Previously, in a series of articles concerning enhanced oil recovery in general and steam-assisted enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technology in particular, we have revised such topics as chemical stimulation (18.04.2022), gas injection or water flooding (09.05.2022), steam injection (06.08.2022), SAGD approach (06.12.2022), Steam generators (10.02.2023), and use of steam combined with chemicals for oil production (20.02.2023).
Now we will consider the aspect of waste processing in the steam-assisted EOR industry. We have collected more than 330 patent documents published over the past 20 years to analyze using the Advanced Energy Technologies methodology. Patents and patent applications have been published in 21 patent offices around the world by 108 applicants from 11 countries.
Unconventional oil. Waste processing in steam-assisted production. Cumulative number of patents and applications, relationship of number of applications to total number of documents by year
In the pool of documents collected for this review, the peak values in the number of published patent applications were achieved in 2013-2017, which led to a rise in the number of granted patents in 2017 and later. The peak in the number of applications was followed by a decline, so this trend may continue for patents as well in the years to come. In recent years, the number of start documents that didn’t belong to any previously formed patent family on average was around 30%.
Recently, there was a decline in the number of new IPC subgroups, new applicants, and new offices appearing in the patent documents, although several years ago these indicators were showing high or even peak values. This may indicate that there are certain difficulties in the further expansion of this field of technology to new technological or geographical areas.
In the collection of documents under revision, the largest number of patents were granted during 20 years in the USPTO (US) patent office – more than 35% of all patents. CIPO (CA) and CNIPA (CN) were following the leader with almost 29% and almost 11%, respectively. IP Australia (AU), EPO, and Rospatent (RU) should also be mentioned as the offices each having a noticeable number of patents. In the pool of recent patent applications, USPTO (US) was also in the lead with more than 27%. It was closely followed by CIPO (CA) with more than 23%.
Unconventional oil. Waste processing in steam-assisted production. Breakdown of inventions by patent offices. Patents, 20 years (left); Applications, 5 years (right)
In terms of the number of patents granted in the 20-year period, residents of the United States were leading with a share exceeding 54% of all cases. The United States were followed by Canada and Israel, with 25% and 6%, respectively. In the case of recent patent applications, the leaders were the United States (more than 60% of cases) and Canada (more than 23%).
Following is a list of top 10 applicants with the highest Market involvement ratio for patents published in the 20-year period (Market involvement ratio = volume ratio multiplied by ownership ratio, where Volume ratio - share of applicant documents in total number of documents, Ownership ratio - applicant's participation share in total number of documents):
Unconventional oil. Waste processing in steam-assisted production. Top applicants by Market involvement ratio. Patents
|Company||US||Aquatech International Corporation||9.09||83.33||7.57|
|Company||US||Veolia Water Technologies, Inc.||9.09||95||8.64|
|Company||IL||IDE Technologies Ltd||6.36||100||6.36|
|Company||US||Baker Hughes Incorporated||3.64||100||3.64|
|Company||KR||Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction||3.64||100||3.64|
|Company||US||Foret Plasma Labs, LLC||3.64||100||3.64|
|Company||JP||Toyo Engineering Corporation||3.64||37.5||1.37|
|Company||US||Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies North America, Inc.||3.64||87.5||3.19|
In the collection of patents related to waste processing in steam-assisted EOR, Aquatech International Corporation (US) and Veolia Water Technologies, Inc. (US) each had the largest number of documents – 10. They were followed by General Electric (US) and IDE Technologies Ltd (IL) with 7 patents each. In terms of recently published patent applications, the leaders were 3P TECH CORP (CA) with 6 applications, ConocoPhilips Company (US) – 6 applications, Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction (KR) – 5, Ecolab USA Inc. (US) – 5, and Veolia Water Technologies, Inc. (US) – 5 patent applications.
