Greenhouse gas emissions from the Canadian oil and gas sector can be reduced using the same technology that has been used to seek evidence of ancient life on Mars.
The Pathways Alliance, a coalition of Canada’s six largest oilsands firms, seems to think so. The Calgary-based subsidiary of U.S. space exploration company Impossible Sensing Energy won an industry-sponsored international competition to promote the deployment of steam-reducing technologies in oilsands operations on Thursday.
The company’s winning proposal included plans to implement optical imaging technology, derived from its Sherloc system used by the Mars Rover, in an oilsands setting.
According to Impossible Sensing Energy co-founder and CEO Ariel Torre, optical imaging could be used in the same way to look for indications of possible carbon-based past life on Mars as it can be used to detect precise proportions of carbon-based solvents in the oil production stream.
He continued by claiming that the oilsands are similar to space exploration in that both take place in relatively uninhabited regions with poor weather. Any technology employed must be particularly attentive to its surroundings, while also functioning mostly without human involvement.
“A lot of the constraints that NASA has are extremely similar to the constraints oil and gas has,” he added.
In order to extract oilsands in situ (below the surface), oil companies need huge quantities of natural gas to generate steam. The bitumen is eased up by the steam to the point where it may be pumped to the surface.
Solvent use in the oilsands is “promising on paper,” but there are technical and cost restrictions, according to a research published last year by the Pembina Institute.
“The economics of using solvent with steam can be challenging in low crude price cycles when the costs of deploying and recovering solvents is higher than revenues from the incremental production,” said the report.
The final goal for Impossible Sensing Energy is to implement a test program at the oilsands site of a Pathways Alliance member company.
While the proposed carbon capture and storage network in northern Alberta is the focus of the Pathways plan and could have member companies invest $16.5 billion by 2030, an extra $7.6 billion is planned to be spent on energy saving, electrification of engines, and other measures.
Original source material for this article taken from here