Looking for a step-change in technology: Alberta funds 9 projects aimed at lowering emissions from the oil sands

Looking for a step-change in technology: Alberta funds 9 projects aimed at lowering emissions from the oil sands

Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) and Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced $70.6 million in funding to help advance 9 projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the oil sands.

The projects selected for funding are as follows:

COMPANY: MEG Energy
PROJECT: eMVAPEX (enhanced Modified VAPour EXtraction) Pilot Phase 3
TECHNOLOGY: A condensable gas, such as propane, is injected into infill wells after initial steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operation, reducing steam loads during the extraction of bitumen.
POTENTIAL: GHG emission intensity could be reduced by as much as 43%, since steam production is the primary source of emissions for in-situ operators. Less steam would also translate into lower capital and operating costs.
ERA FUNDING: $10 million

COMPANY: Cenovus Energy (partnered with FSG Technologies)
PROJECT: FSG (Flash Steam Generation) Field Prototype
TECHNOLOGY: Traditional steam boilers employed by in-situ operators require water treatment and de-aeration before being used in once-through steam generation (OTSG) boilers, which can be both costly and unreliable. The FSG process generates steam without boiling the water, eliminating the formation of deposits within the heat exchangers. This improving the reliability and effectiveness of the exchangers.
SAVINGS: GHG emissions can be reduced by up to 14% compared to conventional steam generation and water treatment. The technology also has the potential to reduce capital costs by 20% and operating costs by 15%.
ERA FUNDING: $10 million

COMPANY: Suncor Energy (partnered with Devon Energy and Suez)
PROJECT: High Temperature Membranes for SAGD Produced Water Treatment
TECHNOLOGY: Operating filtration membranes at higher temperatures eliminates the need to lower the temperature and pressure of produced water prior to water treatment. 
POTENTIAL: GHG emissions could be reduced by 5 to 10%. The technology also has the potential to decrease the footprint and reduce capital costs at new in-situ facilities.
ERA FUNDING: $2.5 million

COMPANY: ConocoPhillips Canada
PROJECT: Non-Condensable Gas (NCG) Co-Injection for Thief Zones
TECHNOLOGY: "Thief zones" are areas just above or below the oil zones where energy and pressure can be lost, raising the steam load for bitumen recovery. The project tests the injection of methane into SAGD wells at a commercial scale.
POTENTIAL: GHG emissions could be reduced by up to 15% in reservoirs affected by thief zones. Lower steam loads would also lower operating costs by up to 20%.
ERA FUNDING: $2.5 million

COMPANY: Heavy Oil Solutions and Cenovus Energy
PROJECT: Partial Upgrader with Integrated Water Treatment
TECHNOLOGY: A single-step partial-upgrader produces a lighter crude, that does not require diluent prior to pipeline shipment, and water that can be reused without extensive water treatment.
POTENTIAL: An integrated and simplified process plant would lower costs and reduce the facility's environmental footprint. Eliminating diluent needs also increases pipeline capacity and lower operating costs.
ERA FUNDING: $10 million

COMPANY: Enlighten Innovations (formerly Field Upgrading)
PROJECT: CLEANSEAS™ Demonstration Project
TECHNOLOGY: DSU® technology removes sulphur and partially upgrades heavy oil into low-sulphur marine fuel, as required by new marine transport regulations.
POTENTIAL: GHG emissions are reduced by up to 40% on a lifecycle basis versus other sources of marine fuels.
ERA FUNDING: $10 million

COMPANY: Cenovus Energy
PROJECT: Multi-Pad Pilot of a Solvent-Aided Process (SAP)
TECHNOLOGY: A solven,t such as propane, is added to steam injected into a SAGD reservoir, reducing the viscosity of the bitumen and lowering steam requirements.
POTENTIAL: GHG emissions could be reduced by about one-third, which also lowers operating costs.
ERA FUNDING: $10 million

COMPANY: Canadian Natural Resources
PROJECT: Limited In-Pit Extraction Process (IPEP)
TECHNOLOGY: Rather than mining the ore in-pit and transporting the oil sands/water mixture to a distant process plant, a modular extraction plant processes the ore and extracts the bitumen near the mine site. Stackable tailings are redeposited directly in the mine pit. The relocatable structure can be moved as the mine face advances.
POTENTIAL: The technology greatly reduces hauling requirement, lowering GHG emissions by up to 40% and reducing operating costs by about $2/bbl. The volume of fluid tailings is also greatly reduced, allowing for accelerated reclamation of the mine and tailings ponds. The IPEP system has a much smaller footprint, significantly lowering capital costs for future expansions.
ERA FUNDING: $5.6 million

COMPANY: Imperial Oil
PROJECT: Enhanced Bitumen Recovery Technology (EBRT) Pilot
TECHNOLOGY: A liquid solution, such as diluent, is injected into the reservoir as an alternative to steam, lowering viscosity of the bitumen and allowing it to be pumped to the surface.
POTENTIAL: Steam loads could be reduced by as much as 90%, reducing GHG emissions by about 60%. Since the process operates at lower pressures, capital and operating costs could also be cut in half.
ERA FUNDING: $10 million

Alberta's oil sands emits about 70 megatonnes (Mt) of GHGs annually, accounting for about one-quarter of the province's total emissions. ERA says the projects have the potential to reduce emissions by up to 4 Mt annually by 2030.

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