Unconventional oil. Waste processing in steam-assisted production. Top applicants by Market involvement ratio. Applications
|Company||CA||3P TECH CORP||11.76||100||11.76|
|Company||KR||Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction||9.8||100||9.80|
|Company||US||Ecolab USA Inc.||9.8||100||9.80|
|Company||US||Veolia Water Technologies, Inc.||9.8||100||9.80|
|Company||US||Baker Hughes Incorporated||5.88||100||5.88|
|Company||CA||Cenovus Energy, Inc.||5.88||66.97||3.92|
|Company||US||Foret Plasma Labs, LLC||3.92||100||3.92|
|Company||US||Aquatech International Corporation||3.92||100||3.92|
|Company||CA||Cenovus Fccl Ltd.||3.92||50||1.96|
The most commonly-encountered problems in the collection of patents and patent applications related to waste processing were Energy, gas or water consumption, Environmental balance and protection, and High running costs of maintenance. Generally, technical solutions disclosed in the patent documents under revision were represented in the form of methods. Devices and compositions were encountered less often in the documents. The most popular IPC subgroups assigned to the patent documents were: E21B43/24 (using heat, e.g. steam injection), C02F1/04 (by distillation or evaporation), E21B43/40 (Separation associated with re-injection of separated materials), C02F1/44 (by dialysis, osmosis or reverse osmosis), and C02F1/52 (by flocculation or precipitation of suspended impurities).
In the collection of documents under revision, the largest patent family comprises 21 patent documents and is represented by core document US20150360969A1 (Core document is a base document for which a complete description of the invention is available in generally-accessible patent databases). It is followed by patent families with core documents AU2011293034A1 and WO2015187456A1, comprising 15 and 14 documents, respectively:
EVAPORATOR ARRAY FOR A WATER TREATMENT SYSTEM / A: US20150360969A1 / IPC: B01D1/00, C02F1/04 / SCHMIDT YANIV / IDE TECHNOLOGIES LTD / Appl. date: 21/01/2014; Publ. date: 17/12/2015 / United States Patent and Trademark Office / Core document: US20150360969A1 / Technology categories: UGT / Technology elements: STI, STgd, STs, WP / Problems: EGWC, HRCM, LESP / Technical solution types: D, M / Claims: 11 / Rating: 9
A contaminant control system in an evaporative water treating system / A: AU2011293034A1 / IPC: C02F1/04 / James Kenneth / KemeX Ltd / Appl. date: 29/03/2011; Publ. date: 01/03/2012 / IP Australia / Core document: AU2011293034A1 / Technology categories: HO, OSN / Technology elements: RPIE, STI, STwp, WP / Problems: EBP, HRCM, LESP / Technical solution types: D, M / Claims: 9 / Rating: 10
OIL RECOVERY PROCESS INCLUDING ENHANCED SOFTENING OF PRODUCED WATER / A: WO2015187456A1 / IPC: C02F5/00, C09K8/592, E21B43/24 / SCHOOLEY KAREN, GAMACHE DAVID / VEOLIA WATER TECHNOLOGIES INC / Appl. date: 28/05/2015; Publ. date: 10/12/2015 / World Intellectual Property Organization / Core document: WO2015187456A1 / Technology categories: HO / Technology elements: STI, STgd, STwp, WP / Problems: HRCM, LESP / Technical solution types: M / Claims: 11 / Rating: 6
The following abbreviations are used in the documents hereinbefore and hereinafter: D - Device; M - Method; C - Composition; OSN - Oil sands; OSH - Oil shale; HO - Heavy and extra heavy oil; UGT - Unspecified or general technologies; EBP - Environmental balance and protection; EGWC - Energy, gas or water consumption; HCG - High capital or running costs in general; HRCM - High running costs of maintenance; LEPP - Low efficiency of primary production; LESP - Low efficiency of secondary processing; LPE - Low production efficiency in general; RPIE - Reservoir permeability improvement and extraction; WP - Waste processing; STgd - SAGD; STI - Steam injection; STs - Surface-generated steam; STwp - Waste processing in steam stimulation.
