WorldWide Drilling Resource

12 JUNE 2021 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® The Clean Answer May Be Underfoot Compiled by Carol C. Schimpf, Editorial Assistant, WorldWide Drilling Resource ® Calgary, Canada-based Proton Technologies, founded in 2015, is the operator of an aging heavy oil field in Saskatchewan. While it has been producing oil to pay the bills, it has also been experimenting with injecting oxygen into its reservoir to produce exclusively hydrogen. The company explained its process is built on a technical foundation including years of research and works on the demonstration scale. They hope to prove the process can also be profitable. While Proton produces its own hydrogen, it is licensing out the technology to others, such as Canadian operator Whitecap Resources. It has struck similar licensing deals with other Canadian operators, but these companies have not yet made public announcements. Grant Strem, cofounder and CEO of Proton said, “In situ combustion has been used in more than 500 projects worldwide over the last century. And they have all produced hydrogen.” Strem’s background is a petroleum geologist, but he now looks at oil fields very differently than he used to. “In an oil field, you have oil - hydrocarbons, which are made of hydrogen and carbon. The other fluid down there is H 2 O. So, an oil field is really a giant hydrogen-rich, energy-dense system that’s all conveniently accessible by wells,” Strem explained. But in the past, hydrogen production was merely a by-product. Proton wants to supercharge the hydrogen-generating reactions by using the oil as fuel, while leaving the carbon underground. An intermediate milestone will be when Proton produces enough hydrogen to power its facilities. But their ultimate goal is to produce hydrogen on a large scale and cheaper than natural gas. Strem said “soggy oil fields” with an abundance of naturally trapped water are ideal because of their ability to sustain the water-gas shift, the chemical reaction which will ultimately yield the most hydrogen in an opti- mized system. These hydrocarbon reservoirs would typically be depleted, late-life, or marginally oil productive. According to Proton Technologies, a significant amount of oil remains in the ground following production due to a number of factors making it inaccessible or too expensive to recover. However, these abandoned reservoirs can be repurposed to produce pure hydrogen with zero emissions. How does the proton process work? It is called Hygenic Earth Energy, Proton’s patented technology. In simple terms, advanced technology allows for a two-step process: heating the reservoir to create free hydrogen, and extracting pure hydrogen gas, heat, and other valuables. A functioning facility will include a series of connected processes, beginning with the production of oxygen-enriched air and ending with storage and distribution of hydrogen. The most innovative part is the patented combination of heating reservoirs with oxinjec- tion wells and harvesting the hydrogen with hygeneration wells . Existing equipment can be adapted to both types of wells. In oxinjection wells, oxygen-enhanced air is produced at the wellhead and then injected deep into the reservoir with targeted portions of the reservoir becoming very warm. As temperatures rise, the nearby hydrocarbons and any water mole- cules break apart, becoming a temporary source of free hydrogen gas. Proton’s process is controlled through the timing and pattern of oxygen injection and external heating. After creating free hydrogen, one or more hygeneration wells extract the elemental hydrogen using Proton’s patented Hygenerator . This is a dynamic down- hole device using feedback from inside the wells to intelligently locate hydrogen. A selective palladium membrane inside the Hygenerator filters the gases, and a pump moves pure hydrogen gas up to the wellhead. Proton Technologies has already commenced their $3 million field test on the frozen plains of Saskatchewan in Canada. Their workers are injecting steam and air into the Superb field, a layer of sand nearly 2300 feet down holding 200 million bar- rels of thick, viscous oil. Eventually, the company plans to plug its wells with mem- branes allowing only the clean-burning hydrogen to reach the surface. Ian Gates, a chemical engineer at the University of Calgary and cofounder of the company said, “We want to launch the idea that you can get energy from petroleum resources, and it can be zero carbon emissions.” At the same time, if implemented on a large scale, this technology could act as an adrenaline shot to the gas and oil industry by repur- posing abandoned wells and adding jobs to the industry. Editor’s Note: In between our print issues, the WWDR Team prepares an electronic newsletter called E-News Flash . This newsletter is filled with articles not included in our print issue. Based on readership, this was the most popular article of the month. Get in on the action and subscribe today at: G&O The Proton Technologies Team. Photo courtesy of Proton Technologies. 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