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Using THAI for In-Situ Bitumen Extraction

Toe-to-heel air injection (THAI) is an in-situ combustion method that uses fireflooding to recover heavy oil, like bitumen.

This technique requires the drilling of two wells: a vertical injection well in close proximity to the toe of the second horizontal production well. The process starts by injecting the vertical well with steam in order to create a combustion zone.

Air is then injected into the vertical well to start combustion and cause a fireflood. This initiates thermal cracking and coking. While around 10% of the coked portion of oil is consumed in the process, the remaining amount is liquefied and able to flow from the toe to the heel, where it’s pumped to the surface via the horizontal production well.

Key fact: During THAI, temperatures can reach 400-600°C

Compared to other in-situ techniques for bitumen extraction, like SAGD, THAI recovers more resources, produces less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and has lower capital and operating costs. This advanced reservoir technology also partially upgrades the bitumen during the process.

Key fact: THAI technology has recovery rates between 70-80%

Benefits

  • High recovery rates

  • Minimal GHG emissions

  • Partially upgrades the heavy oil

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