Unconventional oil. Waste processing in steam-assisted production. Breakdown of documents by family size. Patents and applications
Several examples of technical solutions related to waste processing in steam-assisted enhanced oil recovery and having the highest rating calculated using Advanced Energy Technologies methodology are provided below:
Unconventional oil. Waste processing in steam-assisted production. Prominent patent documents by rating:
Solidification of waste brine from in situ hydrocarbon recovery operations with insulation material / P: CA2914215C / IPC: A62D3/00, B09B3/00 / Pernitsky David, Selinger Anita, Omotoso Oladipo, Armstrong Collin / Suncor Energy Inc / Appl. date: 26/11/2015; Publ. date: 27/03/2018 / Canadian Intellectual Property Office / P/A pair: CA2914215A1 / Technology categories: HO, OSN / Technology elements: STI, STgd, STs, STwp, WP / Problems: EBP, EGWC, LESP / Technical solution types: C, M / Claims: 36 / Rating: 19
Apparatus and process for treatment of water / P: US9138688B2 / IPC: B01D61/36, B01D63/02, B01D61/58, B01D71/02, B01D61/00, C02F1/463, C02F1/44, C02F9/06, C02F9/00, B01D61/14 / Prakash Prakhar, Pauley James Craig, Pruet Randall B / Chevron U.S.A. Inc., Prakash Prakhar, Pauley James Craig, Pruet Randall B / Appl. date: 21/09/2012; Publ. date: 22/09/2015 / United States Patent and Trademark Office / Core document: WO2013044168A1 / Technology categories: OSH, OSN / Technology elements: RPIE, STI, STwp, WP / Problems: EBP, EGWC, HRCM / Technical solution types: D, M / Claims: 15 / Rating: 19
Apparatus and process for treatment of water / P: US9180411B2 / IPC: B01D61/36, C02F1/463, B01D71/02, B01D63/02, C02F9/00, B01D61/58, B01D61/14, B01D61/00, C02F1/44 / Prakash Prakhar, Pauley James Craig, Pruet Randall B / Chevron U.S.A. Inc. / Appl. date: 21/09/2012; Publ. date: 10/11/2015 / United States Patent and Trademark Office / Core document: WO2013044168A1 / Technology categories: OSH, OSN / Technology elements: RPIE, STI, STwp, WP / Problems: EBP, EGWC, HRCM / Technical solution types: D, M / Claims: 11 / Rating: 19
SOLVENT EXTRACTION OF BITUMEN USING HEAT FROM COMBUSTION OF PRODUCT CLEANING STREAMS / P: CA2762444C / IPC: C10G1/04, E21B43/243 / SPEIRS BRIAN C, PIERRE FRITZ JR, ESMAEILI PAYMAN, RENNARD DAVID, PACE JUSTIN / IMPERIAL OIL RESOURCES LIMITED, EXXONMOBIL UPSTREAM RESEARCH COMPANY / Appl. date: 19/12/2011; Publ. date: 27/05/2014 / Canadian Intellectual Property Office / Core document: WO2013095758A2 / Technology categories: OSH, OSN / Technology elements: RPIE, STI, STwp, WP / Problems: EBP, EGWC, LPE / Technical solution types: M / Claims: 51 / Rating: 19
METHOD FOR PRODUCTION OF HIGH PURITY DISTILLATE FROM PRODUCED WATER FOR GENERATION OF HIGH PRESSURE STEAM / P: CA2721705C / IPC: C02F1/04, B01B1/00, C02F1/00, E21B43/24 / BJORKLUND DANIEL P, MANDIGO GREGORY J, SCHOEN RICHARD M, MARLETT JAMES MICHAEL, TIWARI CHANDRAKANT / AQUATECH INTERNATIONAL, LLC / Appl. date: 05/08/2010; Publ. date: 18/02/2014 / Canadian Intellectual Property Office / Core document: US20130269934A1 / Technology categories: HO, OSN / Technology elements: STI, STs, STwp, WP / Problems: EBP, EGWC, HCG, LEPP / Technical solution types: C, M / Claims: 20 / Rating: 19
METHOD FOR PRODUCTION OF HIGH PURITY DISTILLATE FROM PRODUCED WATER FOR GENERATION OF HIGH PRESSURE STEAM / P: US8469091B2 / IPC: B01D3/00, E21B43/24, E21B43/34 / Bjorklund Daniel P, et al. / Aquatech International Corporation, Bjorklund Daniel P., et al. / Appl. date: 05/08/2010; Publ. date: 25/06/2013 / United States Patent and Trademark Office / Core document: US20130269934A1 / Technology categories: HO, OSN / Technology elements: STI, STs, STwp, WP / Problems: EBP, EGWC, HCG, LEPP / Technical solution types: C, M / Claims: 20 / Rating: 19
由生产水制备高纯度馏出物用于生成高压蒸汽的方法 (en: METHOD FOR PRODUCTION OF HIGH PURITY DISTILLATE FROM PRODUCED WATER FOR GENERATION OF HIGH PRESSURE STEAM) / P: CN102177310B / IPC: E21B43/24 / Bjorklund Daniel P, et al. / Aquatech International Corporation / Appl. date: 05/08/2010; Publ. date: 19/08/2015 / National Intellectual Property Administration / Core document: US20130269934A1 / Technology categories: HO, OSN / Technology elements: STI, STs, STwp, WP / Problems: EBP, EGWC, HCG, LEPP / Technical solution types: C, M / Claims: 20 / Rating: 19
In the collection of documents concerning waste processing in steam-assisted enhanced oil recovery, three major groups with the largest number of documents can be outlined. These are patents and patent applications that are aimed at solving Energy, gas or water consumption problems, Environmental balance and protection problems, and documents providing solutions related to the SAGD technology. SAGD is one of the most widely used steam-assisted EOR approaches, while problems related to energy and water consumption and environmental aspects are particularly important nowadays. Below we provide some examples of inventions belonging to these groups of documents.
