A method for treating a tar sands formation includes providing heat to at least part of a hydrocarbon layer in the tar sands formation from a plurality of heaters located in the formation. Heat is allowed to transfer from the heaters to at least a portion of the formation. A pressure in the portion of the formation is controlled such that the pressure remains below a fracture pressure of the formation overburden while allowing the portion of the formation to heat to a selected average temperature of at least about 280.degree. C. and at most about 300.degree. C. The pressure in the portion of the formation is reduced to a selected pressure after the portion of the formation reaches the selected average temperature.
The Government has certain rights in the invention pursuant to Agreement Nos. SD 10634 and NFE 062050824 between Sandia National Laboratories (operating under Agreement DE-AC04-94AL85000Sa for the U.S. Department of Energy) and Shell Exploration and Production Company.