Oil sands are a mix of sand, water, clay, and the bitumen that can be separated from the rest and upgraded into synthetic crude. Also called tar sands.
The oil is usually separated from the sand by washing with a solvent like kerosene. Once the solvent is recovered the oil can be processed by standard oil refinery processes, mostly cracking and hydro treating (reaction with hydrogen). The major waste stream produced is spent sand.
Marketable oil sands deposits in North America are found mostly in Western Canada. Oil sands are not to be confused with the oil shale found in the Western US, which is more difficult to process because the oil is trapped in solid rock.
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