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Solvent-aided process (SAP)


Using solvents in our oil recovery process is a modification of steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and involves adding a byproduct of natural gas, known as a natural gas liquid, to the steam that's injected into the reservoir. The natural gas liquid acts as a solvent, thinning the oil and allowing it to flow more freely to the producing well. We're currently testing a range of natural gas liquids as solvents.

We have a long track record of testing and piloting various types of solvent-aided processes, which we call SAP, at our oil sands operations to help maximize the amount of oil recovered. We estimate that SAP could help reduce our steam to oil ratio, or the amount of steam needed to produce a barrel of oil, by up to one-third.

More recently, we have been piloting a new solvent process, which we call a solvent-driven process, or SDP. This process uses a greater ratio of solvent to steam than SAP and has the potential to achieve even greater reductions in CO2 emissions. Natural Resources Canada and Alberta Innovates are providing $7.5 million and $2 million in funding, respectively, for our SDP pilot.

Reducing our steam to oil ratio means we use less water and burn less natural gas to create steam, which reduces our greenhouse gas emissions.

We're looking at the potential to use solvents commercially at our oil sands operations.