Canada: Oil Sands Imperial's Next-Generation Oil Recovery Technology to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Editor: Alexander Stark

Imperial Oil Limited announced plans to apply advanced technologies and improvements in efficiency to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of its operated oil sands facilities.

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Imperial applies next-generation oil recovery technology at their Cold Lake in-situ operations.
Imperial applies next-generation oil recovery technology at their Cold Lake in-situ operations.
(Source: Imperial Oil)

Calgary/Canada — In 2016, Imperial opened a research centre dedicated to advancing oil sands innovation. The new facility, located in southeast Calgary, is home to a team of researchers pursuing technological solutions that deliver environmental and economic benefits for the company’s oil sands operations.

Rich Kruger, Imperial chairman, president and chief executive officer, describes the company's technologies as game-changing and that it should not only lead to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and water use, but also greatly enhance the economics of our operations. He therefore sees high potential for commercializing it.

The application of next-generation oil recovery technology at Imperial’s Cold Lake in-situ operations, improvements in reliability at its Kearl mining facility and continuous improvements in energy efficiency are expected to be key drivers behind the reductions, which are anticipated to result in a 10 % decrease in greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 2023, compared with 2016 levels.

The company expects to achieve even greater reductions through the application of step-change in-situ oil recovery technology at its proposed Aspen oil sands project, which is currently under regulatory review. The new technology, solvent-assisted steam-assisted gravity drainage, could reduce both greenhouse gas emissions intensity and water use intensity by up to 25 % through lower energy utilization per barrel, compared with traditional steam-assisted gravity drainage technology.

Following a $ 100 million, multi-year pilot at its Cold Lake facility, Imperial is also evaluating the first commercial application of its cyclic solvent process, which could eliminate the use of steam and reduce emissions intensity up to 90 % in certain areas of the Cold Lake field, the company claims.

Exxon Mobil has been investing about $ 1 billion a year in Imperial's research and development efforts. Through the relationship with Exxon Mobil, the company is also exploring advanced biofuels as well as carbon capture and storage.