Oil sand and oil shale deposits are found all over the world. The two largest are the Athabasca Oil Sands in northern Alberta and the Orinoco River deposit in Venezuela. Oil sands are very different from conventional oil and natural gas deposits. Oil sands are a mixture of bitumen, water, quartz, clay and other gangue minerals. The bitumen, a particularly thick and tar-like hydrocarbon, coats the mineral grains in the sand matrix. The major challenge in developing oil sands is separating the bitumen from this sand matrix. Once separated, bitumen can then be upgraded into high-quality oil called "synthetic crude."

The objective of this study was to demonstrate the capability of ASD’s field-portable FieldSpec spectroradiometer and NIR technology to perform field assessment of the concentration of bitumen contained in oil sand samples. Previous studies have also demonstrated the ability to quantify clay content as well as clay mineralogy using the FieldSpec spectroradiometer. Use of the TerraSpec® mineral analyzer has also proven successful in these applications.

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