Heavy Oil Production using Fracking and Microwaves

by Emil Morhardt

Fracking isn’t just for natural gas and conventional oil; it also increases the production of heavy oil in low permeability reservoirs, but if the oil is heavy enough and the cracks don’t penetrate very far, the flow rates decay rapidly and not much oil is recovered. [Heavy oil, not defined in this paper, is usually a term used for oil just a little less viscous than bitumen, the “extra heavy oil” found in the highly contested Canadian tar sands—more or less like asphalt.] One possibility is to heat up the rock surrounding the well to make the oil less viscous. A technique that works in conventional oil wells is to inject steam, but with heavy oil in low permeability reservoirs steam doesn’t work very well. The approach discussed in this paper by Davletbaev et al. (2014) is to use microwave radiation (also known as radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation) of the sort used in your kitchen Continue reading