PTRC Advances Saskatchewan’s Subsurface Energy with an Eye on Innovative Uses for Carbon Dioxide

Aquistore Well.
Aquistore Well.

The Petroleum Technology Research Centre has been at the forefront of developing technologies to help improve the efficiency and reduce the environmental impacts of energy production in Saskatchewan.  The company is perhaps best known for its development of new technologies for use in the oil patch—such as improved configurations of solvent injection in heavy oil fields that lessen the amount of heat required for production.  If you lessen the amount of heat, you reduce the amount of produced CO2.

But the future of research at PTRC is moving in exciting, and some would say, unexpected directions.

Aquistore Injection Well

“When I first arrived at the PTRC three years ago,” says Dan MacLean, the company’s president and CEO, “I was very much aware of the role it had played in one of the most important projects helping to set global standards for carbon capture, utilization and storage—the Weyburn-Midale CO2 Monitoring and Storage Project.”

That project helped to validate that CO2 could be permanently stored in depleted oil reservoirs, and PTRC is now working with its heavy oil partners to see if CO2 utilization in the Lloydminster area could also help improve recovery while reducing emissions.

PTRC’s carbon storage expertise also led the company to develop, with SaskPower and a worldwide collection of researchers and industry partners, the Aquistore project.

“Aquistore is our second storage project,” notes MacLean. “It’s been taking CO2 from carbon capture facility at SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Power Station and permanently storing it almost 3.5 km underground in a brine and sandstone formation. It is providing measurement and monitoring data to partners around the world that will help advance CCS internationally. But we’re excited by the new possibilities that have emerged.”

Aquistore researchers have just completed a modeling study looking at the possibility of CO2 at Aquistore becoming a conductor of heat from deep in the reservoir to the surface for geothermal energy production.

“Essentially, we could see the stored CO2 at Aquistore bringing heat to the surface for power generation in a closed-loop system,” says Erik Nickel, the PTRC’s Director of Operations. “With the DEEP geothermal project happening in the same storage formation just 25 kilometres from our own wells at Aquistore, we are excited by the possibility we could do something similar.”

There have been a number of international studies that have looked at CO2 as a better conductor of heat-to-surface from the subsurface. Because CO2 is more buoyant that water, if could potentially bring heat up with more speed than the pressures within a reservoir might allow.

“We’re just in the early stages of examining the possibilities at Aquistore,” notes MacLean. “The idea of turning CO2 into electrons through geothermal energy is an example of Saskatchewan innovation at its best.”

The Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) in Regina has been at the forefront of innovation energy and carbon dioxide storage projects for over twenty years.  The company is an incubator and accelerator of research and field projects looking to reduce the carbon footprint and increase the production of subsurface energy—ranging from CO2 enhanced oil recovery to geothermal energy. We work with universities, research organizations, industry, and government to develop sustainable and environmentally responsible energy.