CALGARY, ALBERTA–(Marketwired – Sept. 16, 2016) – Suncor today provided an update on its work with Nsolv Corporation to test solvent-based extraction techniques and explore advancing the technology to commercial scale implementation. Suncor will continue to test the Nsolv technology, which uses a solvent in place of steam in current in situ bitumen extraction techniques.
Since 2013, Suncor and Nsolv have been working together on a pilot of the Nsolv technology at Suncor’s Dover test site, north of Fort McMurray, Alta. Suncor and Nsolv will work together to complete the pilot operations, and evaluate the potential to advance the technology.
“Suncor is pursuing a portfolio of technologies that offer the potential to transform the environmental and economic performance of oil sands production,” says Gary Bunio, general manager of strategic technology, Suncor. “External technology collaborations like our work with Nsolv are an important part of this pursuit.”
“This marks an important step in Nsolv’s work with Suncor and in our journey towards commercialization,” said Joe Kuhach, chief executive officer of Nsolv. “We are excited by the pilot results seen to date achieved with the support of one of Canada’s leading energy companies, our shareholders and funders. Nsolv believes the pilot has successfully demonstrated the capabilities of the technology and we look forward to further advancing this project.”
About the Nsolv technology
The Nsolv process uses the traditional horizontal well technology developed for steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), but does not require any water. Instead, Nsolv uses a vapourized solvent, like propane or butane, to provide heat the way steam would in the SAGD process. The solvent also dilutes and mobilizes the bitumen, allowing it to flow at much lower temperatures compared to SAGD. The Nsolv process functions with reservoir temperatures of 60°C, as compared to approximately 200°C in a SAGD reservoir. Due to the low temperature and low pressure required for its operation, Nsolv may also allow the extraction of shallow in situ resources which are currently inaccessible with up to 75 per cent savings in energy efficiency.
The process is expected to produce a lighter, de-asphalted and hence, higher-value oil. Capital and operating costs are then expected to be reduced by foregoing the need to build a water treatment plant and boilers; instead, a relatively small solvent purification plant and solvent vapourizers are required.