… And expecting different results. Electrical heating of oil reservoirs has fascinated petroleum engineers for more than 70 years - longer, if you include the use of heaters in Siberian oilfields. The earliest laboratory study was done in Pennsylvania in 1940's. Since then, many more studies and field tests have been carried out, none of which was a commercial success. This paper takes a look at different forms of electrical heating, the supporting theoretical work, and field tests. Additionally, several examples are given illustrating the limitations of electrical heating processes. Also discussed is the logic behind the resurgence of electrical heating in recent years. Not discussed are over 200 patents on electrical heating. The major electrical heating processes are resistance heating, using direct current or low frequency alternating current, induction heating, microwave heating, and heating by means of electrical heaters. These are described briefly, and compared. In applications to oil sands, the intent is to utilize the connate water as the heating element (resistance heating) or oil sands as the dielectric (microwave heating). Induction heating is much less effective but has been tested in many field projects. Shale that has a permeability of zero to fluid flow, is electrically conductive, and thus channels much of the electric current flow in resistance heating, which also has other limitations. Microwaves suffer from low depth of penetration (of the order of 20 cm in oil sands) and low power delivery (of the order of 1 MW as a maximum). The power requirements for a typical SAGD pair, in contrast, are 15-30 MW. Electric heaters have been used in oilfields for many years for near-wellbore heating. Two large field pilots used powerful electric heaters, and were recently shut down. Although electrical heating has not had commercial success, recently there has been a resurgence in various electrical processes, as a means of reducing GHG emissions, under the flawed logic that oilfield use of electricity would displace emissions caused by steam generation.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.