A radio wave technology developed by Harris Corp. could reduce the cost and environmental damage associated with extracting oil from sands. Canada’s Alberta oil sands hold up to two trillion barrels of oil spread over more than 54,000 square miles, making it the second largest oil deposit in the world after Saudi Arabia.
The Athabasca deposit is the only large oil sands reservoir in the world suitable for large-scale surface mining, although most of it can only be produced using more recently developed in-situ technology (pdf). The Keystone Pipeline would transport synthetic crude from the Athabasca Oil Sands to multiple destinations in the United States.
The Harris device uses electromagnetic radiation to heat the sand until it releases the oil. It uses a Harris-developed 4-inch aluminum radio antenna, followed by the injection of a chemical solvent, to pry loose the heavy fuel.
Benefits include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating fossil fuels needed to generate steam, treating the wastewater, and improving the quality and amount of oil that can be extracted.
“If the pilot’s successful, it will be adopted extremely quickly,” said Mark Blue, a Harris engineer. The process could be in commercial use by 2015.
The U.S. uses about 20 million barrels of oil each day. The Alberta sands now produces about 1.6 million barrels a day.
MicroSeismic, says passive seismic technology is poised to be the next enabler for realtime monitoring of well sites. Whiting Petroleum in North Dakota, has 295 monitoring stations covering 152 square miles. A local field office receives real-time data which is transmitted to a processing center in Denver. A separate monitoring well with sensors is not required, it can use a phased array of surface sensors to create a realtime, 3D tomograph.
StimMAP creates LIVE microseismic fracture monitoring in real time, providing fracture monitoring within 30 seconds of microseismic activity. A BuriedArray system, offshore, would consist of ocean-bottom seismic cables laid out radially.
The Ocean Observatory Network landed in Oregon last summer.
A team of scientists studying last year’s eruption of Axial Seamount now says that the undersea volcano some 250 miles off the Oregon coast gave off clear signals hours before the eruption. Scientists, using seismic analysis, were able to see how the magma ascends within the volcano about two hours before the eruption.
Oceanographers John Delaney, Deborah Kelley and others at the University of Washington are guiding the development of the regional cabled ocean observatory, off the coast of Oregon that encompasses the Axial Seamount.
The primary nodes on the underwater network, start going in next month, distributing 8 kilowatts power and 10 Gbs bandwidth to sensors.
Perhaps the NSF’s cutbacks have created more of an academic exercise than a useful tool, as envisioned in John Delany’s original “Neptune” proposal, some 10 years ago.
The glacial bureaucracy of NSF’s Ocean Observatories Initiative seems to get in the way. Technological innovations, such as MicroSeismic monitoring are coming out of industry at a faster pace than scientists can incorporate them.
Maybe NOAA needs an X Prize.
The Department of Energy has released a 12-minute video looking at efforts to clean up environmental contamination at Hanford’s nuclear facility, along the Columbia River. State of the Reunion has a profile on The Unlikely Perfect Place and the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States.