Alberta Innovates & NRCan awarding $26.2M to three oil sands clean tech projects; industry kicking in $43.3M
Alberta Innovates has teamed up with Natural Resources (NRCan) and industry partners to take three clean oil sands technologies to commercial demonstration. This announcement is a result of NRCan’s Oil and Gas Clean Tech Program. NRCan is contributing $21 million and Alberta Innovates is investing $5.2 million, for a total of $26.2 million over two years.
The three industry partners, Cenovus Energy, Field Upgrading, and MEG Energy are investing $43.3 million in commercial demonstration in the three projects intended to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of bitumen production and upgrading.
Cenovus Energy: Solvent Driven Process Field Demonstration. Cenovus Energy will test an oil sands extraction technology using a solvent-driven process. This involves co-injecting solvent together with steam into a well at Cenovus’s Foster Creek project after approximately one to two years of steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). Unlike in previous solvent pilots conducted by Cenovus, the majority of the steam-solvent mix in this demonstration project will be solvent (between 50 and 95% by weight). The steam will heat the solvent to about 80-100° C, and the heat and solvent are expected to sustain steam chamber growth in the reservoir.
Among other things, the demonstration project will evaluate the reduction in steam requirements with the goal to develop a technology that can potentially significantly lower the cumulative steam-to-oil ratio and water treatment costs associated with steam generation.
Alberta Innovates is providing $2,000,000; NRCan is providing $7,525,000.
MEG Energy: enhanced Modified VAPor Extraction. The main objectives of the enhanced Modified VAPor Extraction (eMVAPEX) technology are to efficiently grow MEG’s bitumen production rate, achieve sustainable cost savings and minimize environmental impacts to land, air and water. MEG anticipates that by employing eMVAPEX, the bitumen production rate and overall bitumen recovery will increase relative to the SAGD process while requiring significantly less steam injection.
As eMVAPEX requires less steam per barrel of oil, MEG is projecting an approximately 43% reduction in GHG emissions relative to the industry average as well as a significant reduction in water usage. The efficiency gain in steam deployment will allow MEG to redeploy existing steam generation capacity to new patterns, further increasing bitumen production and reducing the overall per barrel footprint and cost of bitumen production.
MEG targets annual production of 80,000-82,000 barrels per day in 2017. Steam generation is the main contributor to GHG emissions and the operating cost of bitumen production. eMVAPEX involves injection of a light hydrocarbon instead of steam after initial SAGD operation when bitumen recovery reaches between 20-30%. It is anticipated that by employing eMVAPEX, overall plant bitumen production could be increased by up to 70% with the same steam assets employed for SAGD bitumen production. The overall GHG emission intensity is expected to be reduced by as much as 43% for industry-standard assets at 3.0 SOR (steam-to-oil ratio), as well as improving the overall recovery from the reservoir.
Alberta Innovates is providing $2,300,000; NRCan is providing $9,933,000.
Field Upgrading: Clean Seas Demonstration Project. The objective of this project is to advance Field Upgrading’s De-Sulfurization & Upgrading (DSU) technology by completing a Front-end Engineering Design (FEED) study for a first of its kind modular large-scale 2500 barrels per day (bpd) demonstration plant.
DSU uses molten sodium to reduce the levels of sulphur, metals, acid (TAN) and asphaltenes in heavy oil feedstocks, including oil sands bitumen. DSU also significantly increases the API gravity of the feedstocks while achieving a relatively higher yield compared to conventional upgrading technologies. It can produce a marine fuel that complies with the lower ISO sulfur specifications for marine fuel. DSU technology is more energy efficient than conventional technologies, has no direct SOx, NOx, PM or GHG emissions, and does not leave coke or asphaltenes behind.
The DSU technology has been extensively proven in the lab and at pilot scale, with an operating 10 bpd pilot plant, across over 30 different feedstocks from Alberta bitumen and refinery bottoms to Columbia heavy oils with consistent positive results. This FEED study will be a building block for a full-scale commercial plant. An important advantage of the DSU process is its scalability. An objective of the project will be to package the commercial plant into sea container-size skids that can be prefabricated and delivered to site to speed rollout of the technology and minimize low-productivity work in the field.
Alberta Innovates is providing $971,000; NRCan is providing $3,560,000.