Patent application title: SYSTEM FOR USING SUPER CRITICAL STATE CARBON DIOXIDE FOR HYDROCARBON RECOVERY AND TRANSPORT
Michael J. Hirl (Houston, TX, US)
IPC8 Class: AB60P300FI
Class name: Fluid handling with casing, support, protector or static constructional installations vehicle
Publication date: 2012-06-14
Patent application number: 20120145266
A system for the use of super critical CO2 as a carrying or
suspension agent for transport of extracted or processed hydrocarbons.
The super critical state CO2 is then co-mingled with the extracted
or processed hydrocarbons and transported in the co-mingled state to a
delivery point. At the delivery point, the super critical state CO2
is allowed to return to its gaseous state allowing the separation of the
hydrocarbons therefrom. The hydrocarbons may be processed and the gaseous
CO2 returned to its super critical state for future transport, use
in EOR, or geologically sequestered.
1. A system for utilizing super critical state CO2 as a carrying or
suspension agent for extracted or processed hydrocarbons, said system
comprising: means for causing CO2 to enter a super critical state;
means for transporting said super critical state CO2 to the
processed hydrocarbons; means for commingling the super critical state
CO2 with the processed hydrocarbons; means for transporting the
super critical state CO2 together with the processed hydrocarbons to
a predetermined delivery destination.
2. The system as defined in claim 1 further including: means for depressurizing the mixture of super critical state CO2 and processed hydrocarbons at the delivery destination; means for recovering the gaseous phase CO2; means for causing the gaseous phase CO2 to re-enter a super critical state; means for transporting the super critical state CO2 to one or more locations including but not limited to: EOR/EGR, coal fields for enhanced coal bed methane, and a sequestration location.
3. The system as defined in claim 1, wherein the hydrocarbons are bitumen, oil sands or petroleum coke.
4. The system as defined in claim 1, wherein the means for transporting includes a pipeline.
5. The system as defined in claim 1, wherein the means for transporting includes a truck.
6. The system as defined in claim 2, wherein the means for transporting includes a truck.
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
 This application is a divisional application of pending Non-Provisional U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 12/386,433, filed Apr. 17, 2009 which claims the benefit of Provisional U.S. Patent Application No. 61/124,596 filed Apr. 17, 2008. All of the foregoing applications are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY FUNDED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
 The invention described in this patent application was not the subject of federally sponsored research or development.
 The system and method of the present invention pertains to the recovery, transport preparation, and transport of extracted or processed hydrocarbons; more particularly, the system and method of the present invention pertains to the use of super critical state CO2 in the recovery and transport of extracted or processed hydrocarbons.
 Extracted or processed hydrocarbons, for example, heavy hydrocarbons, especially like bitumen or those heavy hydrocarbons mined or produced from "oil sands," require an additional element to be combined with the heavy hydrocarbon, to enable the heavy hydrocarbon to be transported via pipeline. Under current technology and practices, this additional element or additive, more commonly called a "diluent," is injected into and/or otherwise combined with the heavy hydrocarbon, to form a combination known in the industry as a "dilbit."
 The use of the diluents is necessary to transport heavy hydrocarbons to upgraders and other processing facilities to make usable products. However, the very high cost of diluents, as represented by the direct investment to acquire diluents and then process these diluents, as well as the opportunity cost of not marketing the diluents for sale in their own markets, directly impacts the recovery and transportation cost associated with producing heavy hydrocarbons, extracted from oil sands as well as making useful products from the heavy hydrocarbons.
 Diluents currently in use in the transport of heavy hydrocarbons, include various lighted hydrocarbons such as condensate. With the growth in the production of heavy hydrocarbons from oil sands expected to both continue and grow, the demand for condensate (a high value, very light hydrocarbon product) will exceed available supply. As a result of the anticipated shortage or lack of availability or high delivered cost of condensate, other diluents must be considered for use in the dilbit to make up for the anticipated shortfall in the supply of available condensate. Principal among the other diluents being considered are natural gas liquids or as they are more commonly called in the industry, "NGLs." NGLs, like condensate, are very valuable light end hydrocarbons which have their own value and are marketed, traded and transported in their own markets.
 Accordingly, there remains a need in the art for a low cost, easily accessible diluent to be used in the transport of heavy hydrocarbons such as those heavy hydrocarbons produced from oil sands or for a new transport mix to be considered.
 The system and method of the present invention provides a competitive, preferred, and easily accessible product which can be used in the transport of extracted or processed hydrocarbons such as those heavy hydrocarbons produced from oil sands.
 According to the system and method of the present invention, CO2 is compressed and transformed into a super critical state, wherein it becomes a nearly liquid physical substance. Once in a super critical state, the CO2 is added to a heavy hydrocarbon. The combination of the super critical state CO2 facilitates the removal of the heavy hydrocarbon from a ground formation, such as oil sands.
