Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Algae to reduce oilsands emissions?

Some bioreactors. Picture stolen from the Pond Biofuels
Here's an interesting article about a pilot plant being made by CNRL and Pond Biofuels. Basically it appears they want to use CO2 produced in oilsands facilities to grow algae, which can then be used as animal feed, biofuel or fertilizer. The $19 million facility will be built at CNRL's Primrose South site near Bonnyville

Clearly early days on this, but might turn out to be something important.


  1. can't they reinject CO2 to increase production?

    1. CO2 is sometimes used in conventional oil fields for Enhanced Oil Recovery. Doing so can increase oil recovery significantly by doing a bunch of things to oil when it's mixed in, including lowering the viscosity. You can read about it here: http://www.co2.no/download.asp?DAFID=28&DAAID=6

      As far as I know, it hasn't been used in SAGD wells. It might be useful as a "stuffer gas" to keep the pressure up in the steam chamber without generating more steam, and do other things like lower the viscosity of the bitumen in the chamber, but that's just speculation on my part. I don't think very much CO2 would be stored in the reservoir by that method, however, because it would be produced almost as fast as it's put in, and SAGD reservoirs are far shallower (lower pressure) than conventional ones. I believe in most conventional CO2 floods the pressure is high enough for it to be liquid, which probably isn't the case in SAGD wells/reservoirs.

      So in order to use CO2 they'd have to get it to a conventional oil field, which are mostly a long way away. A big CO2 pipeline is possible, and indeed Alberta is supposed to be investing in one: http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/11/24/us-environment-pipeline-idUSTRE5AN5AS20091124 . But the interesting thing about this proposal as I understand it is that it can be used on any plant that produces CO2 and it outputs liquid and solid products, which would be much easier (cheaper) to transport.

  2. They are injecting it in a well pair at Foster Creek. I am not too sure of how it is going, but it is a multi year project at various injected weight/volume percentages.