SMRs: Coming to Tarsands . . . . !!!

SMRs: Coming to Tarsands . . . . !!!

Postby Oscar » Sat Feb 02, 2019 11:42 am

Valuing Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Belt

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By William Walter Kay Global Research, February 02, 2019


Heavy Oil and Tar Sands

While much is heard of “fracking” these days; steam-injection may in the long run prove to be the petroleum industry game-changer. Steam aids in harvesting heavy oils from sprawling oil-rich sand and clay formations where the oil is too viscous to be worked by conventional pumps.

Initially, all heavy oil (Alberta) was extracted via open-pit mines wherein giant shovels heaved mounds of oil-saturated sand onto giant dump-trucks for transit to separating vats filled with hot water. This method has largely given way to steam-injection. In Alberta’s oilsands, where much of this technology originated, heavy oil is now 80% extracted via steam; 20% via mining.

The simplest form of steam injection uses a single well. A hole is drilled down to a heavy oil deposit; then steam is pumped down the hole, sometimes for months. Eventually a blob of oil concentrates near the well’s bottom of sufficient viscosity to enable pumping to the surface.

Circa 1978 SAGD (Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage) emerged. With SAGD two lengthy perforated pipes are drilled into place horizontally through the deposit; one pipe a few metres above the other. Both pipes emit steam until a teardrop shaped oil bubble envelopes the lower pipe. Then the top pipe continues to emit steam while the lower pipe goes into reverse; drawing oil to the surface. In 2017 Alberta’s oilsands yielded 2.7 million barrels a day; mostly via SAGD.

Three additional innovations are coming to the fore.

Solvent-Assisted SAGD adds designer chemicals (solvents) to the steam-injection process to accelerate the loosening up the oil.

DHSG (Downhole Steam Generation) lowers small but mighty steam generation tools (furnaces) deep into the well. DHSG allows for greater heat conservation and improved fuel economy.

Miniature nuclear reactors are ready for commercial application. Toshiba has developed a prototype reactor specifically for heavy oil extraction. This 5 MW electricity generator simultaneously serves as the furnace for a 900 Celsius steam injection boiler. The reactor promises to replace the elaborate and expensive natural gas infrastructure presently required by oil-field steam injection facilities. Toshiba’s prototype needs refueling every 30 years.
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