Project targets fewer carbon emissions

September 11, 2009, 12:53 CEST
The steam-solvent co-injection project (Solve) is in partnership with the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The goal is to develop, optimise, and commercialise StatoilHydro’s new technology – through an extensive field testing and research and development programme – to reduce water use and CO2 emissions from conventional steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) technology.

Solve received CAD 6 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, on 10 September 2009, to help develop and deploy the technology and lessen the environmental impacts of in-situ oil sand extraction.

“We're pleased to partner with PTRC on this innovative pilot project,” said Åge Kristensen, vice president for heavy oil R&D, StatoilHydro Canada.
“The technology enhances the existing SAGD process because it can potentially reduce steam-to-oil ratio while increasing bitumen recovery.”

Reducing the steam-to-oil ratio effectively lowers water use and CO2 emissions because the solvent raises the amount of bitumen produced per barrel of water and fuel consumed.

“The PTRC’s past and current research into solvent extraction technologies fits perfectly with StatoilHydro’s innovative solvent co-injection at Leismer,” noted PTRC executive director Carolyn Preston.

StatoilHydro’s solvent co-injection SAGD process will be piloted on specific wells in the Leismer field, to see if there are reduced environmental impacts during extraction, and to optimise the process for possible application to the entire field.

SAGD is the predominant in-situ recovery method currently used in Canada’s oil sands. Unlike surface mined oil sands, in-situ recovery involves much less land disturbance, but still requires the use of water and natural gas in the steam production process. Burning natural gas produces CO2 emissions.

Environmental improvements
Both water use and CO2 emissions are a major challenge for the oil sand industry. StatoilHydro believes the piloting of its solvent co-injection technology at Leismer will demonstrate at least 10% savings on the steam-to-oil ratio required for extraction, with a potential for saving as much as 25%.

Research programme
The Solve project includes – in addition to the field demo – a research programme integrated with the demo results to reach clear conclusions about specific factors influencing solvent loss, oil production, energy use, and water consumption.

The project is expected to pass several key milestones between early 2009 and late 2011. These include the drilling of co-injection well pairs at the demo site (completed in 2009), injecting of steam in early 2010, and co-injection beginning in the autumn of 2011.