Steam Oil investigates VHTL for heavy-oil North Sea fields
FluidOil has entered into a cooperation agreement with The Steam Oil Production Co., operator of various undeveloped heavy-oil fields in the UK North Sea.
LONDON – FluidOil has entered into a cooperation agreement with The Steam Oil Production Co., operator of various undeveloped heavy-oil fields in the UK North Sea.
The two companies will investigate the application of FluidOil’s Viscositor Heavy-to-Light (VHTL) oil upgrading technology into an offshore steam flooding project.
Steam Oil’s heavy-oil reservoirs are in an area known as the Western Platform, 140 km (87 mi) east of Aberdeen. Collectively they hold in-placed resources of nearly 650 MMbbl.
Initially, Steam Oil plans to construct a steam flood demonstration project on part of the Pilot field. The subsequent steam flood development of the remainder of Pilot and the other Western Platform fields, could, the company believes, deliver more than 300 MMbbl.
Further exploration success in the area could increase the potential recoverable resource base to more than 500 MMbbl.
The VHTL technology generates large volumes of high-pressure steam. Integration into the process design for the follow-on Western Platform Steam Flood project could reduce separation, steam generation, and associated fuel requirements.
The two companies will examine this potential and determine the optimum plant configuration to maximize process synergies and at the same time minimize fuel costs.
Steve Brown, CEO of Steam Oil, said: “Steam flooding is the most effective recovery mechanism for heavy oil and we expect to see recovery factors of between 50% and 80% when we steam flood these reservoirs. To do that we will need a lot of steam and the steam produced as a by-product of FluidOil’s upgrading process will significantly reduce our fuel costs.
“In addition, the VHTL process does not demand a stringent water-in-oil content specification so we can simplify our process requirements. Finally, the VHTL process consumes heavy metals and naphthenic acid and other contaminants which refiners do not like and which would otherwise affect the value of our crude.”
VHTL combines FluidOil’s patented ‘Viscositor’ technology with the ‘Heavy-to-Light’ upgrading process which the company acquired when it purchased the intellectual property of Ivanhoe Energy in 2016.
The VHTL process is a simplification of the traditional Fluidized Catalytic Cracking process, used widely in petroleum refineries.
VHTL can upgrade heavy oil from less than 10° API into a synthetic crude oil with a gravity of between 23° and 29° API, while removing most of the heavy metals, lowering the sulfur content, significantly reducing the total acid number, and lowering the viscosity.
Taken together, this simplifies handling of the crude oil, reducing production and logistics costs, and allows heavy-oil producers to obtain a higher price for their product - up to $20/bbl.