​T-minus three years to radio frequency oilsands production after successful field test: Acceleware

Example of a typical dipole antenna and its radiation, used for RF heating. Image: Acceleware

A three–day field test of a radio frequency in situ oilsands technology has successfully met its objectives, allowing for plans to progress on a second phase commercial-scale pilot, Acceleware says.

Over the years, a number of potentially disruptive alternatives to SAGD technology have been promoted.

Like those, Acceleware’s RF XL makes some bold claims: a 25 to 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to SAGD (depending on the power grid source); dramatically lower capital requirements with at least a 50 per cent lower cost per flowing barrel; and it doesn’t require the addition of water to the reservoir.

But unlike some technology proponents, Acceleware is a publicly listed company on the TSX Venture and it has connections with some global heavyweights—including GE.

“We been working on this for close to seven years now with super majors around the world,” Acceleware vice-president Mike Tourigny told JWN.

In that development work, Acceleware concluded that a “traditional” approach to producing oil with RF was not economic because it required expensive military-grade machinery and faced challenges in long SAGD horizontal wells.

“We redesigned everything from the ground up. That's where our partnership with GE comes into play—in order to have a really low-cost efficient way to generate [in situ heat],” Tourigny says.

“The other piece is to make sure that we go into the ground with just pipes. It's all standard oilfield materials. There's nothing funky or flaky that needs a new type of service rig or training.”

Acceleware’s RF XL technology is also in synch with the future of the oilsands, which is likely see smaller, more efficient projects. If the system proves commercial, it could deliver economic production from even a one-well deployment, he says.

“Our economics are flat. If you run one well or 20, the economics are the same, assuming that the reservoir is the same.”

Acceleware’s second phase of testing is planned for 2017 and 2018, and will deploy a 1,000 metre RF XL heating system using Acceleware and GE's power electronics technology in an oilsands reservoir. The wells will be fully instrumented and the test will use commercially viable dimensions and power levels to further confirm efficiency and production estimates, Tourigny says.

“We’re about three years away from commercialization.”

Asked about requirements for government funding to advance to commercialization, he added: “We probably will need government funding for some of this development. We have applied and we are optimistic that we will see some of that come through, along with operator support.”

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