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Thermal recovery is defined as a process in which heat is introduced intentionally into a subsurface accumulation of organic compounds for the purpose of recovering fuels through wells. Thousands of papers and articles have been published since 1865 on the introduction of heat into subsurface reservoirs to improve or accelerate oil recovery. This literature reflects the great variety of ways in which thermal energy has been and is being used or considered to solve or improve many different types of problems associated with the production of oil. Thermal recovery is used in preference to other recovery methods for a number of reasons. In the case of viscous oils, which is the case of most current interest, heat is used to improve the displacement and recovery efficiencies. The reduction in crude oil viscosity that accompanies a temperature increase not only allows the oil to flow more freely but also results in a more favorable mobility ratio. This discussion emphasizes the reservoir aspects of conventional thermal recovery processes - combustion, steam, hot water, and hot gases.

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