 Once the heavy hydrocarbon is removed from the ground formation, such as oil sands, the combination of the heavy hydrocarbon, with the super critical state CO2 may be transported in a pressurized pipeline or tank to a predetermined delivery destination. Specifically, the super critical state CO2 acts as a carrying or suspension agent for the heavy hydrocarbon.
 At the predetermined delivery destination, the pressurized pipeline or tank containing the combination of the super critical state CO2 and the heavy hydrocarbon is de-pressurized. Such de-pressurization of the pressurized pipeline causes the combination of the heavy hydrocarbon, and the CO2 to return to a dual gas-liquid state. The gaseous CO2, is then separated from the heavy hydrocarbon. The heavy hydrocarbon may then be transformed into useful products. The CO2 may then be caused to re-enter a super critical state for re-use or storage.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURE
 A still better understanding of the system and method of the present invention may be had by reference to the drawing figure wherein:
 FIG. 1 is a flow diagram of the system and method of the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS
Technical and Historical Background
 Carbon dioxide, or as hereinafter referred to as CO2, is a unique molecule. CO2 is found in many common applications such as: an additive for soft drinks to add the "fizz"; dry ice for keeping food cold; and a component in chemical processes, for example, the urea process for making fertilizer. CO2 is also importantly used, in a specialty sense, in the oil and gas industry as an injectant for tertiary oil recovery for what is called in the industry, CO2-EOR (enhanced oil recovery).
 The unique application of CO2 in the oil and gas industry began in the early 1970's. Part of this key development was the construction of an expansive and unique infrastructure for handling CO2 at locations where naturally occurring CO2 was discovered. These "naturally sourced" CO2 reservoirs were predominantly at four formations or "domes" discovered in the Untied States. These four formations or domes are: McElmo Dome (SW Colorado), Sheep Mountain (SE Colorado), Bravo Dome (Eastern New Mexico), and Jackson Dome (near Jackson, Miss.). CO2 from these four formations or domes served as the first source from which major CO2 transport pipelines infrastructures were built. These CO2 transport pipelines connect natural CO2 sources to major oil fields at which CO2-EOR is conducted.
 Over time, additional anthropogenic sources such as CO2 sources from man-made processes based on the separation of CH4 or methane from CO2, also became more widely available. This increase in availability of CO2 from anthropogenic sources resulted in both anthropogenic and naturally sourced CO2 becoming available for use in CO2 EOR. The designation of CO2 from these two sources is denoted by suffix "a" or "n". CO2a designates CO2 from an anthropogenic source and CO2n designates CO2 from a natural source. This nomenclature will be applied herein in all references to CO2.
 It is important to note, that what is referred to as either CO2a or CO2n is not usually pure CO2; that is CO2 without other gases or elemental components. Rather, CO2X is the term to describe a somewhat "mixed" gas, or CO2 containing small amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, sulfide and other gases. Some CO2n sources are 99% or greater pure CO2. Some CO2a sources contain varying amounts of H25 gas.
 In all cases herein, the terms CO2a or CO2n will be used to primarily indicate the distinction in source from which they are obtained. In all cases, both CO2 and CO2n indicate a CO2 gas or gas mix with varying constituent component gases such as O2, N2, H25 and other gases as the case may be. The CO2 used as a diluent can either be 100% pure CO2 or be a CO2 gas mix consisting of the various gas components present as a result of the process through which the CO2 is extracted or otherwise captured.
 A unique feature of the evolved CO2-EOR industry is the manner in which CO2 is transported. Unlike natural gas (methane) or hydrogen gas which is transported in a gaseous state, all CO2, be it in its relatively pure and/or in its mixed gas state, is transported differently. Specifically, the CO2a/CO2n gas and/or mixed gas are first dehydrated to achieve a dryer gas with little or no water or water vapor content. This dehydration process effectively lessens the chances of the CO2X forming carbonic acid. Such dehydration is important because carbonic acid causes corrosion to form in the pipe or tank transporting the CO2X gas. Second, and most significantly, CO2 is typically compressed to a pressure at which it takes on a "super critical" state for transport.
 Super critical state CO2'' is the term used to describe CO2 that is in a fluid state while also being at or above both its critical temperature and pressure. In its super critical state, CO2 exhibits some uncommon properties. Specifically, CO2 usually behaves as a gas in air at STP or as a solid called "dry ice" when the CO2 gas is frozen. If the temperature and pressure are both increased from STP to be at or above the critical point for CO2, CO2 can adopt properties some where between a gas and a liquid. More specifically, super critical CO2 behaves as a super critical fluid above its critical temperature (31.1° C.) and critical pressure (73 atm), expanding to fill its container like a gas but with a density like that of a liquid.