- US9586175B2 - reduced energy consumption in flue gas treatment for SAGD operations is achieved by a process comprising contacting the gas with an amine absorption medium in the presence of a heterogeneous alkaline catalyst to form a rich medium; and separating the acid gas from the rich medium in the presence of a heterogeneous proton donor acid catalyst to form a lean medium;
- US11459246B2 - improved efficiency of water treatment process for such technologies as SAGD EOR is achieved by a system comprising a heat exchanger having separate flow paths with additional elements for fluid separation. In the invention, purified vapor and contaminated fluids go different paths due to gravity differences;
- US9593032B2 - water produced by steam-assisted EOR methods is treated by acidifying, filtering with a ceramic membrane, and contacting with activated carbon to remove organic contaminants and make it suitable for re-use in the process;
- US9938813B2 - an evaporator is used to produce a concentrated brine and steam from a produced water. The water exiting the evaporator is softened by mixing with a caustic and the concentrated brine. The invention is intended to improve the efficiency of produced water softening and avoid using expensive chelating agents in the process;
- US11001764B2 - a process and composition for treatment of SAGD-produced fluids is proposed. The composition comprises two monomers present in the fluid in an amount of 0.1ppm-5,000ppm and is used to improve the efficiency of the process and make it cost-effective.
Energy, gas or water consumption
Patent US9586175B2 by University of Regina (CA) and a group of private individuals describes a process for separating a portion of an acid gas from a gaseous mixture. The process comprises forming a rich medium by contacting the mixture with an absorption medium (amine) in the presence of a heterogeneous alkaline catalyst to absorb a portion of the acid gas. A portion of the acid gas is separated from the rich medium in the presence of a heterogeneous proton donor acid catalyst to form a lean medium. The claims of the invention specify possible compositions to be used as the heterogeneous proton donor acid catalyst (e.g. HZSM-5), the heterogeneous alkaline catalyst (e.g. MgCO3), and the amine (e.g. monoethanolamine). According to the authors, the invention can be used to treat combustion flue gas in steam-assisted gravity drainage operations.
Among the drawbacks of the prior-art solutions, the authors mention large energy consumption, and claim that the invention resolves this problem.
The invention is a part of a family comprising 10 patent documents published in US, AU, CA, CN, EP, KR, and WO in 2011-2019.
Image from: US9586175B2
Patent US11459246B2 published by Katz Water Tech, LLC (US) on 04.10.2022. describes a system for removing contaminates from a fluid. The system contains a contaminated fluid inlet, a first outlet for purified vapor, a second outlet for contaminated fluid, and an energy source heating the fluid for converting to purified vapor. The invention further comprises a heat exchanger having a first flow path between the inlet and the first outlet, and a second unobstructed flow path between the inlet and the second outlet. Due to gravity differences, the lighter purified vapor (e.g. steam) and the heavier contaminated fluids go different paths. The second unobstructed flow path is equipped with hydrophobic coatings. Separation of the purified vapor from the contaminated fluid in different flow paths of the apparatus is performed by using such elements as aligned holes, baffles, membranes, valves, tubes, baffles with holes, screens, perforated pipes, condensation plates, aligned openings, or their combination. The claims of the patent provide a more detailed specifications for the apparatus of the invention and describe a method of fluid treatment involving the apparatus. The invention can be used to treat water produced in such processes as SAGD, and others.
The authors mention that the prior-art solutions require excessive energy for water treatment or as the result of insufficiently treated water, and point out the need in more effective water treatment solutions.
