Cooking kerosene in the microwave: the idea may seem absurd, but this is what Acceleware has been working on for more than 12 years.

Instead of injecting steam and chemicals into the ground, the company uses waves to heat oil underground and bring it to the surface.

It’s similar to heating a cup of water in the microwave, but we’re doing this underground. We inject energy from radio waves, like in a microwave, to heat the oil and bring it to the surface once it has reached the correct viscosity.explains the president of Acceleware, Geoff Clark.

Currently, companies are injecting natural gas-heated water vapor and chemicals to elicit the precious black gold.

Geoff Clark, president of Acceleware believes that the oil industry could benefit from its product.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Kyle Bakx / CBC

The idea of ​​using airwaves isn’t new, but in the past companies have experimented with using communications equipment that’s ill-suited to the task, according to Geoff Clark.

It’s an idea that dates back to the 1940s. We tried to do it with very powerful radio or television equipment and we put these kinds of antennas underground.

In our opinion, the frequencies were not at all good, and the efficiency and the costs of this type of equipment, far too expensive for this application. We used new generation communication equipment and silicon carbide transistors and developed another way to get the frequency to the underground layer at a reduced cost.he says.

We believe we have the solution to this decades-old problem. »

A quote from Geoff Clark, President of Acceleware

The company began its commercial proof of concept this spring to prove that the technology works and is ready to go to market.

Cenovus, Suncor, federal government and provincial programs Alberta Innovates and Emissions Reduction Alberta are funding the $21.5 million pilot project.

To see the oil come out of the ground, it was an amazing daysays Geoff Clark.

Acceleware says it is still in the development phase of its technology and the pilot project will test its system’s capabilities.

For the moment, the company does not reveal, for the moment, the quantity of oil that it manages to extract thanks to its pilot project. So far, this corresponds to the simulations she says, however.

According to Geoff Clark, the technology could decrease greenhouse gas emissions from industry, while decreasing the need for water and the land space needed to extract the oil.

The race to reduce emissions

According to Bryan Helfenbaum, the general manager of the advanced hydrocarbons division ofAlberta Innovatesthe technology developed by Acceleware is promising.

We will have to see if the process is commercially viable. There are a lot of factors to consider in knowing if it can be distributed on a large scale. So I would say it’s still early, but it’s excitinghe said.

It’s interesting because they eliminate the use of steam to get the oil out. The vast majority of oil sands emissions are associated with the burning of natural gas to create steam [afin d’extraire le pétrole]so it’s really a novel approach that could significantly decrease emissionshe adds.

It now remains to demonstrate the commercial viability of this technique and to convince the industry to adopt it. Geoff Clark believes the industry is ready for something new.

In the past, producers in the oil sands have been slow to adopt new technologies, but I think that, given the pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they will be on the lookout for new technologies.

With files from Kyle Bakx

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