Researchers at Kazan University collaborating with their peers from Stanford University are working on catalysts that provide combustion during the heavy oil recovery process. The catalysts developed by the group have already shown promising results in lab tests, and the work is continuing.

Kazan University’s Dr, Andrey Galukhin won a grant for this particular work from Russian Foundation for Basic Research in 2015. The collaborating group’s latest results have been published in Energy and Fuels.

Andrey Galukhin In His Lab. Image Credit: Kazan University. Click image for the largest view.

Andrey Galukhin In His Lab. Image Credit: Kazan University. Click image for the largest view.

Projected heavy oil and viscous oil reserves in Russia are estimated to be 40-50 billion barrels and a significant portion of that volume lies within Tatarstan. Heavy oil extraction warrants special technological processes, and research in that direction is currently becoming the center of attention in the heavy oil-rich countries of the USA, Canada, Venezuela, and Russia.

Galukhin explained, “Calorimetric experiments show that crude oil with higher saturate content and low resin fraction has higher heating value. Additionally, the crude oils undergo two major transitions when subjected to an oxidizing and constant rate environment known as low- and high-temperature oxidations at each heating rate studied.

“There are ways to pump extremely hot steam into a reservoir to liquefy viscous oil, what facilitates the extraction. However, there are limitations – if the reservoir more than 1 km deep, steam loses most of its heat energy. That is why in-situ combustion is interesting for us – the heat for liquefying is generated in the reservoir. Our group works on catalysts that provide combustion during this process. The catalysts help to oxidize oil deposits in reservoirs that are relatively resistant to burning,” he said.

This is the first information out about catalysts placed into a reservoir to facilitate a combustion to generate heat. The press release hints pretty clearly that new catalysts are involved and the work is ongoing, without much of a description about the catalysts. This is no great surprise coming out of that part of the world. It is something of a surprise that the group partners include someone at Stanford.

This is very useful research applicable perhaps for a very large resource in many countries. But with the current political climate this might get bottled up. As well as Stanford, collaboration includes Department of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. You might note as of this date that the Russian Federation is flying military planes over Turkey who in turn shoots them down.

Lets hope the political class overlooks these researchers and the progress continues.


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