Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Unconventional Resources

Introduction to the Canadian Oil Sands

Course Code: N610
Instructors:  Clayton Phair
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration
2 days


This two-day course provides a comprehensive introduction to the Canadian oil sands industry. The sessions examine the entire industry value chain from subsurface resources through to the marketplace, and how the various segments of the industry interact. Participants will gain an understanding of oil sands resources and reserves, industry regulation, in-situ and mining/extraction bitumen recovery processes and projects, bitumen upgrading processes and projects, present and future product markets, existing and proposed pipeline systems, product pricing mechanisms, the competitive landscape and major industry players. The course reviews the major challenges facing the oil sands industry and provides forecasts for industry growth.


Excellent overview of the entire industry Value Chain with good current data points and future outlook.

Duration and Training Method

Two classroom days providing 1.6 CEU (Continuing Education Credits) or 16 PDH (Professional Development Hours)

Course Overview

 Participants will learn to: 

  1. Understand the nature of the Canadian oil sands deposits (“oil sands”) and the oil derived from them (“bitumen”).
  2. Assess the quantity of bitumen in the oil sands and learn the implications to the Canadian oil industry of such a large resource.
  3. Recognize and understand commonly used oil sands technical terms.
  4. Understand the regulation of the oil sands at the provincial and federal levels and the way in which the regulatory framework is evolving.
  5. Discover where mining versus subsurface (“insitu”) methods are used to produce bitumen.
  6. Understand both insitu and mining bitumen production methods.
  7. Understand the process for refining (“upgrading”) bitumen into petroleum products and how the products are moved to market.
  8. Predict future growth of bitumen production and the resultant importance of pipelines to that growth.
  9. Appraise major current issues and challenges facing the oil sands.
  10. Gain perspective on the reasons behind some of the opposition to continuing oil sands development.
  11. Describe the oil sands industry with confidence.
  12. Knowledgably discuss the impact of continued bitumen production growth on the oil industry, Canadian economy and global energy supply.

Course Agenda

Day One
1. Introduction and Oil Sands industry overview
2. Basic concept
3. Resources and Reserves
4. Regulation
5. Surface and Mineral rights
6. Project Approvals-Royalties
7. Oil Sands Mining and Bitumen extractions
8. Recovery techniques
9. Projects

Day Two
1. In Situ Bitumen Recovery
2. Processes
3. Projects
4. Upgrading: Converting Bitumen into valuable products
5. Markets: Canada, The United States and Beyond
6. Market access/Pipelines
7. Market Fundamentals
8. Industry Challenges
9. Oil sands Industry Outlook
10. Conclusions

It is suitable for both technical and non-technical personnel looking to gain an overview of the Canadian oil sands industry. Past course attendees have included engineers, finance and accounting personnel, HR staff, business development, project managers, operation managers, land men, lawyers, marketing, and regulators.


Clayton Phair

Clayton is a senior consulting geoscientist based in Calgary, Canada. For over 30 years, his wide-ranging career in the upstream oil business has resulted in employment or consulting engagements with oil, software and consulting companies. He has worked at various times as a geologist, geomodeler, workflow consultant, vice president, petrophysicist, operations manager, computer trainer and systems developer.

Clayton started his career with Husky Oil working as a geologist in the Lloydminster heavy oil region. He later joined Halliburton where he worked with oil companies to transition their exploration processes from paper-based to computer-based methods.

As vice president of a software startup, Clayton helped to develop innovative technologies for Canada's unconventional oil industry and he is a patent holder in the area of oilsands production. As a consultant, he has participated firsthand in the exploration and development of some of Canada's largest producing oilsands schemes.

Affiliations and Accreditation
University of Waterloo – Geology Degree
Member of APEGA, CSPG, CHOA and CWLS

Courses Taught
T610 - Introduction to the Canadian Oil Sands

CEU: 1.6 Continuing Education Units
PDH: 16 Professional Development Hours
Certificate: Certificate Issued Upon Completion
RPS is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET CEU. We comply with the ANSI/IACET Standard, which is recognised internationally as a standard of excellence in instructional practices.
We issue a Certificate of Attendance which verifies the number of training hours attended. Our courses are generally accepted by most professional licensing boards/associations towards continuing education credits. Please check with your licensing board to determine if the courses and certificate of attendance meet their specific criteria.