come.

Energy for the future

To meet future energy demands scientists, engineers, environmentalists, economists, business leaders and citizens, including First Nations and Métis, must collaborate to continue the development of hydrocarbon and non-hydrocarbon based energy resources. Canada’s vast bitumen resources provide a secure source of energy that should be compared to alternatives across a wide range of social, environmental and ethical factors.


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Our Members

Laricina Energy Ltd is focused on leading edge bitumen (oil sands) exploration, development and production. For reasons of resource opportunity, cost efficiency and environmental footprint, Laricina has chosen to focus exclusively on in situ or drillable recovery rather than surface mining opportunities. The company’s oil sands assets contain a variety of reservoir environments and geological characteristics. The large concentrated resource base holds about 4.6 billion net recoverable barrels.
MEG Energy Corp is focused on sustainable in situ oil sands development and production in the southern Athabasca oil sands region of Alberta, Canada. MEG is actively developing enhanced oil recovery projects that utilize SAGD extraction methods. Through a well-defined, staged growth plan, MEG is targeting production capacity of 260,000 barrels per day in 2020.
NSolv is a patented in-situ clean oil sands extraction technology which requires no water, leaves no tailings, and generates less than a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of traditional in situ oil sands extraction technologies. Nsolv uses a naturally occurring, warm solvent at natural reservoir pressure to release the oil trapped in underground oil sands deposits, leaving the often harmful impurities like asphaltenes and heavy metals undisturbed and underground.
Osum Oil Sands Corp is a private well-capitalized Canadian in situ oil sands developer based in Calgary, Alberta. Osum’s strategy focuses on reservoirs with both lateral and vertical continuity. Assets are close to existing infrastructure and Osum will focus on adapting proven thermal technologies to develop its assets. Osum has a production potential of more than 350,000 barrels per day within its combined assets that include Grosmont carbonate (Athabasca) and Taiga (Cold Lake) projects.
PetroChina Canada is an integrated energy company focused on responsibly producing and delivering energy to customers around the world. As a wholly owned subsidiary of PetroChina Company Limited, we have interests in upstream, midstream and downstream operations in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada.

Board Information and Contact


Lyle Thorsen
Chair, IOSA
Director, Government & Clean Technology Policies
MEG Energy Corp.

Patricia Nelson
Vice Chair, IOSA

Diane Koenig
Executive Vice President
Laricina Energy Ltd.


Phone: (587) 233-0652

Steve Spence
Past Chair, IOSA
President and CEO
Osum Oil Sands Corp.

Heather Scott
General Manager, Oilsands
PetroChina Canada Ltd.

Eau Claire Tower
21th Floor,
600 – 3rd Avenue S.W.,
Calgary, Alberta, T2P 0G5

Duane Monea
Vice President Government & Public Affairs
MEG Energy Corp.

Joe Kuhach
Nsolv Corporation




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