Nowadays, the industry recovers bitumen by injecting heat via steam to reduce bitumen’s viscosity in the reservoir so it flows easily to the surface. A high heat capacity fluid could eventually replace steam in this role. Vacuum Residue (VR) is the heaviest, most viscous and richest in contaminants amongst the different bitumen fractions, thus is the one deserving most upgrading, and it also has the highest heat capacity of oil fractions. The Centre for In Situ Energy at University of Calgary has proposed the use of VR to simultaneously recover and upgrade in situ, as it can be a carrier of heat but also of nano-dispersed catalysts and dissolved hydrogen into a reservoir which can enhanced upgrading.
The design and construction of a new reactivity test unit for evaluating the injection of ultra-dispersed catalyst suspended on Athabasca vacuum residue (AVR) using dispersed hydrogen in sand pack media has been completed and extensively tested in this work. The deposition of the catalyst particles on the surface of the porous medium was studied and the amount of metal inside the reactor quantified. The results for catalytic evaluation showed a residue fraction conversion of up to 23 wt. %.
Finally, the study of the injection of industrial VR and Athabasca bitumen to a porous medium with ultra-dispersed catalyst was carried out at typical reservoir conditions. The results showed a considerable improvement of the feedstock producing a conversion in the residue fraction of 32 wt. % and 15 wt.% respectively.