Canadian Mining Journal

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OIL SANDS: Suncor to test in situ RF recovery without steam

ALBERTA – Suncor Energy of Calgary plans to test a means of in situ bitumen recovery using radio frequency (RF) waves rather than steam. The new technology will be tested at the Dover site, north of Fort McMurray.



ALBERTA – Suncor Energy of Calgary plans to test a means of in situ bitumen recovery using radio frequency (RF) waves rather than steam. The new technology will be tested at the Dover site, north of Fort McMurray.

The enhanced solvent extraction incorporating electromagnetic heating (ESEIEH, pronounced “easy”) technology uses RF to heat the reservoir and adds a solvent which facilitates the movement of the bitumen to the surface. Its use is being pioneered by a partnership that includes Suncor, Devon Energy, Nexen Energy and Harris Corp. Funding, in part, will come from the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp.

ESEIEH has the potential to eliminate the need for water at in situ operations by applying Harris’ patent pending antenna technology to heat the oil sands electrically with radio waves. A hydrocarbon solvent is then injected to dilute and mobilize the bitumen with minimal energy requirements. Once it reaches the surface, it will be transported for further processing.

By reducing the energy required and eliminating the need for water, the ESEIEH process is expected to improve environmental performance, increase efficiency and reduce capital expenditures.

“The ESEIEH technology, if successful and commercially viable, has the potential to improve economic and environmental performance in the oil sands by eliminating the need for water at in situ operations, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decreasing our environmental footprint,” says Gary Bunio, general manager of oil sands strategic technology at Suncor.

The partners have been collaborating on this technology since 2011 with initial physical testing of the technology in 2012 at Suncor’s Steepbank mine facility. Testing will now begin at the Devon reservoir for approximately 24 months.

Please visit Suncor at Suncor.com