Synthetic crude is the output from a bitumen/extra heavy oil upgrader facility used in connection with oil sand production. It may also refer to shale oil, an output from an oil shale pyrolysis. The properties of the synthetic crude depend on the processes used in the upgrading. Typically, it is low in sulfur and has an API gravity of around 30. It is also known as "upgraded crude".
Synthetic crude is an intermediate product produced when an extra-heavy or unconventional oil source is upgraded into a transportable form. Synthetic crude is then shipped to oil refineries where it is further upgraded into finished products. Synthetic crude may also be mixed, as a diluent, with heavy oil to create synbit. Synbit is more viscous than synthetic crude, but can also be a less expensive alternative for transporting heavy oil to a conventional refinery.
Syncrude Canada, Suncor Energy Inc., and Canadian Natural Resources Limited are the three largest worldwide producers of synthetic crude with a cumulative production of approximately 600,000 barrels per day (95,000 m3/d). The NewGrade Energy Upgrader became operational in 1988, and was the first upgrader in Canada, now part of the CCRL Refinery Complex.