Acceleware improves performance of proposed radio frequency heating technology for oilsands production

Image: JWN

Acceleware Ltd. has filed a new patent application which it says will improve the economics of and speed time to oil production for its proposed radio frequency (RF) XL heating technology. Similar to the principle of a microwave oven, the technology uses radio waves instead of steam to heat bitumen in situ.

The company, which is working with GE to advance the technology, says the process has the potential to save billions of dollars in oilsands production costs while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water use in typically energy-intensive oilsands production.

The innovations detailed in the new patent application provide additional benefits that are four-fold: better economics, faster time to first oil production, reduced drilling and completion costs, and greater applicability to more resources.

The capability of RF XL is broader because it allows operators to shape and control the penetration and depth of the energy that is delivered to the reservoir, said Acceleware. The innovation can help reduce capital costs by increasing how much of a reservoir can be produced from a single well, as well as decrease operating costs and improve return on investment by reducing the time between start-up and first oil production.

RF XL now includes innovations that provide flexibility of deployment that would result in a material reduction in drilling and completion costs compared to SAGD. This flexibility could also create further growth opportunities for producers as it may allow RF XL to be effective in reservoirs that to date have not been economic to develop, the company said.

"This is a material extension of the RF XL technology as it further improves profitability for operators while reducing energy use and GHG emissions," said Mike Tourigny, vice-president Commercialization of RF Heating for Acceleware. "Controlling and extending the reach of the heat delivered to the formation can allow operators to reduce drilling costs by producing more oil with fewer wells, reduce the time to first oil, and increase their base of proven reserves in Alberta and abroad."

Acceleware partnered with GE to develop critical power components of the RF XL system based on GE's proprietary high-efficiency silicon carbide power electronics. Acceleware has embarked on a multi-phase program to validate the performance of RF XL that is expected to culminate with a commercial scale field test in 2017 and 2018, in partnership with GE and an oilsands operator.