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Acceleware’s RF XL

By Mike Tourigny, Chief Operations Officer, Acceleware Ltd., Co-authored by Allison Aherne, Acceleware

In 1975, when AOSTRA first announced funding for heavy oil development, kids rode backwards in station wagons on long trips, counting power poles and listening to Neil Sedaka on the radio. Forty years later, Acceleware’s Radio Frequency (RF XL) Marwayne Pilot brought together SAGD (the technology created through AOSTRA at the Dover Pilot) and Radio Frequency Heating. With a well pair similarly configured to SAGD, this unconventional technology replaces steam injection with electromagnetic energy injection and then uses gravity drainage to collect emulsion at the production well.

RF XL was developed in three stages 

Stage 1 – Clean Tech Inverter Development

The Clean Tech Inverter (CTI) is the beating heart of the RF XL technology. This patented innovation was developed in 2016 jointly with General Electric, with Acceleware owning the intellectual property rights. This inverter uses Silicon Carbide (SiC) technology to achieve over 97% energy efficiency and deliver scalable power on demand. Unique to this technology, the input power is variable and capable of utilizing AC or DC power from various sources, including the power grid, co-gen, or renewable sources.

Stage 2 – 500 kW Field Test

In July 2020, Acceleware conducted a 500 kW field test with two horizontal radiating arms buried near the surface to evaluate the CTI and confirm the transmission of RF energy to the radiating arms. The test successfully showcased the CTI’s ability to deliver maximum power at 98% efficiency, with heating observed along the length of both radiating arms, confirming the transmission of RF.

Stage 3 – Marwayne Pilot

The Marwayne pilot was designed to evaluate RF XL as a thermal recovery process on a commercial well. Scovan completed the facility surface design for this cutting-edge technology. Drilling and completions were finished by December 2021, followed closely by the construction of surface facilities managed by Scovan. Pilot heating commenced in March 2022, with financial and technical support from three major oil sand operators and funding from Alberta Innovates, Emissions Reductions Alberta, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and the Clean Resource Innovation Network.

The first phase of the pilot operation was successful in demonstrating the promise of RF XL:

  • Achieved a successful full-power test using CTI modules during the field test.
  • Confirmed the system’s capability to deliver 2 MW at 98% efficiency.
  • Delivered heat downhole consistent with predictions and simulations.
  • Produced evidence of heating in the reservoir and production well temperature sensors.
  • Longest continuous run (142 days) and highest power (>250 kW) of any RF heating heavy oil pilot.

Despite these successes, the first phase of the pilot revealed a challenge that needs addressing in the next phase – water ingress into the subsurface RF structure during well completion, which degraded downhole components and prevented the system from reaching full power.

Acceleware plans to deploy upgraded and redesigned subsurface equipment at the pilot heating well to address these issues. The redeployment plan aims to prevent liquid ingress, add resiliency in the event of liquid return, and improve monitoring. With extensive de-risking, Acceleware and its engineering partners are confident in the high probability of success for the RF XL redeployment plan. If successful, the unconventional RF XL would reach Technology Readiness Level 9, with early commercial deployments expected in 2026.

We are eager to continue collaborating with Scovan and other partners to realize RF XL’s full potential. This partnership represents a shared vision for a greener future in oil sands recovery, where our technology plays a central role in reducing emissions and advancing the industry toward a more sustainable future.

Originally published in IGNITE V8.