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Heavy Oil Innovation Haunted by Low Oil Prices and Bad Memories

Oil production from heavy oil wells in western Canada jumped after an electric heating cable was installed.

One of those wells is owned by Canadian Natural Resources (CNRL), which reported that production rose 50% (SPE 196187). The gains “have proven the economics of continuing the operation of the downhole electric heat and CNRL will be applying to continue the enhanced oil recovery process,” according to a report to the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Still, those heating cables made by Salamander Solutions are a tough sell.

It is up against depressed heavy oil prices, the high cost of electricity in some locations, and long memories of heating cables that failed.

“I talked to an operator who told me the reservoir performance when the heater lasted was great, but he would never do it again,” said John Karanikas, the chief technology officer for Salamander, who said that none of its cables has gone out in a customer’s well.

Older cables required multiple splices to connect 100–200 m sections. If one of those weak points failed, the rest of the line went out like a string of lights after a single bulb fails, said Scott Penny, general manager for Petrospec Engineering, a partner in the business that installs the heating cables.

Salamander’s cables can heat a well more than 7,000 ft long without a splice, Karanikas said. The company is working on planning some complicated installations where a splice is required. The company has put a lot of work into more durable ways of connecting cables, which it has patented.

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Heavy Oil Innovation Haunted by Low Oil Prices and Bad Memories

Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor

01 January 2020

Volume: 72 | Issue: 1

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