Trace Element Composition of Athabasca Tar Sands and Extracted Bitumens

  • F. S. Jacobs
  • R. H. Filby


The Athabasca Tar Sands represent a potential petroleum resource in excess of 1011 bb1 oil and thus form one of the world’s major deposits of petroleum. The deposits consist of sandstones impregnated with a viscous heavy bitumen similar to a very heavy petroleum. Although the origin of the tar sand bitumen has not been established in detail, most theories involve the water washing and/or bacterial alteration of a conventional crude oil and that the Athabasca deposits are genetically related to other Cretaceous W. Canada Basin heavy oils.

Except for Ni, V, and Fe there is little information on the trace element contents of the bitumen extracted from the tar sand. Both Ni and VO porphyrins have been identified in Athabasca bitumen, but other metal complexes, if present, have not been reported. The preliminary work reported here is part of a research project to determine the trace element composition of the bitumen, to determine possible metal species in the bitumen, and to relate these to modes of origin.

Neutron activation analysis has been used to determine V, Ni, Fe, Co, Mn, Cr, Zn, Na, Rb, Cs, Se, Hg, Br, As, Sb, CI, Se, Eu, and Ga in samples of McMurray Formation bitumen extracted with toluene in a Soxhlet extractor (syncrude product). Analyses of the bitumen show that it contains higher concentrations of V, Ni, Fe, and other trace elements than most conventional crude oils.


Trace Element Composition Extract Bitumen McMurray Formation Potential Petroleum Resource Athabasca Bitumen 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. S. Jacobs
    • 1
  • R. H. Filby
    • 1
  1. 1.Nuclear Radiation CenterWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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