Alberta oil sands producers are reducing the carbon emission intensity of their crude oil by using less steam, particularly in-situ operations, according to new figures from the National Energy Board.
Producers are optimizing their operations with technological innovations that lower the steam oil ratio (SOR): the ratio of the volume of steam required to produce one unit of oil. When natural gas is used to produce steam, the SOR becomes a measure of natural gas intensity, and a key indicator of an operation’s energy efficiency.
In-situ innovations being adopted by SAGD producers include the use of flow control devices that direct steam more uniformly in the reservoir,injecting methane or solvent with steam, and drilling vertical infill wells, or “wedge wells” between older Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) wells to recover additional bitumen from beyond the existing boundaries of the steam chambers.
SOR for the Alberta in-situ industry over the past six years as measured by the ratio of the annual steam usage vs. annual bitumen production, is shown in the figure. SAGD SORs were relatively flat from 2009 to 2013 then saw a 5.7 per cent reduction in 2014. This in-turn helped to decrease the SOR for All Thermal In-Situ SOR by 5.3 per cent in 2014, its best year-on-year improvement since 2010.
Markham Hislop. Beacon News and Beacon energy News, May 26, 2015. http://beaconenergynews.ca/technology/oil-sands-producers-using-less-steam-per-barrel-in-2014