Heavy oil and bitumen together account for more than 96 per cent of all oil and gas reserves in Canada, making Canada’s oil and gas reserves the third largest in the world after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. While bitumen production has more than doubled in the last decade alone, heavy oil production has declined for the last two decades. In 1998, the heavy-oil producing Lloydminster region—straddling the border between central Alberta and Saskatchewan—supplied a quarter of the national oil output. By 2018, its share had dropped to just 10 per cent.
Cold primary heavy oil production, which typically extracts only 7 to 12 per cent of the original oil in place, is declining rapidly—leaving tens of billions of barrels of oil in the ground. With virtually no opportunities to sustain production through the drill bit in this mature resource, development and application of enhanced oil recovery schemes has become the leading priority for sustaining the region’s heavy oil economy.
In this presentation, we will outline some of the cutting-edge research into the enhanced recovery of heavy oil. We will take a fresh look at some tried-and-true methods and new approaches to tackling the challenges typical for the thin and wormholed heavy oil reservoirs in these fields. We will also present thermal and non-thermal EOR methods, the physical concepts behind them and how we test and develop these methods for application in the field.