Group starts radio frequency pilot for oil sands at Dover in Alberta

The first radio frequency pilot for oil recovery within an in situ reservoir is under way in the Dover area north of Fort McMurray, Alta. In a test that will last about 2 years, radio frequency technology will heat the reservoir to ease the movement of bitumen to the surface.

The technology is being called enhanced solvent extraction incorporating electromagnetic heating, or ESEIEH (pronounced “easy”).

The technology has the potential to improve economic and environmental performance in the oil sands by eliminating the need for water at in situ operations and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said Gary Bunio, general manager of oil sands strategic technology for Suncor Energy Inc., Calgary (OGJ Online, July 9, 2014).

Partner Nexen Energy ULC said the technology delivers electricity to a downhole antenna that generates an electromagnetic field in the reservoir to heat the bitumen. Once the bitumen is mobilized, propane is injected as a solvent to further reduce bitumen viscosity.

In addition to Suncor and Nexen, project partners are Devon Energy Corp. and Harris Corp., with funding in part from Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp. The group has been collaborating on the technology since 2011, with initial physical testing in 2012 at Suncor’s Steepbank mine facility.

“We will be actively monitoring test results through a comprehensive real-time analytical workflow,” said Bill MacFarlane, Nexen senior adviser for technology management.

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