Osum Oil Sands eyes a bitumen motherlode
Equity investors are turning their attention to the untapped carbonates
Carrion birds scatter as pilot Tony Laface dips his Bell 206B model helicopter in for a close look at what’s left of a dead caribou. “As you can tell we’re pretty much in the middle of nowhere,” a voice crackles, rising above the steady clip of chopper blades.
It belongs to Jen Russel-Houston, geosciences manager at Calgary upstart Osum Oil Sands Corp. She’s wedged on to the helicopter’s back bench, seated next to two public-relations handlers. The geologist and former subsurface team leader at Shell Canada Ltd. can tell clastic rocks from carbonates in a split second, but on this overcast day in late February, from 1,200 feet aboveground, roughly 70 kilometers southwest of Fort McMurray, she is having trouble distinguishing one exploration lease from another. “I don’t quite know where one begins and one ends,” she says over the headset.
Suddenly a misshapen grid pops into view. On the forest floor, squiggly lines cut through stands of black spruce and poplar, forming what looks like a giant tic-tac-toe board in the northern woods. In fact, the pattern is a $10-million, 3-D seismic program. The rock underneath is a thin end of a bitumen wedge estimated to contain some 400 billion barrels of oil in place.
Osum holds 175,000 net acres in the trend, better known to geologists as the Grosmont carbonates. The privately held firm believes the property could eventually yield 73,000 barrels of oil per day. Continue reading…