Due to the aggressive reactivity of the ETCT reagents, countless experiments were conducted for safety purposes. Speed of reaction and limits of concentrations were tested and are documented.
Certificates issued under № 25–ИД–19542–2010 by the Russian governmental authority for safety in mining and nuclear industry in Russia – RosTechNadzor state that our technology is safe enough to be “used by trained persons without limits.” No tests or other certificates are needed.
The ETCT application is fully controlled and contains built-in safety measures and redundancies.
During any work with acids and alkalines, the operator has to be fully protected against contact with acids. If necessary, lungs have to be protected by gas mask or other suitable protection.
The leading methods, SAGD and Hydrofracture are an ecological nightmare; both use a lot of water, which gets polluted and needs to be cleaned. ETCT works with just 20m³ of water (ground water can be used, but also sea water, in combination with our optional water purifying system). Nothing down in the ground gets polluted, and what may escape to the surface is safe. Less CO2 is produced than the consumption of chemicals used – it all burns up underground. The formation gets cleaned in the process (see How ETCT Works).
With ETCT, by-products are nitrogen (N₂), water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO₂), carbon monoxide (CO), boric acid (H3BO3) and (in some cases, in trace amounts) sulphur dioxide (SO₂).
CO will appear in a limited amount as a gas because it is almost not soluble in water or in crude oil. If necessary, it can be burnt up on the surface, and turned into CO2. For safety purposes, the control system monitors any hydrogen that may appear. It is important to note that any kind of burning of organic materials (including car engines) releases some CO; that’s why catalytic converters were installed in cars – to burn the CO and convert it into CO₂.
The amount of SO₂ is changeable, because it is dependent on the degree of reactions of our oxidizers with sulphur (S8), which is usually dissolved in the oil; its content varies greatly among different locations. This, however, can be wholly predicted, based on the well’s data. If SO₂ appears in larger volumes, it can be neutralized by a liquid solution of sodium hydroxide on the surface, resulting in the non-toxic salt Na2SO3 (sodium sulfite).
Boric acid H3BO3 has a marginally-allowed concentration of 0.5 mg/liter. It’s water-soluble; however it binds with minerals in the formation to create what. It is impossible to know in advance how much boric acid will come out of the well in the water solution. As we usually use only a few kgs. of NaBH₄, (which creates the boric acid) and we will get thousands of tons of an oil-and-water mixture, we do not perceive any danger of exceeding the allowed concentration.
What if something goes wrong?
If the burning (reaction of chemicals) does not go according to plan, nitrogen oxide (NO) might appear in addition to the chemicals stated above. It cannot be estimated in advance if these will appear, but it can be monitored and minimized. However, the conditions in the well, along with the chemical reactions, are not conducive to producing significant amounts of NO. This has not occurred for us since the early days of testing.
It is improbable that any NO2 will appear (if it does, it will be a small amount and only at the beginning), as it will react deep down with the other chemicals.
We can control this by monitoring the concentration and eliminating the NO by oxidizing it with the air’s oxygen (2NO + O2 -> 2NO2) and then dissolving it with water and an alkali (e.g. NaOH).
It is possible that a small portion of the original materials that might not have reacted in the well will be pumped out together with the oil, but this amount is negligible and has no influence on oil quality.
It should be noted that boron compounds (boric acid and salts) are always present in crude oil and water, sometimes in large amounts. We can control the hazard of boron. According to US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease, very high concentrations of boron can cause skin irritations and no other serious consequences.
Concerning the toxicity of organic saltpeter (if we use this), different saltpeter solutions have different toxicities. Our most common saltpeter is almost completely non-toxic. It decomposes to the same gases like inorganic (ammonium) saltpeter, releasing 2-6 times more energy and is nearly 100% efficient. The hydrogen released can further react with the oil, which releases additional energy, and we end up with more energy than what was released from the decomposition of materials (we can say that efficiency is >100%). Nitric acid, caustic soda and some other additives can be used for stabilization of reaction.
Additional notes on ecology and the environment
Sodium nitrite (NaNO2) is a white crystal easily soluble in water. If it is pure, it decomposes at 320°C (608°F). Decomposition runs in several directions, while the particular temperature of decomposition and ratio of components strongly depends on the presence of admixtures. The main products of decomposition are Na2O, NO, NO2 and N2 (sodium oxide, nitrogen oxide (II), nitrogen oxide (IV) and nitrogen.
The latter three are gaseous at standard conditions (for example NO2 is a brown gas). If heavy metal ions are present, the temperature of decomposition is significantly lowered. For example, calcium nitrite decomposes at 220°C (428°F); iron nitrite decomposes at 160°C (320°F) and there may be iron or calcium ions present in any formation, along with many other metals bound in oxides or salts. Nitrogen oxides are very strong oxidizers. Both oxidize crude oil at increased temperatures, similar to if we used nitric acid. The final product of oxidizing crude oil is CO2, H2O and N2. The same gases appear during the decomposition of ammonium nitrate (and its reaction with crude oil).
NO and NO2 are radicals (i.e. highly reactive particles with one or more free non-paired electrons). This means that they easily enter into any chemical reaction:
- a) They easily react with any organic materials at high temperature. In our case in particular, they react with crude oil and support cracking. Such a reaction starts by nitration, nitrosating and diazotization mixed together. During this reaction, new substances are created from separate molecules of crude oil. The substances contain nitrogen (and oxygen). Those reactions start the cracking of crude oil, because any of the above-mentioned newly-created substances containing nitrogen are thermally non-stable. Nitration of saturated hydrocarbons was one of the first radical reactions ever researched by scientists.
- b) they easily speed-up decomposition of any nitrates, working as radical catalysts. In our case, they speed up and regulate decomposition of our main saltpeter (either organic or inorganic).
Concerning the ecology, due to sufficiently high temperatures in the bore hole and the formation, all reactions of sodium nitrite with crude oil will lead to the creation of H2O, CO2 and N2 only. Our standard working temperature is around 330°C. Hundreds of tons of sodium nitrite are used annually in the food industry.
If any water solutions of our materials fall (always in a limited amount) onto the soil, they are nitrogenous fertilizers.
We see no problems in obtaining environmental permits, though, due to the fact that ETCT is so new, the process of getting permits may take longer.
Also, see toxic liquidation for how we can use ETCT to liquidate waste!