Is the THAI™ system (below) or any other process that comes along for economically recovering heavy oil and bitumen the answer to our dependence on oil for the majority of our transportation fuels? This does not appear to be pie in the sky, as they already have a 3,000 bpd pilot plant in operation. Since oil for transportation systems is becoming very expensive (relatively, especially in the US and other dollar denominated countries) and our current development of alternative liquid fuels and/or electrically fueled vehicles is not currently moving ahead fast enough to have a significant impact on oil prices in the near future, (nor would this process in the short term) should we celebrate such a process as a possible constraint on oil prices? There is much heavy oil in the Western Hemisphere other than Canada, including Venezuela and western parts of the US, the use of which would greatly reduce our dependence on oil from the Mideast and Africa. It certainly would be a big boost to the Canadian economy. If widely adopted what does this do to further development of renewable energy and the accompanying reductions in CO2 emissions?
University of Bath press release:
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.
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.
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 planet’s oil-dependent economy going for a hundred years lie beneath the surface in many countries, especially in Canada. . . .
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. (How much oil is lost in the burning process? Could the process cause any significant migration of oil into ajacent water resources? ). . .
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. (an amazing number if true) . . .
The THAI™ process was first used by Petrobank at its Christina Lake site in the Athabasca Oil Sands, Canada, in June 2006 in a pilot operation which is currently producing 3,000 barrels of oil a day. This was on deposits of bitumen - similar to the surface coating of roads - rather than heavy oil. . . .
Duvernay Petroleum’s heavy oil field in Peace River contains 100 million barrels and this will be a first test of THAI™ on heavy oil, for which THAI™ was originally developed. Duvernay Petroleum has signed a contract with the Canadian firm Petrobank, which owns THAI™, to use the process. . . .
The 50,000 acre site owned by Petrobank contains an estimated 2.6 billion barrels of bitumen. The Athabasca Oil Sands region is the single largest petroleum deposit on earth, bigger than that of Saudi Arabia.
". . . with light oil now hitting around 100 dollars a barrel, it’s economic to think of using heavy oil, especially since THAI™ can produce oil for less than 10 dollars a barrel." said Professor Greaves, of the University University of Bath's Department of Chemical Engineering. (about the same as producing light sweet crude from conventional land based oilfields)
Thanks for tip from vox-mundi at Peak OIl News & Message Boards.