The patent belongs to a family comprising 15 patent documents published between 2015 and 2023 in the US, WO, CA, and EP patent offices.
Image from: US11459246B2
1 - heat exchanger; 2 - a series of plates; 3 - Cold water; 4,7 - inlet; 5,8 - outlet; 20 - additional outlet; 21 - flow paths; 22 - purified fluid; 23 - contaminated fluid; 24 - pumps; 25 - drains; 27 - baffles; 28 - aligned holes.
Environmental balance and protection
Patent US9593032B2 published by General Electric (US) discloses a method for removing organics from water, for example for treating water produced in steam-assisted EOR methods. The method comprises de-solubilizing dissolved organics by acidifying the water to a pH value of 3-7, and filtering it with a ceramic membrane to separate the organics, contacting the water with activated carbon with at least 50% of its pores having a diameter of 10-20 Angstroms, and with a positively charged surface. Activated carbon treatment can be performed in two stages, where biological activated carbon is used in one of the stages. The method further comprises treating the water via adsorption.
The invention aims at removing contaminants from water, so it can be re-used later in the process.
The patent belongs to a patent family comprising 8 documents published between 2014 and 2017 in US, WO, CA, CN, and RU.
Image from: US9593032B2
Patent US9938813B2 by Veolia Water Technologies, Inc. (US) proposes a water softening process for steam-assisted oil recovery operations. A concentrated brine and steam are produced by evaporation in an evaporator from a water separated from an oil-water mixture recovered from a formation. The steam is condensed to a distillate, which is directed to a steam generator and heated to produce steam, which is then injected into a well. The water exiting the evaporator is softened by mixing it with a caustic and the concentrated brine. The flow of the concentrated brine into the softening unit is 1%-5% of the flow of the produced water. In another embodiment of the invention, the water separated from the oil-water mixture is softened by a softening reagent in a softening unit and then sent to the evaporator and mixed with the concentrated brine to further raise the pH level. The softening process takes place in a reactor and involves mixing a caustic and the concentrated brine with the water. The water or the concentrated brine can be seeded with calcium carbonate to reduce scaling of process equipment. The claims of the invention further provide other options of implementing the method.
Referring to the prior-art solutions, the authors of the invention mention that there is a need in improving the efficiency of the process and avoiding using expensive reagents.
The patent is a part of a family consisting of 14 patent documents published in the AU, CA, CL, CN, PL, RU, US, and WO patent offices in 2015-2021.
Image from: US9938813B2
10 - treatment system; 34 - evaporator; 34A - distillate; 34B - line; 34C - sump; 34D - recirculating line; 34E - pump; 38 - steam stream; 40 - injection well; 42 - oil well; 46 - line; 48 - pump.
Patent US11001764B2 by Baker Hughes Incorporated (US) discloses a process and composition for water treatment and oil-water separation. A production fluid comprising a hydrocarbon phase and an aqueous phase is admixed with a copolymer, prepared from monomers consisting of "…a first monomer selected from the group consisting of poly(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate, poly(ethylene glycol) methyl ether acrylate, poly(ethylene glycol) methacrylate, poly(ethylene glycol) acrylate, and combinations thereof; and a second monomer selected from the group consisting of 2-hydroxyethyl acrylate, 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate, hydroxypropyl acrylate, hydroxypropyl methacrylate, 4-hydroxybutyl acrylate, and combinations thereof; where the copolymer is present in the fluid in an amount from about 0.1 ppm to about 5,000 ppm". The hydrocarbon phase is dried based on the measurement of basic sediment/emulsion and free water. The process further includes partially separating the phases. The proposed process and copolymer can be used to clarify SAGD-produced fluids.
The authors mention that the process and copolymer of the invention ensure efficient and cost-efficient treatment method.
The invention belongs to a family comprising 6 patent documents published between 2017 and 2021 in the MX, CA, and US patent offices.
Image from: US11001764B2
It can be seen from the inventions described above and from other patent documents revised during this analysis, that in the majority of cases the inventors address the issue of treating water produced during the steam-assisted EOR process. Such water can be contaminated with hydrocarbons and other impurities, and treatment is necessary for further re-use in the production process or other applications.
More detailed information about inventions in the field of steam-assisted production of unconventional oil, and patent research methodology can be found on aenert.com and in UNCONVETIONAL OIL PRODUCTION. Steam Injection. Extended patent report. July 2022.