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Canada awards C$10M to N-Solv to demonstrate solvent-based in-situ bitumen extraction technology; targeting 85% reduction in GHG compared to SAGD with no consumption of process water

N-Solv reduces bitumen viscosity—accelerating the extraction rate—with a modest increase in temperature. Source: N-Solv. Click to enlarge.

Canada is awarding C$10M (US$10.5 million) from Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s (SDTC) SD Tech Fund to a consortium led by N-Solv Corp. to support the demonstration of its Bitumen Extraction Solvent Technology (BEST), a low-temperature, primary, in-situ technology to produce the bitumen in oil sands reserves using a pure, condensing solvent.

The N-Solv technology is targeted to produce 85% less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) in-situ production methods, and will reduce the consumption of process water to zero. The N-Solv process is also expected to have lower operating and capital costs than SAGD with fewer restrictions on the reservoir conditions under which it can operate.

Other members of the consortium are oil sands producer Suncor Energy Inc. and Hatch Ltd.

In making the award, SDTC noted that Canada has some 170 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil stored in the oil sands. Of these remaining established reserves in Alberta, 80% are too deep to be mined and are currently recovered using in situ processes such as SAGD which is water- and energy- intensive.

N-Solv injects heated solvent (such as propane) vapor at moderate pressures into the gravity drainage chamber. The vapor flows from the injection well to the colder perimeter of the chamber where it condenses, delivering heat and fresh solvent directly to the bitumen extraction interface.

In solvent extraction, the production rate is limited by the rate that the solvent diffuses into the bitumen; the penetration rate of solvent into bitumen is determined by the bitumen viscosity. With Athabasca bitumen, a 25-30ºC temperature rise typically reduces the bitumen viscosity by a factor of 100. Thus, says N-Solv, a substantial acceleration in the bitumen extraction rate is achieved with a very modest increase in temperature. This is the key principle of N-Solv.

The use of solvent also preferentially extracts the valuable components in the bitumen while the problematic high molecular weight coke-forming species (asphaltenes) are left behind. The condensed solvent and oil then drain by gravity to the bottom of the chamber and are recovered via the production well.

Photomicrograph of an experimental sandpack. The fully extracted sand is upper, with residual asphaltenes dispersed throughout. Source: N-Solv. Click to enlarge.

The in situ solvent deasphalting is very selective and leaves the asphaltenes evenly dispersed throughout the extracted portion of the chamber. Post extraction core analyses show that the residue contains 60 to 70% asphaltenes. By leaving the majority of the asphaltenes behind the produced oil contains less sulphur, heavy metals (zinc, vanadium, iron) and carbon residue. This partially upgrades the oil to 13-16°API from a value of approximately 8°API for the raw bitumen. The produced oil is also less viscous, thus it requires less diluent for pipeline transportation to the refinery.

The (negative) impact of non-condensable gases on the extraction rates is critical, notes N-Solv. Non-condensable gases are released from the bitumen and accumulate in the reservoir if no special measures are taken. Increasing concentrations of non-condensable gases slow down the production rates. This effect can be severe and must be mitigated, the company says. The right circulation of solvent in the N-Solv process provides sufficient capacity to minimize and stabilize the concentration of non-condensables inside the reservoir. Through this built-in principle the process is able to sustain high production rates throughout, the company claims.

As the final step to prove the performance of the pure solvent under actual reservoir conditions, N-Solv will drill and complete a 300-meter producer and injector well pair and complete final engineering and construction of a supporting 500 barrel per day surface facility near Fort MacKay, Alberta.




This is great, it leaves the asphalt safely stored away for later recovery.. when things get really dire then we can recover that asphalt with a better solvent.. its not a bug, its a feature :)

Actually, it sounds pretty good.


Solvent. Groundwater. Hmmm...


Why should our tax $$$ go to high profit Oil firms? The $$$B they make every year should be more than enough to pay for this development. It does not make sense.


Good news. Looks like the Deniers were right after all. According to a NASA report:

The global warming catastrophe the Spinach Party has been predicting based on present scientific models just won't happen. The models have been proved wrong based on satellite observations going back to 2000 to the present.

Wonder what the tax takers will come up with next to suck the money out of the workers?

Incidentally, it's interesting greencarcongress has been silent on this latest development.


Mann...become a millionaire and you be tax free.


So let me get this straight. It's good news that they're working on a greener method to extract and burn fossil fuels???? WTF?


Mr. Mannstein,

Dr. Roy Spencer is constantly coming up with these kinds of claims and every one of them turns out to be BS. Tell me why this one is different.


@ Eschewo

Have you studied Dr. Roy Spencer and Dr. Danny Braswell research paper published this week in the journal Remote Sensing?

Unless they are fudging the data they make convincing arguments.


@ HarveyD

Actually I already am a multi and don't mind paying taxes but not for social engineering experiments dreamt up by incompetent political scientists.


@ Mannstein,

I also used to be very skeptical of AGW. When I retired I had lots of free time. I decided to dig deep into the AGW "debate". I'm not a climate scientist but I am an engineer with a firm grasp of science. Every time I read some piece of information that refutes the consensus of climate change I look at it objectively. There have been dozens of articles of this type that turn out to be flawed. Believe it or not here is a part of me that is hopeful that, in fact, there is some new science that proves AGW wrong. Nobody would be happier than me if the AGW consensus was wrong. But time after time after time every one of these refutations turns out to BS. Dr. Roy Spencer is also in denial of Darwin's theory of evolution. This does not necessarily make him wrong about other science but he sure fits the modus operandi of someone who is far from objective about AGW.


Mr. Mannstein,

This is what I might call evidence for ideological bias on the part of Roy Spencer. He said,

“For most people, either you believe that the world has been created for mankind’s use, with a certain resiliency and stability, or you believe it is just a cosmic accident, fragile, and overly sensitive to our meddling. The creator may be the biblical God; or as a scientist friend of mine believes, some as yet unrevealed Life Force. For many of those who don’t believe in a creator, the spiritual need in their lives results in the uplifting of Mother Nature as the ultimate spiritual entity.”

Notice his black or white thinking when he implies a person must believe the world is either resilient and stable or overly sensitive. I concede that still does absolutely prevent him from being objective. I found the following critique of a book published by Roy Spencer.

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