American Oil and Gas Reporter - October 2016 - 27

TECHCONNECTIONS
'Mining' Process
May Be Way To Recover
Remaining Oil
At the Eastern Kansas Oil & Gas Association's 2016 annual
meeting in September, the University of Kansas Tertiary Oil
Recovery Program hosted a one-day workshop titled "Eastern
Kansas Oil Field Essentials." This workshop highlighted technology and innovations aimed at helping eastern Kansas operators
continue to succeed. However, this technology isn't limited to
eastern Kansas. Several of the technologies discussed can be
applied in many areas in the United States.
One technology, in particular, stood out this year. Phoenix
Energy Resources of Andover, Ks., showcased what it is calling
a "borehole extraction recovery system." Phoenix claims its
technology will enable producers to recover the remaining oil
left in a reservoir after primary and secondary recovery.
Phoenix President and Chief Operating Officer Gregory
Menas said the company's near-term focus was oil, but noted
that its proprietary system could and would be used also to
recover other deep natural resources in future years. Menas
contends that as much as 400 billion barrels of oil may be left in
mature fields across the country, and that the Phoenix system
can recover as much as 80 percent of that crude.
Phoenix uses a process called borehole mining to produce
the oil that remains trapped in the reservoir. Borehole mining
also is known as slurry mining, and utilizes a tool that incorporates
a water-jet cutting system combined with a downhole slurry
pumping system used to mine minerals through a single borehole
at the surface. Water jets from the mining tool erode the ore to
form a slurry. The slurry flows into the in-jet of a pump at the
base of the tool. The material-in this case oil-then is lifted to
the surface in a form suitable for production systems.
On Phoenix's website there is a paper titled, Borehole (Slurry)
Mining of Coal, Uraniferous Sandstone, Oil Sands, and Phosphate
Ore, by George Savanick, which describes borehole mining as
an established process that Phoenix intends to use to recover oil
more efficiently. For Phoenix, the process offers a number of
important advantages over conventional drilling and completion
techniques.
The paper discusses the advances in borehole mining made
in the late 1970s. The borehole mining tool was used originally
to mine coal in Washington, sandstone in Wyoming, and oil
sands in California. The paper describes the massive improvements
made in the technology during these years. Most notable were
including the hydrostatic head of a water-filled borehole for
roof support, and developing methods to survey and backfill
mined-out cavities.
Borehole mining, as defined by this paper, could have
potential applications in certain fields to mine heavy oil. It
offers a number of important advantages over conventional
open-pit and underground mining methods, and can access
mineral deposits not traditionally mined because of technical
and economic difficulties. Using traditional mining methods, a
typical return on investment can take up to five years.
One of the additional benefits of borehole mining technology
is that it can be operated remotely from the surface by a two- to

"This technology offers an option for
producing oil left behind after primary

"

and secondary recovery.

three-person crew. Additionally, unlike traditional mining, no
overburden is removed, since it is pumped back into the cavity
during the process, so subsidence can be avoided. Reservoir
damage becomes a nonissue, since the rock is being effectively
removed and put back in the formation after the oil has been
separated.
Oil released by the water jet is brought in slurry form to the
surface, where it can be separated and placed into production
tanks. The technology was developed to mine selected deposits
that were small and erratically mineralized, making this an interesting option for mature fields. Phoenix representatives
visualize six tools per acre, working simultaneously, mining the
materials below.
Phoenix is still in the early stages of development and
deploying the technology, but is working aggressively to develop
case studies using this tool. It remains to be seen whether
borehole mining technology will revolutionize the U.S. oil and
gas industry. However, this technology does offer a unique
option for producing the remaining oil left behind after primary
and secondary recovery operations are conducted. It will be interesting to watch as Phoenix continues to grow and impact the
mature oil patch.
❒

JEREMY VISCOMI is the di-

rector of technology transfer
for the University of Kansas
Tertiary Oil Recovery Program
and the PTTC Midcontinent
Region office. He has more
than a decade of experience
in developing and organizing
technical conferences and special events.
OCTOBER 2016 27



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Oil and Gas Reporter - October 2016

Contents
American Oil and Gas Reporter - October 2016 - Cover1
American Oil and Gas Reporter - October 2016 - Cover2
American Oil and Gas Reporter - October 2016 - Contents
American Oil and Gas Reporter - October 2016 - 4
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