October 18-25, 2004

Regina research centre receives funding for Vapex enhanced oil recovery process

The federal and Saskatchewan governments are providing a total of $750,000 in matching funds for the construction of a scale physical model of Vapex (vapour extraction) technology by the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) in Regina.

Vapex is a new, more environmentally sound method of extracting oil from existing horizontal wells to substantially increase oil production. It injects solvent gases into heavy oil reservoirs to reduce the viscosity of heavy oil. Once the solvent dissolves into the oil, reducing its viscosity, the oil can drain and be pumped from a lower horizontal well to the surface. Since the process does not use heat to recover the oil, it has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The funds, being provided through the Canada-Saskatchewan Western Economic Partnership Agreement (WEPA), will go toward designing, purchasing and installing a 3-D scale model which will allow researchers to test the new technology and develop it more quickly for commercial applications. Specific investments will be made in major equipment, including high-pressure pumps, a pressure vessel, stainless steel chambers, instrumentation, solvent storage tanks and an overhead crane.

The Vapex technology is being discussed globally as an economically appealing method for recovering oil. Saskatchewan's heavy oil production has doubled over the past decade, but current forecasts suggest that without new technology, production will decline by as much as 50% in the next ten years, as both horizontal well technology and cold production lose their effectiveness to sustain heavy oil production.

"Vapex research is a major focus for the PTRC, as it represents a significant advancement in enhanced oil recovery technology that will assist our producers while reducing harm to the environment," said PTRC executive director Michael Monea. "This funding will allow us to press forward with this research very quickly, helping to achieve a green economy for Saskatchewan and Canada."

More information is available from Michael Monea at the PTRC, 306/787-8290.

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