Electric Horizons New Technology Will Make the Oilsands Cleaner and Richer By Robert Owen
The extraction of bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands is so massive as to be visible from space. The resulting images fuel protests and line the pockets of environmental groups. But new technology is about to transform the industry, making extraction cleaner, more efficient and far less intrusive.
Oilsands recovery was first accomplished by open-pit mining. Then rising oil prices enabled the introduction of steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). Coming next is electric multiphase heating.
Two companies are developing this technology. In 2005, E-T Energy began testing their version of Electrothermal Dynamic Stripping or ET-DSP. This involves drilling up to four vertical well bores into which elements are introduced in order to pass electricity through the water surrounding the bitumen in the reservoir, lowering the viscosity. A gathering well is then drilled in the centre of the four electric elements to enable production.