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Advances in an In Situ Upgrading Process for Unconventional Oils


Mut, Steven, Shell International Exploration and Production, Houston, TX


A long-term effort has been ongoing to create an economically viable insitu upgrading process for unconventional oils such as extra-heavy oil and bitumens. This presentation will show a disciplined approach for managing the technology development from the initial benchtop lab tests and small-scale field experiments to large-scale “lab yard” tests and mul­tiple pilots in target resources with an aim toward commercialization. The insitu upgrading process to be described is an endothermic pyrolysis method in the reservoir caused by the injection of heat, but with no in situ combustion or injection of fluids. The insitu upgrading process rejects carbons in the reservoir, resulting in self-hydrogenation of the lighter cracked fractions. Displacement techniques and recovery factors are also enhanced by the pyrolysis method, resulting in potentially very high recovery factors of the upgraded hydro­carbons. Necessary ancillary technologies, such as precision drilling and heat delivery sys­tems that have been developed, will also be noted. Other variations and tests of this process will be discussed, essentially for the rapid maturation and conversion of kerogen in source rocks, such as “oil shales” and coals, referred to as an in situ conversion process.