Oilsands solvent techs, low-sulphur marine fuel system get federal, provincial funding

Alberta Innovates and Natural Resources Canada announced funding for oil and gas clean tech projects involving Field Upgrading Limited, Cenovus Energy and MEG Energy Corp. on Thursday. Image: Field Upgrading Limited

Three oilsands clean tech development projects have received funding from Alberta Innovates and Natural Resources Canada.

Cenovus Energy, MEG Energy and Field Upgrading Limited were all awarded financial support on Thursday.

Cenovus Energy received $2 million from Alberta Innovates and $7.52 million from NRCan for its solvent driven process field demonstration project. The project involves co-injecting solvent together with steam into a well at Cenovus's Foster Creek project after approximately one to two years of SAGD production.

Unlike in previous solvent pilots conducted by Cenovus, the majority of the steam-solvent mix will be solvent (between 50 and 95 per cent by weight). The steam will heat the solvent to about 80-100 degrees Celsius and the heat and solvent are expected to sustain steam chamber growth in the reservoir.

Among other things, the project will evaluate the reduction in steam requirements with the goal to develop a technology that can potentially significantly lower the cumulative steam-to-oil ratio and water treatment costs associated with steam generation.

MEG Energy Corp. received $2.3 million from Alberta Innovates and $9.93 million from NRCan for its enhanced modified vapour extraction (eMVAPEX) technology. eMVAPEX involves injection of a light hydrocarbon instead of steam after initial SAGD operation when bitumen recovery reaches between 20-30 per cent. It is anticipated overall plant bitumen production could be increased by up to 70 per cent with the same steam assets employed for SAGD bitumen production by employing eMVAPEX.

As eMVAPEX requires less steam per barrel of oil, MEG is projecting an approximately 43 per cent reduction in GHG emissions relative to the industry average as well as a significant reduction in water usage.

The efficiency gain in steam deployment would allow MEG to redeploy existing steam generation capacity to new patterns, further increasing bitumen production and reducing the overall per barrel footprint and cost of bitumen production.

Field Upgrading Limited’s Clean Seas technology to produce low sulphur marine fuel from Alberta crude received $4.53 million in funding from Alberta Innovates and NRCan to advance its DSU technology by completing a front-end engineering design (FEED) study for a modular demonstration plant.

NRCan is contributing $21 million and Alberta Innovates $5.2 million over two-years, while industry will provide an additional $43.3 million.

DSU technology is designed to remove sulphur and metals from heavy oils and refinery bottoms to produce a clean marine fuel that complies with the new lower ISO sulphur specifications for marine fuel.

The current design basis phase of the Clean Seas project is transitioning into a FEED study for a large scale 2,500 bbls/d demonstration plant to be located in the Industrial Heartland of Alberta near Edmonton.

“The funding from both levels of government comes at a crucial time for the Clean Seas project,” says Field Upgrading president and chief executive officer Lorraine Mitchelmore, former president and Canada country chair of Shell Canada.

“Global sulphur limits around marine fuel are changing, and we’ve developed solutions for ship-ready marine bunker fuels that will meet these targets. We are taking the bottom of the barrel and creating a more environmentally responsible fuel to help industry meet its new obligations.”