 Consequently, CO2 (both a and n) is different from gases from a transport and infrastructure perspective. Specifically, CO2 (a and n) in the pure or mixed gas state needs to be caused to enter a super critical state. More particularly a means for causing CO2 to enter a super critical state such as a compressor is used to cause the CO2 to achieve a "super critical" state. In the super critical state, CO2 behaves like a liquid. And, like most liquids, super critical state CO2 can be passed through a series of pumps where the pressure of the super critical state CO2 can be increased at each pump. However, the CO2 gas must first be compressed or otherwise cooled to reach a super critical state. New process technologies are providing methods by which the amount of compression required for CO2 to reach its super critical state is minimized through cryogenic processing. In cryogenic processing, a CO2 gas/mix is passed through cryogenic units whereupon the density of the CO2 gas/mix increases and less compression of the CO2 gas is subsequently required. It is important to note that reaching the "super critical state" is the key transport attribute.
 Once CO2 in its super critical state, the CO2 gas/mix is usually run through pumps to increase its pressure up to 2000 psi, and in some cases higher pressures, depending on the pressure rating of the transport pipe or tank. Pumps for the CO2 gas/mix are generally inexpensive to operate. Therefore, the movement of super critical CO2 has comparatively lower overall transportation costs than CO2 gas while still enabling transport and delivery to an injection point--especially for CO2EOR use and geologic sequestration at a much higher pressure. It is this key characteristic of CO2a and CO2n upon which the system and method of the present invention is predicated. Once in its super critical state, the CO2 may be moved in a means for transport such as a pipeline or in tanks on a transport vehicle to the location of the heavy hydrocarbon. Heretofore, this important transportation characteristic of CO2 in a super critical state has not been used with a heavy hydrocarbon, such as bitumen.
Disclosed System and Method
 According to the system and method of the present invention, CO2 from any source (either anthropogenic or natural), in either pure or mixed gas form, is compressed or otherwise taken to a super critical state. The super critical state CO2 is then used as a carrying or suspension agent for the transport of bitumen and/or other heavy hydrocarbons via a pipeline or other transportation means (even including petcoke where CO2 could serve as a carrying or suspension agent or what is more commonly referred to for petcoke to be a "slurry" mix). The super critical state CO2 is added to the very heavy hydrocarbons, in either of the following combinations:
 100% CO2--pure "carbonbit"; or
 a predetermined mixture consisting of some percentage of either condensate, NGLs, or other very light hydrocarbon or non-hydrocarbon fluids--wherein the super critical state CO2 constitutes a minimum of 5% or greater of the total added carrying or suspension agent--either by volume or by weight.
 Specific processing techniques will vary depending on site, operation, and existing process facilities as to how the super critical state CO2 and heavy hydrocarbon, such as bitumen, and possibly other chemical products are commingled and injected as a combination into the pipeline for transport. Such means for co-mingling the super critical state CO2 and the heavy hydrocarbons are well known to those of ordinary skills in the art.
 Regardless of the specific engineered process, the energy savings along with the market and economic efficiencies will be significant. By using super critical state CO2 as a carrying or suspension agent in the dilbit (e.g. "carbit" with CO2 or carbon) or even as partial replacement by volume of current diluents, an inexpensive technique/process will exist by which CO2a/CO2n may be transported for CO2 EOR and/or geologic sequestration in approved aquifers and formations.
 The newly constituted dilbit including CO2a or CO2n and a heavy hydrocarbon is then moved through a means for transport such as a pipeline or in tanks on a transport vehicle to a final delivery destination. Upon receipt at the final delivery destination, the pipe containing the combination of super critical state CO2 and the heavy hydrocarbon will be depressurized so that the combined super critical state CO2 and heavy hydrocarbon would return to a dual gas-liquid phase. At that point, the CO2 would be separating from the heavy hydrocarbon. The heavy hydrocarbon would drop out of formation and be processed at the processing destination or upgrader. The separated CO2, while in a gaseous phase, would be handled to maintain as high a pressure rating as possible. Maintaining a high pressure rating enables inexpensive re-compression and/or pumping of the CO2 back to a super critical state wherein the super critical state CO2 would be transported via a pipeline or tank to oil and/or gas fields for EOR/EGR, coal fields for enhanced coal bed methane, or saline reservoirs/dormant oil/gas fields or other geological formations where the CO2 can be permanently sequestered and/or stored.
 The complete process would then result in a full carbon cycle from (i) initial production/mining or processing of the heavy hydrocarbon in the extraction phase to; (ii) pre-transport processing phase, to (iii) a final storage or sequestration phase.
 While the system and method of the disclosed invention has been disclosed according to its preferred and alternate embodiments, those of ordinary skill in the art will understand that modifications may be made to the disclosed invention without departing form the system and method of the present invention. Such modifications shall be included within the scope and meaning of the appended claims.
Patent applications by Michael J. Hirl, Houston, TX US
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