Monday, August 27, 2007

Albertan THAI

The Oil Drum has an excellent post on the potential for utilizing a process known as Toe-to-Heel Air Injection (THAI) to extract oil from low-API sources, such as the Albertan oil/tar sands. Apparently, they've had some test wells going for over a year, so it's not entirely speculative at this point.

I'd explain it, but they have such nice pictures, it would be folly for me to create value added. There were two points I found quite interesting, though.

1) Reduced water usage. Once the THAI process gets up and running, it is self-sustaining in terms of water. I don't know what this means in terms of groundwater depletion, but since the Athabasca is already quite strained, this could potentially mean a lot.

2) Mining oil sands is really dirty. THAI proposes to burn 10% of the oil in place during extraction, and even this would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% over the current process.

Either way, if this revolutionizes Fort Mac or not, the science is still interesting. I remember when I had a chemistry scholarship and a lab coat instead of MWG.

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