Process engineering and simulation
Download September 10, 2021

Cost-effective GHG Emissions Reductions Opportunities at a SAGD Facility


The Canadian oil sands sector has been under immense pressure to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while also operating in a volatile commodity price environment. The Government of Alberta issued its latest regulatory framework to manage and reduce GHG emissions from the oil and gas sector. The compliance obligation is tied to performance benchmarks and to an increasing carbon price that is expected to reach $50/tonne by 2022. 

A prominent oil sands operator requested Process Ecology for an evaluation of low CapEx options that may be available at its new facility to reduce GHG emissions and potentially reduce OpEx as well (reduce natural gas use and/or power consumption).

There are several options available to SAGD operators to reduce GHG emissions including improved energy efficiency, process optimization and installation of new technology. In order to determine the best possible actions, it is required to develop a comprehensive framework to compare and evaluate the most promising options. Through the application of advanced process engineering methods, a systems analysis of the facility would enable this evaluation.

The application of these methodologies requires specific expertise that may not be available in-house. Learning and applying would be time-consuming and results are needed as soon as possible.

The basis for a sound systems analysis is a high-fidelity computer simulation model. Fine-tuning these models is time-consuming and requires specific expertise to ensure reliable results. This expertise may not be available as engineering teams are stretched with other operating priorities.


Process Ecology’s engineers combined a series of advanced methodologies to solve this challenge. Our team developed a high-fidelity, integrated simulation model of the facility that comprised well pads, pipeline network and central processing facility. The model was validated with plant data. The basic functionality of the HYSYS simulation model was extended to incorporate efficient workflows to perform a heat integration study using Pinch Analysis. Moreover, the model was extended to include specific KPIs such as GHG intensity and regulatory compliance costs.

See these related articles to learn more:

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in SAGD Operations via Pinch Analysis

Economic Evaluation using Aspen HYSYS

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Methods of Analyzing Simulation Process Data

By working closely with the client’s engineering team several opportunities were identified and analyzed for techno-economic feasibility and ranked to determine a roadmap for implementation.


The client now has a report outlining the main opportunities and ranked by CapEx requirements that can serve as a guide for implementation and GHG emissions reductions. In addition, the client has a set of high-fidelity simulation models that can be used to further evaluate and explore these solutions. The economics of blending both green and blue hydrogen in the fuel gas was determined. Some ideas for improvement were identified to be uneconomic and were quickly ruled out thus increasing the engineering efficiency of these evaluations.

The main recommendations that emerged from the project included:

  • Increase heat recovery from streams. They had a spare heat exchanger that could be brought online which kept the project low CapEx. The main benefit was improved heat recovery from the emulsion and produced water from those streams.
  • Optimize the use of the energy available in the blowdown stream and identify the optimal pressure for flashing the blowdown.