This paper demonstrates how a novel electromagnetic induction heating technology can be used to recover oil from the Athabasca oil sands of Alberta with minimal environmental impact. The paper compares the new technology to other electromagmetic heating technologies for oil sands, exhibits how electromagnetic induction heating is coupled to the reservoir, and addresses requirements of the new technology for economic production.

The patent pending inductor design generates thermal energy in a reservoir model representing a 33 meter pay zone with properties for the lower McMurray formation in an area north of Fort McMurray within the Athabasca oil sands deposit. Electromagnetic energy is coupled to the reservoir in an iterative process that enables operators to monitor and control reservoir temperature, pressure, fluid production, and energy to oil ratio, to enhance recovery of heavy oil and bitumen. This is performed by interfacing commercial electromagnetic and reservoir simulators using an in-house coupling script.

The results demonstrate an ultimate oil recovery factor of +70% with an energy to oil ratio lower than 200 kilowatt hour per barrel. This is less energy per barrel than the average energy required by steam assisted gravity drainage. Though not compulsory for the process, it is observed that oil recovery is improved with water injection. This is mainly because the amount of electromagnetic energy coupled to the reservoir correlates with water saturation in the near wellbore region. Water injection helps maintain water saturation levels and improves heat convection further into the reservoir. Nonetheless, there is no need for external water supply, because the volume of injected water required to improve oil recovery is comparable to the overall volume of water produced from the reservoir.

Unlike other recovery methods, this technology is expected to have low energy intensity, zero emissions, and minimized land footprint leading to responsible bitumen recovery. This paper sheds light on the capability of an innovative clean energy technology to enhance bitumen recovery from the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta. The novel technology takes advantage of clean energy to recover oil at a lower energy to oil ratio than the average ratio achieved with steam injection methods.

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