Geothermal Energy as a Source of Heat for Oil Sands Processing in Northern Alberta, Canada
Jacek Majorowicz, Martyn Unsworth, Tom Chacko, Allan Gray, Larry Heaman, David K. Potter, Douglas R. Schmitt, Tayfun Babadagli, 2013. "Geothermal Energy as a Source of Heat for Oil Sands Processing in Northern Alberta, Canada", Heavy-oil and Oil-sand Petroleum Systems in Alberta and Beyond, Frances J. Hein, Dale Leckie, Steve Larter, John R. Suter
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Geothermal energy has the potential to reduce both the production costs and greenhouse gas emissions associated with oil sands production in the Western Canada sedimentary basin (WCSB) in Northern Alberta. This is currently being investigated through the Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative, which is a research collaboration between the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres and the University of Alberta. The primary area of interest is in the Athabasca oil sands where the WCSB is relatively thin and the Phanerozoic sedimentary succession is thinning toward the northeast and subcropping onto the Canadian shield. Beneath the Athabasca oil sands, the Precambrian basement is at a depth of 0.5 km (0.31 mi) and can be studied by the analysis of the geophysical logs and core and rock chip samples from a deep 2.4 km (1.49 mi) well drilled into the granitic basement rocks. A second study area is located around Peace River, where the WCSB is about 2 km (1.24 mi) thick, and data from the Phanerozoic section are being analyzed. The research is focused on an evaluation of potential heat sources for oilsands processing in areas with existing leases. Revised maps of the temperature at the top of the Precambrian basement confirms that temperatures greater than 60 degrees C could be found within the sedimentary strata in the Peace River oil sands area. This temperature will be found in the crystalline Precambrian basement beneath the Athabasca oil sands. Extraction of heat will require the development of engineered geothermal systems with artificial porosity created and fluids circulated at depth. The economics of this process appear favorable, and additional research will define the feasibility of this type of heat production in more detail.