Unconventional petroleum resources are typically defined by being of low mobility — either high viscosity oil (e.g. heavy oil or bitumen) or low permeability reservoir rock (e.g. tight oil and gas, shale). The focus in Theme 1, is on systems containing high viscosity heavy oil and bitumen. Typically, heavy oil has viscosities between thousands and a few tens of thousands of centipoise (unit of dynamic viscosity) whereas bitumen has viscosities exceeding one hundred thousand centipoise and often in the millions of centipoise.
There are two requirements that must be met to produce these resources — first, mobilize the oil (lower its viscosity) and second, move the mobilized oil to a production well. At present, for oil sands reservoirs, bitumen mobility is improved by injecting high temperature and pressure steam into the reservoir. This implies high cost and greenhouse gas emissions from these recovery processes.
Research in Theme 1 is focused on improving oil mobility and imaging, and controlling the recovery processes to lower the environmental impact, improve the economics and raise the energy efficiency of these processes. Theme 1 specific targets of the research being conducted are the use of additives with mild heating to improve bitumen mobilization as well as next generation drilling, monitoring and control to improve recovery process performance.