SAIT OTSG lab opens to demonstrate in-situ hydrocarbon extraction technology

Once Through Steam Generation (OTSG) Lab helps students and faculty develop expertise

SAIT students and faculty now have access to a cutting-edge technology used in oil sands in-situ extraction operations on campus.

The Once Through Steam Generation (OTSG) lab opened in Nov. 2018 to provide students and faculty an opportunity to develop their expertise with in-situ steam generation, an approach to extract hydrocarbons from oil sands, like those present throughout northern Alberta.

The technology generates super-heated steam that is used to extract hydrocarbons from subterranean deposits, explained Dr. Vita Martez, the Industrial Research Chair for SAIT’s colleges in oil sands in-situ steam generation.

The technology was invented by Dr. Roger Butler in 1978, who first tested the idea of steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) in oil sands development.

Currently, the most common method of steam generation for SAGD is with conventional boilers, which are inefficient and powered by gas or electricity to turn water into steam. Another key difference between these two methods is that the gas turbine in an OSTG system will produce electricity to power the facility, explained Martez.

“The key feature of the two OTSG test rigs is that they are 1/1000th replica of a conventional OTSG, and have similar operational functionality,” she said.

“The test rigs are able to run up to one cubic meter of poor quality boiler feed water from various SAGD and other in-situ steam processes from various facilities in Western Canada.”

The models mimic commercial size OSTGs and will be used to conduct various types of fouling studies to determine some of the barriers to many operational, energy, environmental, and efficiency problems in the machines.

Martez added that this unique training facility will provide students with valuable hands-on knowledge that will complement their educational qualifications.

“It will not only engage industry mentors, faculty and staff, but more importantly increase the student’s experiential learning by helping them to develop new and innovative clean-technology solutions, test their ideas in the lab, and potentially contribute to novel and practical ways to resolving pertinent technical and environmental issues.”

Marlon Norona, a chemical laboratory technologist and SAIT graduate, now works with the Centre for Energy Research in Clean Unconventional Tech Solutions (CERCUTS) to further develop steam generation research.

Norona is assisting with the OSTG rig process testing, which aims to contribute significant environmental benefits in water management, energy efficiency, and emissions reduction.

“The opportunity to work with the CERCUTS team and be part of SAIT’s long-range plan in energy efficiency and clean energy development is very exciting and timely right now,” said Norona.

“Along with my hands-on training in analytical instrumentation, I will be conducting quantitative and qualitative analysis using state-of-the–art equipment in the ARIS Water Research and Innovation Lab.”

While fossil fuels remain the dominant source for energy worldwide, plans for the new OSTG technologies aim to comple ment rather than compete with renewable energy solutions.

“Clean fossil energy will fill the gaps left by renewable sources, as they can be unpredictable, by providing peak power, backup and emergency energy that is crucial for the well-being of communities,” said Martez.

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