Leader-Poster: The Well Runs Deep
One of PTRC’s largest initiatives is the $26.5 million Aquistore Project, an independent research and monitoring program.
With Saskatchewan home to significant amounts of oil and gas reserves, it is vital that the technologies are put in place to ensure the most efficient and environmentally-sustainable methods are used to extract these resources from the ground.
At the forefront of this research is the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC). Founded in 1998, PTRC is a Regina-based, not-for-profit corporation created by Natural Resources Canada, the Government of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Research Council and the University of Regina to fund projects and foster research and development into enhanced oil recovery and carbon storage, with the goal of addressing the challenges faced by the oil and gas industry while reducing its environmental footprint.
Since 1998, a significant part of PTRC’s mandate has been to conduct research into enhanced oil recovery. This is now done through the Sustainable Technologies for Energy Production Systems (STEPS). The STEPS Business – Led Network of Centres of Excellence seeks to become the national focus for leading-edge scientific and engineering innovations that address challenges for hydrocarbon resources that are difficult to access.
STEPS areas of research include: proven economic resources such as bitumen and heavy oil; future hydrocarbon resources such as oil shales, and developing enabling technologies to access such resources; and, light-medium conventional oil, particularly reserves that are in decline and need new technologies to improve recovery.
One of PTRC’s largest initiatives is the $26.5 million Aquistore Project, an independent research and monitoring program, which will determine the scientific and economic feasibility of taking carbon dioxide (CO2), captured and compressed from SaskPower’s Boundary Dam power plant near Estevan, and transporting it via pipeline to a well site two kilometers away where it will be injected into a deep saline geological formation.
Aquistore is the first commercial-scale deep saline injection project in the world using a man-made source of CO2. Even though injecting CO2 into other geological formations is not new in North America, the process has mostly been used for enhanced oil recovery. Some smaller CO2 deep saline storage pilots are currently being conducted in the United States through the United States Department of Energy.
And after 58 drilling days to get 3,396 meters underground, the Aquistore project boasts the deepest well ever dug in Saskatchewan, as confirmed earlier this year by the Ministry of Economy’s office of Energy and Resources.
More importantly, with increasing concerns about climate change resulting from manmade greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), Aquistore offers a solution for cutting CO2 and meeting reduction targets, a key point for PTRC’s CEO Malcolm Wilson.
As an adjunct University of Regina professor and member of the Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the team of scientists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice-President of the United States Al Gore in 2007 – Wilson points to the more than 10 years experience the PTRC has in managing CO2 monitoring and storage through the International Energy Agency Greenhouse Gas (IEAGHG) Weyburn-Midale CO2 Monitoring and Storage Project. Aquistore will benefit from that extensive scientific and research experience, and be a model for others to learn from.
“The Aquistore project will demonstrate that storing liquid carbon dioxide deep underground in a brine and sandstone water formation is a safe, viable solution to reduce greenhouse gases,” said Wilson. “Deep saline aquifers have the potential to store centuries’ worth of CO2 emissions. All eyes are now on us, as Aquistore will be the example for other jurisdictions and companies to follow.”
While the rest of the world is watching, the effects here in Saskatchewan are especially meaningful. Partnered with SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Carbon Capture venture, Aquistore will assist SaskPower in meeting its GHG reduction targets by taking captured CO2 emitted from the newly refurbished Boundary Dam Unit No. 3 (BD3) and sequestering it deep underground. As the injection and storage of the CO2 is closely monitored and surveyed, the knowledge gained will be used to improve the techniques and approaches of other carbon capture and storage sites in Saskatchewan and elsewhere.
Aquistore also highlights the ground-breaking leadership of made-in-Saskatchewan industry and environmental solutions for which PTRC is known.
With Saskatchewan’s booming economy and innovative drive, these are busy days for PTRC. In addition to Aquistore, PTRC is currently overseeing other projects of environmental significance for the province, the country, and, indeed, the world.
One project will refurbish a separator unit and construct field test trailer units to sample produced water in locations for reclamation and re-use, potentially significant in agricultural irrigation or other industries. Another project will see a broad evaluation of organic nutrient sources in Saskatchewan, leading to further research on microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) technologies. These projects will contribute to increased efficiency of oil and gas production and reduce the environmental impact of these activities.
“One of the most pressing concerns in the oil patch is the amount of produced water during oil recovery,” said Wilson. “It is particularly difficult for smaller companies in the field because of the costs associated with clean up, so developing cost effective methods is critical.”
With PTRC at the helm, the Saskatchewan well of innovative ideas and sustainable solutions is not about to run dry anytime soon.
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