Diagram shows how the waterless extraction technology works. Image: Harris Corp.
Calgary, AB – The first radio frequency pilot for oil recovery within an in situ reservoir project is under way in Alberta. The technology, Enhanced Solvent Extraction Incorporating Electromagnetic Heating (ESEIEH, pronounced ‘easy’), uses radio frequency to heat the reservoir and adds a solvent which facilitates the movement of the bitumen to the surface.
The project is being led by Suncor Energy, along with partners Devon, Nexen Energy ULC, Suncor and Harris Corporation, with funding in part from the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC). The technology will be tested at Suncor’s Dover test site, north of Fort McMurray, AB.
“The ESEIEH technology, if successful and commercially viable, has the potential to improve economic and environmental performance in the oil sands by eliminating the need for water at in situ operations, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decreasing our environmental footprint,” says Gary Bunio, general manager of oil sands strategic technology, Suncor.
“The partners are working together on a new technology that has the potential for significant economic and environmental advantages over traditional extraction processes,” says Brian Blakey, vice-president and general manager of energy solutions, Harris. “The new technology benefits from Harris’ leadership in radio frequency science and engineering.”
The group has been collaborating on this technology since 2011 with initial physical testing of the technology in 2012 at Suncor’s Steepbank mine facility. Testing will now begin at an in situ reservoir for about 24 months.
ESEIEH has the potential to eliminate the need for water at in situ operations by applying Harris’ patent pending antenna technology to heat the oil sands electrically with radio waves. A hydrocarbon solvent is then injected to dilute and mobilize the bitumen with minimal energy requirements, so that it can be produced to the surface 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, increase efficiency and reduce capital expenditures. This transformative technology has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from in situ bitumen production.