A new method developed in Britain over the past 17 years for extracting oil is now at the forefront of plans to exploit a massive heavy oilfield in Canada.
Duvernay Petroleum is to use the revolutionary Toe-to-Heel Air Injection (THAI™) system developed at the University of Bath at its site at Peace River in Alberta, Canada.
Unlike conventional light oil, heavy oil is very viscous, like syrup, or even solid in its natural state underground, making it very difficult to extract. But heavy oil reserves that could keep the planets oil-dependent economy going for a hundred years lie beneath the surface in many countries, especially in Canada.
Although heavy oil extraction has steadily increased over the last ten years, the processes used are very energy intensive, especially of natural gas and water. But the THAI™ system is more efficient, and this, and the increasing cost of conventional light oil, could lead to the widespread exploitation of heavy oil.
The world needs to switch to cleaner ways of using energy such as fuel cells, said Professor Malcolm Greaves, who developed the THAI™ process.
But we are decades away from creating a full-blown hydrogen economy, and until then we need oil and gas to run our economies.
Conventional light oil such as that in the North Sea or Saudi Arabia is running out and getting more expensive to extract.
Thats why the pressure is on to find an efficient way of extracting heavy oil.
THAI™ uses a system where air is injected into the oil deposit down a vertical well and is ignited. The heat generated in the reservoir reduces the viscosity of the heavy oil, allowing it to drain into a second, horizontal well from where it rises to the surface.
THAI™ is very efficient, recovering about 70 to 80 per cent of the oil, compared to only 10 to 40 per cent using other technologies.
Duvernay Petroleums heavy oil field in Pea
|Contact: Tony Trueman|
University of Bath