ExxonMobil licenses technology on oil sands steam injection to Baker Hughes

ExxonMobil has awarded the first license for its patented steam injection system and production method to Baker Hughes to improve the efficiency of in-situ oil sands projects, the companies announced on Wednesday.

Approximately 80% of Canada’s oil sands can be produced using in-situ technology, which involves the injection of steam to enable bitumen to be extracted through drilling versus surface mining.

The ExxonMobil-patented technology provides more effective regulation and distribution of steam in long horizontal wells for in-situ oil sands production, the company said.

The technology reduces the number of wells needed, lowers operating costs by reducing steam consumption and improves overall recovery from the field.

The technology can be used in cyclic steam stimulation (CSS), steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and steam flood (SF) heavy oil production projects.

The technology was developed by Imperial Oil Ltd., an ExxonMobil Canadian affiliate, and applied at the Imperial Cold Lake oil sands project.

“We have demonstrated that our technology can improve the economics and the environmental performance of oil sands projects,” said Sara Ortwein, president of ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company.

“This is one of several significant technologies we have developed over the past five decades for improving oil sands production,” she added.

The steam injection technology has two key components:

  • An externally mounted screen section that enables excellent contact between the well and the reservoir, and
  • One or more small flow orifices beneath the screen section that creates the desired level of flow restriction between the inside of the pipe and the reservoir.

The technology enables control of steam into the formation over the entire length of the horizontal well, the company said.

For SAGD applications, this technology can be used on both injector and producer wells to manage steam distribution and oil production from the reservoir.

“This robust technology has proven itself in oil sands applications in Canada by increasing the efficiency of the injected steam and improving ultimate recovery, which translates into lower CO2 emissions per barrel of oil produced,” said Eddie Lui, Imperial Oil Resources vice president for oil sands development and research. “We have seen CO2 reductions of up to 10% compared to traditional vertical CSS completions.”

“This steam-injection technology benefits in-situ oil sands operations through its ability to design and control distribution of steam and is a fitting addition to our wide portfolio of capabilities in Canada, where heavy oil producers look to Baker Hughes for solutions to the unique challenges of oil sands projects,” said Mike Davis, president of Baker Hughes International Canada.

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