Blasting the earth with radio waves and one possible future for the oilsands
A planned field pilot testing radio frequency for in situ oilsands extraction has taken a step forward with the filing of its regulatory application.
Prosper Petroleum Ltd. is asking the Alberta Energy Regulator for approval of a 2,000-bbl/d commercial scale test of the technology near its planned Rigel SAGD project, located about 100 kilometres northwest of Fort McMurray. The proposed pilot is a partnership with Acceleware Ltd. that was announced this summer (DOB, Jul. 17, 2018).
Under the terms of the agreement, Acceleware gets access to Rigel leases as well as engineering and geological support and assistance with obtaining regulatory approvals. In exchange, Prosper gets the right to purchase RF XL systems at a preferential rate for use on its lands for a period of 20 years following the completion of the test.
Acceleware has secured up to $10 million in non-repayable funding for RF XL development from Sustainable Development Technology Canada and Emissions Reduction Alberta (DOB, Sep. 27, 2018).
The proposed RF pilot is on the same lease area as Rigel but outside the SAGD project scheme boundaries, Prosper told the AER.
The company received conditional approval for the 10,000-bbl/d Rigel project from the AER in June, but it has yet to receive an Alberta Order in Council or approvals under the Oil Sands Conservation Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, and Water Act.
Acceleware’s RF XL is an all-electric heating technology that uses electromagnetic energy in the radio frequency spectrum to heat and mobilize heavy oil and bitumen, Prosper described.
“RF heating operates like an inside-out microwave oven, with radio waves seeking out and turning the connate water (water that already exists in the oil-bearing formation) into steam. This efficient process is in contrast to SAGD, where steam is made from externally sourced fresh water above ground and then pumped into, and then out of, the formation. The inherent efficiency of this process results in production levels comparable to SAGD, while using less than half the energy.”
If successful, the technology is expected to reduce facility footprint and associated disturbance by up to 67 per cent, require no external water, and significantly reduce GHG emissions.
Operating in a horizontal well pair configuration similar to SAGD, steam will be generated inside the formation via a well that is up to 1,100 metres long. The horizontal portion of this injector/antennae well is divided into two heating lines that heat the formation with electrical power. The bitumen then drains to the producer and is pumped, using an electric submersible pump, to the surface.
The pilot would use 2 MW of power for the duration of a six-month initial test. Upon completion of the initial six-month heating phase, the companies may elect to continue the RF XL test for a period of up to five years, according to the AER application.
Prosper said it expects the RF XL pilot schedule to correspond with construction and drilling for the Rigel project, beginning in early 2019.