Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Natural Bitumen and Extra-Heavy Oil Country Notes
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago is rich in heavy oil, but only 300 million barrels of oil in place is extra-heavy. The country has more than 600 million barrels of oil in place in natural bitumen deposits, including Asphalt (Pitch) Lake. All these deposits are located in the Southern Basin, which is small, highly faulted, but highly productive.
Asphalt (Pitch) Lake, at La Brea, contains a semi-solid emulsion of soluble bitumen, mineral matter, and other minor constituents (mainly water). It has been mined since at least 1815 but mostly for use as road surfacing material. The lake contains 60 million barrels of bitumen, a sufficient supply for the foreseeable future. Production is between 10 000 and 15 000 tonnes per year (equivalent to 60 000 to 92 000 barrels per year), most of which is exported. In combination with asphalt from refined crude oil, the product is used for road construction. In addition, it can be used in a range of paints and coatings and for making cationic bitumen emulsions. Production of these emulsions of bitumen, water, and soap began in late 1996 and the emulsions are now used widely throughout the industrialised world in place of solvent-based bitumen emulsions.