David Dyck, President and Chief Operating Officer of Ivanhoe Energy Inc. and Michael Silverman, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer on Thursday announced that heavy crude oil extracted from Ivanhoe's IP-5B well in the Pungarayacu field in Block 20 in Ecuador has been successfully upgraded to local pipeline specifications using Ivanhoe Energy's proprietary HTL upgrading process.
The successful tests demonstrate the flexibility and robustness of the HTL upgrading process to convert diverse heavy crude feedstocks into more valuable and marketable, pipeline-ready synthetic crude oil. In addition, these tests help position Ivanhoe Energy for full-scale heavy oil operations in Ecuador and in other countries having similar heavy oil characteristics.
Ivanhoe Energy drilled its first two appraisal wells in the Pungarayacu field in 2010. This followed a 26-well appraisal drilling program in the 1980's carried out by Petroecuador, which provided valuable preliminary data on the field but did not include thermal recovery and hence did not produce any oil for characterization and testing.
Ivanhoe Energy's goals for the initial wells in Pungarayacu were to add to its preliminary understanding of the reservoir, to carry out thermal recovery tests, and to extract heavy oil for characterization and upgrading tests using its proprietary HTL upgrading process. Ivanhoe Energy drilled its second well, IP-5B, at the southern end of the Pungarayacu oil field in Block 20. Following thermal operations, heavy crude was extracted and test volumes were sent to Ivanhoe Energy's HTL Feedstock Test Facility (FTF) in San Antonio, Texas. These heavy crude volumes were successfully processed and converted to a product that would meet pipeline specifications in Ecuador and would have a higher value and greater marketability than the raw heavy crude.
"This successful processing test confirms the capabilities and flexibility of our HTL upgrading technology", said David Dyck. "We believe our HTL process provides Ivanhoe Energy with a unique capability to help the Government of Ecuador, and other governments and heavy oil owners around the world, develop this important resource in a cost-effective and environmentally-responsible manner."
Ivanhoe Energy's technical team is pleased with this result given the specific characteristics of the crude samples that were obtained from IP-5B. The crude gravity is similar to Athabasca bitumen, at approximately 8° API, however other characteristics are quite different and present specific upgrading challenges. This included higher residual oil (heaviest fraction of the crude), metals, viscosity, solids, and water. In order to deal with these challenges, the FTF was calibrated and customized to suit the feed, and the processing was successful.
The input heavy crude, with a gravity of approximately 8° API, was upgraded to approximately 17° API, while the viscosity of the feed was virtually eliminated and the metals significantly reduced. All of this was accomplished with an overall liquid yield of 88%. These results were from Ivanhoe's first well of recovered volumes and as such represents an early test result. Ivanhoe anticipates that improvements in technical attributes, including API, will continue to advance as progress is made on the overall Ecuador project. This would be consistent with improvements achieved in the Tamarack Project also operated by Ivanhoe.
"In recent years, we have dramatically improved the overall performance and capabilities of the HTL process from its early stage design," said Silverman. "Over the last twelve months we have focused deliberately on making the process as flexible as possible so we can handle different and more challenging crudes. This preparation served us well when processing the heavy crude from well IP-5B."
An independent review by Gaffney, Cline & Associates estimated that within the 250 square-mile delineated portion of Block 20, and within the Hollin formation, there are between 4 and 12 billion barrels of oil originally-in-place. Canadian reporting standards and, in particular, the Canadian Oil and Gas Evaluation Handbook, stipulate that, until it can be established that oil will flow to the surface, original-oil-in-place must be reported as "undiscovered resources."
Ivanhoe has also commenced a 190 kilometer 2-D seismic program on the southern part of the Pungarayacu Block. Ivanhoe anticipates that this initial phase of shooting and processing of 2-D seismic will be completed in early July. The seismic data will be used to better identify sub-surface structures, assist in the selection of future drilling locations and possibly determine deeper geologic trapping systems which may contain lighter quality crude products.
HTL represents a unique competitive advantage as Ivanhoe executes its heavy oil business plan around the world. HTL has demonstrated the ability to upgrade a wide range of heavy oil feedstocks with significant variability in characteristics into a more valuable and marketable synthetic crude oil meeting pipeline specifications. HTL eliminates the need for diluent and blend agents for transport, and eliminates, or virtually eliminates, the need for natural gas for steam generation for thermal recovery. These HTL advantages all come to bear in Pungarayacu in Block 20, as well as in many other heavy oil fields in Ecuador, where access to natural gas and blend agents is restricted, and heavy oil is abundant.
Ivanhoe Energy Inc. is an independent, international oil and gas company with a focus on heavy oil development and production using advanced technologies, including its proprietary, patented heavy to light upgrading process (HTL). Core operations are in Canada, Ecuador, China and Mongolia, with business development opportunities worldwide.
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