Imperial files application for "game changing" SAGD technology

Imperial files application for "game changing" SAGD technology

MAP COURTESY IMPERIAL OIL

Imperial Oil filed an application with Alberta's energy regulator for a new enhanced bitumen recovery pilot (EBRT), to be located adjacent to the Aspen project.

Aspen is a solvent-assisted steam assisted gravity drainage project (SA-SAGD), current under development. Imperial says both Aspen and the EBRT pilot will share infrastructure, with both planned to be constructed and started-up roughly at the same time. 

SA-SAGD technology relies on the use of a light oil (typically butane) to reduce the viscosity of the bitumen. The amount of solvent added is normally in the range of 5% to 20% by volume, reducing steam requirements by as much as 25% over traditional SAGD technology.

The EBRT pilot will test an azeotropic heated vapour extraction (AH-VAPEX) process. The technology will inject a heated vapour mixture, consisting of 90% gas condensate and about 10% steam by volume. The mixture is pumped into the reservoir through an injector well, heating and diluting the bitumen. The EBRT facility will be designed to produce about 10,700 bbl/day of diluted bitumen emulsion, which will be sent to Aspen's central processing facility (CPF) for final clean-up and sale to market.

Since the injected gas is only 10% steam, the technology has the potential to reduce steam loads by up to 70% over conventional SAGD operations. That translates into a 60% drop in greenhouse gas emissions and 90% less water usage.

Site preparation is planned to begin at the end of this year, with construction work planned through 2022. The EBRT pilot is intended to be started up in tandem with Aspen, whose start date has been delayed to 2023.

Imperial calls this technology "game changing," reducing the environmental footprint of in-situ extraction, while making the process more economically viable. The company says it plans to run the pilot in three one-year periods, with the addition of up to three years for enhancements.

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