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The two most common methods of in situ production recovery are cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) and steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). CSS can utilize both vertical and horizontal wells that alternately inject steam and pump heated bitumen to surface, forming a cycle of injection, heating, flow and extraction. SAGD utilizes pairs of horizontal wells placed one over the other within the bitumen pay zone. The upper well is used to inject steam, creating a permanent heated chamber within which the heated bitumen flows by gravity to the lower well, which extracts the bitumen.
Heavy steam requirements make both of these main extraction techniques energy-intensive. Technological enhancements will be crucial to improving the economics of in situ production. Research and experimentation are ongoing into improvements or variants on these two basic techniques. These variants include injection of various solvents, usually in combination with steam, or in situ combustion. All aim to increase recovery of the bitumen-in-place and/or to reduce steam (and thus energy) requirements. In addition, some schemes attempt to source the energy required for steam generation from the produced bitumen itself, thereby reducing the external energy requirement.
Production improvements through technical innovation in start-up, facility design, operations and energy requirements for steam generation provide an opportunity to influence the next steps of in situ production. Companies with experienced people who have technical expertise will be positioned to lever this expertise for future growth in this huge untapped potential. This is the opportunity for Laricina.