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Acceleware pioneering radio frequency heating to replace SAGD

Canada West Foundation · Apr 20, 2020 Acceleware Ltd., a Canadian cleantech company based in Calgary, has found a way to improve heavy oil recovery while also dramatically reducing GHG emissions and freshwater use. Rather than relying on steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), Acceleware’s technology uses radio frequency heating – which they call RF XL – to heat the oil to temperatures at which it can be moved. Rather than an injector well, RF XL uses a transmission line that emits electromagnetic energy in the radiowave spectrum to heat the formation – in the same way a microwave oven does.

The environmental benefits are substantial, significantly reducing the need for fresh water, and, depending on the source of electricity, reducing GHG emissions by 25 to 100%. Acceleware also claims their technology reduces the operating and capital costs of heavy oil production by at least 40% compared to SAGD. In late 2019, the company completed a successful field test for its prototype RF converter and is now awaiting regulatory approvals to proceed with a test site in the Alberta oil sands. Read the full story here.

Today, the preferred method for heavy oil and bitumen production in Canada is in-situ steam-based technology, such as SAGD and cyclic steam stimulation (CSS). But they aren’t without problems. For example, these methods require large freshwater consumption and release high levels of CO2 into the atmosphere, both of which are factors that have drawn considerable environmental criticism to the industry. Although Acceleware’s technology may not be the answer to all of the oil sands prayers (i.e. it won’t be solving any market access issues), coupled with other emerging innovations such as bitumen solidification, it is certainly a step in the right direction both for producers and the environment.


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