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Keywords:

  • reaction engineering;
  • energy;
  • petroleum;
  • kinetics hydrogen sulphide;
  • bitumen;
  • aquathermolysis;
  • hydrous pyrolysis

Abstract

Aquathermolysis of bitumen occurs when it is thermally cracked in the presence of water. Current in situ technologies for bitumen production, such as Cyclic Steam Stimulation and Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage, inject high pressure, high temperature steam in the reservoir to heat the bitumen which in turn lowers its viscosity enabling flow to a production well. Thus, the major physical effect of steam is the heating of bitumen which mobilises it. Beyond physical interactions, chemical effects also result: steam heating produces acid gases, such as carbon oxides, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide along with small amounts of hydrogen and methane. For steam-based in situ bitumen recovery processes, nearly all analyses, including simple drainage theories and thermal reservoir simulations, focus solely on the physical processes: heat transfer, fluid flow and thermodynamic equilibrium. However, steam chambers are also underground reactors: bitumen aquathermolysis occurs due to high temperatures and water saturation. Here, we describe a new in situ aquathermolysis reaction scheme for Athabasca bitumen to predict hydrogen, methane, carbon oxides, hydrogen sulphide and other heavy molecular weight hydrocarbons. Reaction parameters were fitted against one experimental data set and validated against other independent experimental data sets, both from the literature. Our results indicate that, to more accurately predict gas compositions and rates, the effects of aquathermolysis should be taken into account in reservoir modelling. © 2012 Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering