Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA's R&D unit Intevep has succeeded in upgrading extra-heavy crude from the Orinoco oil belt onsite to API grade 22 from API grade 8.
The upgrade was part of a pilot project of "some hundred barrels a day," Intevep president Hercilio Rivas told BNamericas.
"We're sure that it will give us very good results," he said.
The technology is called MIS (Mejoramiento In Situ) and is essentially the injection of solvents into the underground trap of dirt and rock where oil and gas is usually stored, Rivas said.
"We upgrade the crude inside the deposit, make it lighter, lower the viscosity," Rivas said. Intevep tested the technology at a project site in Morichal, Monágas state, where construction started in 2004.
"The actual pilot production began just this year and tests have not been concluded," Intevep planning director Omar Uzcátegui said.
Onsite upgrades save oil companies from having to build external upgrading units. The process would be a boon for PDVSA, which banks heavily on extra-heavy crude reserves.
Extra-heavy crude cannot be sent to a refinery without first being upgraded to around API grade 16.