Petrobanks Capri / Thai processes for upgrading and recovering oilsands and heavy oil

Graphics and information from the Sept 2008 Petrobank investors presentation (48 pages) If the Capri/Thai processes are successful then Canada’s oilsands, other oilsands and heavy oil deposits around the world will have higher recovery rates using a more economic process and the oil will be upgrading in the ground to a higher and more valuable quality. This would be the technology that would crush peak oil for several decades and allow an orderly transition to a post oil world. The processes would enable trillions of barrels of oil to be economically accessed. In a few months the Capri process could be proven out and the energy world would be changed. Oil technology would change the world by unlocking the oilsand and heavy oil around the world. Trillions of barrels of oil would become economically feasible. It would be a and game changer. More projects like the one in would go ahead to access 3-4 billion barrels of oil at 120,000 bpd within 5 years.

Petrobank aims to upgrade oilsand bitumen before it ever comes to the surface. Petrobank will soon launch the CAPRI component of its in situ toe-to-heel air injection production technology. Upgrading the oil in the ground avoids the delays and costs associated with building refineries and transporting the bitumen to upgraders.

It´s called the CAPRI system and it´s been designed to do the job of a refinery at the bottom of Petrobank´s patented THAI (toe-to-heel air injection) wells at the company´s pilot project near Christina Lake in northeastern Alberta. In the THAI system, an air pressure-driven combustion front loosens heavy oil as it slowly works its way forward, and the freed oil flows under gravity through slots in horizontal collector pipes, then is gas-lifted to surface processing systems.

For the CAPRI pilot, the horizontal pipes have been uniquely configured such that after passing through the slots, the hot crude will pass through a bed of catalyst and on through slots in a concentric inner pipe before being lifted.

The cracking to be achieved by CAPRI will be a step further in the upgrading process already occurring with THAI. With temperatures of over 600C, THAI has achieved coking, raising 8 API oil to 13 or 14 degrees.

Lab results have predicted a 7 API boost using CAPRI. This would the oil up to 20 to 21 API which would be almost as good as Mexican heavy oil. API 21 oil could get 80% of the price of Brent oil.

“Even with another two or three out of CAPRI, you´re getting significantly up the food chain in terms of oil quality,” he says. In that minimum case, together with THAI, it means they´d be going from an 8-degree crude to a 16-degree crude. “With such a viscosity, it greatly reduces the need for a condensate,” he says. “So there´s an economic advantage.”

Once the THAI-CAPRI pair is working in concert, it will be a genuine self-contained underground refinery. “Basically, you´ve got the coker and the cat cracker [catalytic cracking],” says Bloomer.

Along with the efficiencies expected from the pair, Petrobank has complementary technologies it´s developing through its research and development facility, Archon Technologies, to run in parallel.

“We´re looking at a number of technologies,” says Bloomer. “Enriched oxygen, sulphur recovery-taking the H2S and creating a solid sulphur product that is close enough to 100 per cent to be usable.”

It is a global heavy oil technology. It can be applied around the world in all kinds of reservoirs. Colombia, Venezuela, the United States, Saskatchewan, Russia, offshore Brazil.

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API and Price

Generally speaking, oil with an API gravity between 40 and 45 commands the highest prices. Above 45 degrees the molecular chains become shorter and less valuable to refineries.

Light crude oil is defined as having an API gravity higher than 31.1 °API
Medium oil is defined as having an API gravity between 22.3 °API and 31.1 °API
Heavy oil is defined as having an API gravity below 22.3 °API.

Bitumen sinks in fresh water, while oil floats.

Crude oil with API gravity less than 10 °API is referred to as extra heavy oil or bitumen. Bitumen derived from the oil sands deposits in the Alberta, Canada area has an API gravity of around 8 °API. It is ‘upgraded’ to an API gravity of 31 °API to 33 °API and the upgraded oil is known as synthetic crude.

Oil prices for different API grade oil from the EIA.

THAI Process Benefits
• Minimal natural gas and water use
• Higher recovery rates – 70-80% of oil in place
• Improved economics
• Lower capital cost – 1 horizontal well, no steam & water handling facilities
• Lower operating cost – negligible natural gas & minimal water handling
• Higher netbacks for partially upgraded product
• Faster project execution time
• Lower environmental impact
• 50% less greenhouse gas emissions
• Net useable water production
• Partial upgraded oil requires less refining
• Smaller surface footprint
• THAI /CAPRI – step change heavy oil technologies
• Up to 804 mmbbls recoverable (based on SAGD) in Petrobanks Whitesand block

Petrobank is also big in Saskatchewans part of the Bakken Oil Formation


A coker or coker unit is an oil refinery processing unit that converts the residual oil from the vacuum distillation column or the atmospheric distillation column into low molecular weight hydrocarbon gases, naphtha, light and heavy gas oils, and petroleum coke. The process thermally cracks the long chain hydrocarbon molecules in the residual oil feed into shorter chain molecules.

Fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) is the most important conversion process used in petroleum refineries. It is widely used to convert the high-boiling hydrocarbon fractions of petroleum crude oils to more valuable gasoline, olefinic gases and other products. Cracking of petroleum hydrocarbons was originally done by thermal cracking which has been almost completely replaced by catalytic cracking because it produces more gasoline with a higher octane rating. It also produces byproduct gases that are more olefinic, and hence more valuable, than those produced by thermal cracking.

Heavy oil issues

Ecuador projectg that would be funded by another company, Ivanhoe, using Petrobank technology

Pungarayacu reserves are 3-4 billion bbl of 8° gravity oil, and the company hopes to produce 30,000-120,000 b/d from the field within 5 years.

Petrobank Energy & Resources Ltd. has evaluated the commercial viability of developing the field, examining various alternatives for the optimal exploitation strategy for the extensive heavy oil resource. Ivanhoe has the technology to transform the heavy crude into a lighter, 23° gravity grade.

If the project to develop Pungarayacu is approved, the Canadian company plans to invest nearly $5 billion in the project, according to a Bloomberg report, with Ecuador paying $37/bbl for the oil extracted.

According to project plans, the field will be evaluated and results ratified, then production would begin at 30,000 b/d, rising gradually to as much as 120,000 b/d. The contract will be for 20 years with options for 10-year extensions