Illustration of the ESEIEH process. larger image

July 15, 2015

An oil sands industry partnership has commenced field-testing of a new technology called Enhanced Solvent Extraction Incorporating Electromagnetic Heating (ESEIEH, pronounced “easy”). Project partners are Nexen, Suncor Energy, Devon Canada and Harris Corporation, plus support from Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation. ESEIEH is now being tested at Suncor’s Dover oil sands site.

This technology is testing an innovative means to heat bitumen in a subsurface reservoir. If the test proves successful and commercially viable, ESEIEH has the potential to improve economic and environmental performance in the oil sands industry.

Instead of injecting steam, ESEIEH delivers electricity to a down-hole antenna that generates an electromagnetic (EM) field in the reservoir. The EM energy heats the bitumen, similar to how a microwave heats water molecules in food. Once the bitumen is mobilized, a solvent – in this case, propane – is injected to further reduce bitumen viscosity.

By eliminating the need for water or steam, and reducing the energy requirement, ESEIEH holds the potential to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, eliminate process water usage, and lower costs for bitumen extraction.

Two-year Test

“A 24-month test is now underway to evaluate this bitumen recovery technology,” explains Nexen’s Bill MacFarlane, Senior Advisor - Technology Management. “Nexen has played a vital role in this project by developing the predictive numerical models, and we will be actively monitoring test results through a comprehensive real-time analytical workflow. We have worked hard to get to this point and are very excited to start following the test.”

“This test is the next logical step in de-risking the ESEIEH technology,” says Randy Cormier, VP Technology. “The initial testing, done at Suncor’s Steepbank Mine in 2012, confirmed our ability to successfully generate and distribute EM heat in a natural oil sands formation and validated our ability to predict the system’s performance. Now we’re testing the technology in a subsurface reservoir.”