Home / news

Reducing the energy required to produce a barrel of oil

May 3, 2023

Canadian Natural is piloting using solvent for enhanced oil recovery. When used in combination with heat, solvent technology will increase oil recovery, improve steam efficiency and reduce operating expenses to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use and land footprint.

Solvent Enhanced Oil Recovery

Solvent technologies will play a significant role in creating value across all of our thermal operations on our journey to net zero emissions. In typical thermal oil sands operations, water is heated to create steam that mixes with bitumen and reduces viscosity so it can be pumped to the surface. When solvent is added, the process requires less steam and operates at a lower temperature—letting heat do half of the job to improve bitumen viscosity, with solvent doing the other half.

As a result, the steam-to-oil ratio (SOR) and the amount of water needed overall is significantly reduced, leading to lower operating expenses for steam and water treatment. In addition to the enhanced project economics, solvent EOR can achieve important environmental performance improvements with up to 50% lower GHG emissions intensity and improved water use intensity.

Canadian Natural’s pilot at Kirby South tested solvent effectiveness to improve oil recovery in a steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) process, showing SOR and GHG intensity reductions of 45% through the pilot process, as well as solvent recoveries of approximately 85%. Canadian Natural is now progressing with engineering and design of a commercial-scale pilot SAGD pad development at Kirby North, targeting first solvent injection in early 2024.

At Primrose, in the steam flood area, a solvent injection pilot commenced in Q4 2021. This pilot consists of nine net wells (five producers and four injectors) and is targeted to operate for two years, with targeted SOR and GHG intensity reductions of 40% to 45% and solvent recoveries of greater than 70%.

× Close

Cautionary Statement: Statements of future events or conditions on this website, including projections, targets, expectations, estimates, and business plans are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements can be identified by words such as achieve, aspiration, believe, anticipate, intend, propose, plan, goal, seek, project, predict, target, estimate, expect, forecast, vision, strategy, outlook, schedule, future, continue, likely, may, should, will and/or similar references to outcomes in future periods. Forward-looking statements on this website include, but are not limited to, references to the viability, timing and impact of the net zero plan and the development of pathways in support of a net-zero future; support for the pathways from the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada; the ability to enable net zero emissions from oil production and preserve economic contribution from the industry; the deployment  of technologies to reduce GHG emissions; the ability to create jobs, accelerate development of the clean tech sector, provide benefits for other sectors and help maintain Canadians’ quality of life; and making economic investments to ensure a successful transition to a net zero world and delivering long term value to shareholders. All net-zero references on this website apply to emissions from oil sands operations (defined as scope 1 and scope 2 emissions).
Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions at the time the statements are made. Actual future results, including expectations and assumptions concerning: demand growth and energy source, supply and mix; amount and timing of emissions reductions; the adoption and impact of new facilities or technologies, including on reductions to GHG emissions; project plans, timing, costs, technical evaluations and capacities, and the ability to effectively execute on these plans and operate assets; that any required support for the pathways from the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada will be provided; applicable laws and government policies, including climate change and restrictions in response to COVID-19; production rates, growth and mix; general market conditions; and capital and environmental expenditures, could differ materially depending on a number of factors. These factors include global, regional or local changes in supply and demand for oil, natural  gas, and petroleum and petrochemical products and the resulting price, differential and margin impacts; political or regulatory events, including changes in law or government policy and actions in response to COVID-19; the receipt, in a timely manner, of regulatory and third-party approvals including for new technologies; lack of required support from the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada; environmental risks inherent in oil and gas exploration and production activities; environmental regulation, including climate change and GHG regulation and changes to such regulation; availability and allocation of capital; availability and performance of third-party service providers; unanticipated technical or operational difficulties; project management and schedules and timely completion of projects; reservoir analysis and performance; unexpected technological developments; the results of research programs and new technologies, and ability to bring new technologies to commercial scale on a cost-competitive basis; operational hazards and risks; general economic conditions, including the occurrence and duration of economic recessions; and other factors referenced by the companies’ in their most recent respective annual reports and management’s discussion and analysis, as applicable.
Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve a number of risks and uncertainties, some that are similar to other oil and gas companies and some that are unique to the companies. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by its forward-looking statements and readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on them. Pathways Alliance Inc. and its member companies undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained on this website, except as required by applicable law.