A researcher from the University of Alberta has proposed an experimental electrical heating process to draw oil from largely untapped deposits, which could yield major rewards for oil production and be more environmentally sound than current extractions processes.
The process could boost worldwide oil supplies in the future and lead to lower prices for gasoline, diesel, and home heating oil, the researchers suggest.
According to Tayfun Babadagli, a professor at the University of Alberta's School of Mining and Petroleum Engineering, an electrical heating process could be used to draw the oil resources of smaller or difficult-to-extract oil deposits, for which current processes—such as steam assisted gravity drainage or SAGD—are impractical and environmentally unsound.
"Steam is costly," said Babadagli. "It requires an abundant water supply, use of infrastructure and the reclamation or recovery of the water used."
While steam works for larger oil deposits, the return on use of steam-assisted drainage is cost-prohibitive for shallow and heterogeneous deposits and ineffective for processing oil shale, says the researcher.
While the process would require the development of currently undeveloped infrastructure and resources, the benefit from this type of extraction could lead to the recovery of vast unexplored oil deposits. Developing these resources would boost oil production and possibly lead to lower fuels prices for consumers.
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