Improving extraction technology for Canadian oil sands

That’s the hope of a Alberta-based consortium looking at solvent extraction technology to improve recovery of hydrocarbons from oil sands, according to an article published by MIT’s Technology Review.

The consortium recently received $10 million from the Canadian government to develop the technology.

A “solvent, such as propane, is heated to a relatively low temperature (about 50 °C) and injected into a bitumen deposit. The solvent breaks down the bitumen, allowing it to be pumped out along with the propane, which can be reused,” according to the article.  “The solvent approach requires less energy than heating, pumping, and recycling water for steam. And because the heaviest components of the bitumen remain underground, the oil that results from the solvent process needs to be refined less before it can be transported in a pipeline.”

Petroleum from Canadian oil sands is a significant source for U.S. crude oil supplies, and is part of the on-going discussion in the Administration about the Keystone XL pipeline.

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