Oil recovery is a highly variant process depending on the location and what the ground is like where the oil is being harvested. There are a multitude of ways engineers and oil recovery specialists attempt to make oil easier to harvest, and thermal enhanced oil recovery is one of those ways. If you keep up with the oil industry or just have a keen interest in how oil recovery processes work, you probably want to know more about thermal recovery processes. Here is a look at some of the most common questions about oil recovery processes using thermal energy.
What exactly is thermal enhanced oil recovery?
Thermal enhanced oil recovery, sometimes referred to as TEOR, is the process of using thermal temperature changes to alter the viscosity of the oil so that it is easier to pull out of underground reserves. When oil is at a colder temperature, it is thicker and harder to move, which can make it extremely hard to recover. By using different forms of thermal energy to change the temperature of the oil, it becomes easier to move and easier to separate from ground elements and particles.
What methods are used for thermal enhanced oil recovery?
There are actually multiple ways thermal enhanced oil recovery is conducted, each with their own specific processes. Over the years, new ways to use thermal energy for oil recovery have emerged with the evolution in technology, but there are a few basic ways TEOR is done, including:
- Injecting high-temperature steam into the ground
- Injecting high-temperature water through the ground reserves
- Injecting heated air into the ground
The most common thermal oil recovery process involves using specifically high-temperature steam since this tends to be the least disruptive process to the environment that can be done. Additionally, steam-powered equipment is easier for most mining operations to obtain.
In what areas is thermal enhanced oil recovery used?
For the most part, TEOR is used in areas where the ground is colder than usual like the far northern areas where crude oil is harvested. However, thermal processes can also be used in other settings just the same, even if the ground temperatures are typical. For example, if the crude oil reserves found are thicker and deep down into the ground where they are hard to harvest already because of solid rock masses, thermal processes may be used to help make the oil move more quickly so it is easier to recover.