Vapex Technologies Int'l. Inc.
Calgary, AB, Canada
Carbon - free recovery of heavy oil and bitumen
The company: Vapex Technologies Int’l. Inc. (1995) is a home-grown Canadian company dedicated to the marketing and commercialization of its Vapor-Extraction process for an in-situ non-thermal recovery of oil from tar sands and heavy oil deposits. The process was engineered for oil producers to assist them achieve four major objectives: To make money, save money, increase their recoverable oil assets, and boost their 'corporate environmental image' in the market place. While bottom-water reservoirs are often economically unrecoverable by thermal methods, Vapex offers a clean, socially responsible alternative. Its environmental impact is negligible and, in addition, it provides many other advantages and benefits.
The mission: The company's mission is to enhance the economic sustainability of the Canadian and US upstream petroleum industry in a safe, environmentally and socially responsible manner, through the introduction and use of its state-of-the-art, carbon-free, vapor extraction technology for bottom-water reservoirs. Canadian and US oil companies have now the opportunity to lead the world.
The product: Vapex recovers, without heat or the use of water, a more valu-able, i.e. upgraded and lighter oil from reservoirs at commercially viable rates, whether the reservoirs are shallow or deep, thick or thin, containing heavy oil or bitumen. There is no longer the need for burning the energy equivalent of 1 bbl of oil to produce a paltry 2 bbl of oil with carbon pollution to boot. In a typical SAGD operation with S/O = 3, the amount of natural gas burned is 1.5 Mscf/bbl bitumen accompanied by 80 kg of CO2 byproduct. Emitted CO2 is half the weight of recovered bitumen.
Technology: The technologies employed in Vapex are designed to be flexible, adaptable and amenable to bottom-water reservoirs in areas such as Alberta and Saskatchewan - although by virtue of being versatile they are useable all over the world, with all the inherent economic advantages. A side benefit of Vapex is that the technologies are non-polluting, CO2-free and therefore environmentally friendly. A carbon capture and storage/sequestration is unnecessary and contentious on account of its large expenditure (currently estimated at C$100-120 per ton of carbon dioxide) and a great uncertainty in implementing its untested ways. Furthermore, Vapex eliminates the need for burning the scarce methane resources of Alberta for the recovery of tar sand deposits (there isn't enough gas in Alberta to thermally recover the tarsands), as well as the need for a controversial nuclear plant to generate steam for tar sands (see p.2, Advantages, the last bullet). This does not even mention the destruction of boreal forest ecology, the typical 3 bbl of water required for processing of each 1 bbl of bitumen (although some of the water might be expensively cleaned and recycled) and the huge acreages of permanent toxic tailings ponds (yes, they've been around and constantly growing for the past 40 years, do leak continuously and kill scores of ducks out of season to the dismay of general public). By not using water, Vapex saves the diminishing supply of glacial and winter-snowpack melt water available during summers for use in agriculture and in cities such as Calgary. And then there is the bigger issue - the anthropogenic contribution to climate change - which involves everyone, regardless of our station, color, race or creed.
Economy: The process economy depends strongly on a higher permeability layer (such as an aquifer, worm holes or a fracture, underlying the oil deposit) that leads to the formation of a 'planar well'. Planar well7 is an entirely new concept in petroleum reservoir engineering which facilitates a very large solvent-oil contact area within the reservoir (in form of a solvent-oil boundary layer), hugely surpassing the contact area made by an up-and-down SAGD-type horizontal well pair or multilaterals. The formulation and development of the planar well concept turned out to be one of the two most essential elements in the formulation of commercial success of the Vapex process. Furthermore, the patent1,2,3 for this technology stipulates a continuous solvent vapor dew-point pressure adjustment (via a continuous adjustment of the injection gas composition, based on an input from a feedback loop) by diluting the solvent vapor with a variable amount of non-condensable diluent gas such as methane, carbon dioxide, etc. This takes the Vapex process to a completely new level, making it amenable to a multitude of reservoir depths and varying production pressures.
Objectives: Vapex Technologies' major objectives include the elimination of a production carbon footprint, a substantial increase in the recovery factor of heavy oil and bitumen reservoirs (from the typical 10 to 70%), the production of hard-to-recover bottom water reservoirs and the recovery of commonly occurring thin (less than 5 m) water-underlain heavy oil reservoirs that are uneconomic to produce by any other means. The substantial recovery factor improvement is the result of the company's patented horizontal 'Planar Well Triad' configuration, a new and promising (and now imitated by lowly bottom feeders) concept of horizontal well spatial arrangement.
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