Oil Sands Recovery Using Electromagnetic Heating
CALGARY, Alberta, Canada-- A technology and energy production consortium has successfully completed initial proof-of-concept testing of a unique oil sands extraction method that has the potential to improve environmental performance and reduce development costs.
The consortium of Laricina Energy, Nexen Inc., Suncor Energy and Harris Corporation completed its initial phase testing of the Enhanced Solvent Extraction Incorporating Electromagnetic Heating (ESEIEH – pronounced “easy”) project at Suncor’s Steepbank mine facility north of Fort McMurray. The $33 million program is supported by the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) and the test was approved by the Energy Resources Conservation Board.
The test confirms the ability to successfully generate, propagate and distribute electromagnetic heat in an oil sands formation. It also validates the analytical tools and methods used to predict the performance of the process, thereby increasing the consortium’s confidence as it moves to a field pilot next year. While these preliminary results are encouraging, additional work remains before the commercial viability of the process can be determined.
“ESEIEH is a key project for the CCEMC and Alberta, and offers the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during oil sands production. The ESEIEH team is making excellent progress and we look forward to the upcoming pilot project,” said Eric Newell, Chair of the CCEMC.
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Approximately 1.6 million barrels per day of crude oil are currently being produced through surface mining and in situ recovery processes in Alberta. In situ processes, including steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) now contribute roughly half of the total daily production from the Canadian oil sands. Mining and in situ processes use hot water or steam to separate bitumen from the sands, requiring both water and energy. These two key factors affect environmental performance and associated capital and operating costs in oil sands development.
ESEIEH replaces the need for water by applying Harris’ patent-pending antenna technology to initially heat the oil sands electrically with radio waves. An oil solvent is then injected to dilute and mobilize the bitumen with minimal energy requirements, so that it can be extracted and transported for further processing. By reducing the energy required and eliminating the need for water, the ESEIEH process is expected to improve environmental performance, while providing greater efficiency and versatility in oil sands recovery operations.
The anticipated benefits of ESEIEH technology in oil sands production include:
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating fossil fuels to generate steam;
- Operating cost efficiencies through reducing the amount of energy necessary in the extraction process;
- Capital and operating cost efficiencies by removing the need for steam generation and water treatment facilities;
- Improving the quality of the extracted oil as a result of using electromagnetic versus steam heating in the extraction process; and
- Increasing the amount of oil sands deposits deemed economically viable by reducing the extraction costs – permitting economic access to otherwise stranded oil deposits.
The electromagnetic heating technology was first evaluated and tested in Florida last year and then moved to Fort McMurray for the proof-of-concept field testing. The next phase – an expanded pilot field test -- is scheduled to begin in 2013. Some elements of the technology solution may become commercially available prior to the final testing.
Hydrostor receives $4m funding for A-CAES facility in Canada
Hydrostor has received $4m funding to develop a 300-500MW Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) facility in Canada.
The funding will be used to complete essential engineering and planning, and enable Hydrostor to plan construction.
The project will be modeled on Hydrostor’s commercially operating Goderich storage facility, providing up to 12 hours of energy storage.
Hydrostor’s A-CAES system supports Canada’s green economic transition by designing, building, and operating emissions-free energy storage facilities, and employing people, suppliers, and technologies from the oil and gas sector.
The Honorable Seamus O’Regan, Jr. Minister of Natural Resources, said: “Investing in clean technology will lower emissions and increase our competitiveness. This is how we get to net zero by 2050.”
A-CAES has the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions by enabling the transition to a cleaner and more flexible electricity grid. Specifically, the low-impact and cost-effective technology will reduce the use of fossil fuels and will provide reliable and bankable energy storage solutions for utilities and regulators, while integrating renewable energy for sustainable growth.
Curtis VanWalleghem, Hydrostor’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are grateful for the federal government’s support of our long duration energy storage solution that is critical to enabling the clean energy transition. This made-in-Canada solution, with the support of NRCan and Sustainable Development Technology Canada, is ready to be widely deployed within Canada and globally to lower electricity rates and decarbonize the electricity sector."
The Rosamond A-CAES 500MW Project is under advanced development and targeting a 2024 launch. It is designed to turn California’s growing solar and wind resources into on-demand peak capacity while allowing for closure of fossil fuel generating stations.
Hydrostor closed US$37 million (C$49 million) in growth financing in September 2019.