December 17, 2007

Research team’s findings could revolutionize heavy oil and oil sands production

Calgary, Alberta – An International team of scientists, including those from the University of Calgary, has published a report showing how crude oil deposits are naturally broken down by microbes in the reservoir. The discovery could revolutionize heavy oil and oil sands production by leading to more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly ways to produce oil.

Steve Larter, a petroleum geologist at the University of Calgary’s Department of Geoscience, said that understanding how crude oil biodegrades into methane or natural gas opens the door to being able to recover the clean-burning methane directly from deeply-buried oil sands deposits. The oil sands industry would no longer have to use costly and polluting heated-based processes, such as injecting steam into reservoirs, to loosen the tar-like bitumen so it flows into wells and can be pumped to the surface.

“The main thing is you’d be recovering a much cleaner fuel,” Larter said. “Methane is, per energy unit, a much lower carbon dioxide emitter than bitumen. Also, you wouldn’t need all the upgrading facilities and piping on the surface.”

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