MHI Article Number 9(a):


Question:  Can one atmosphere steam penetrate effectively to a pressurized chamber of gas (air) and soften Heavy Oil. 


Answer it appears so in several experiments.


Figures below show that the viscosity of the oil is linearly related to temperature.  A 1000 times increases in viscosity almost like a 1000 time increase in pumping speed by Darcy’s Law which may or may not be applicable to your situation.   Graphic below is from the literature and not verified or intended for a specific heavy oil type.



Set up for steam test.



The tank output was blocked with a Membrane.  The tank was pressurized to approximately 2 bars with shop compressed air.  The OAB® steam had no open-conduit direct link to chamber.  Steam at about 700C (at one atmosphere) blanketed the initially cold membrane. Direct impingement of steam on the chamber was prevented.  A thermocouple was kept in the chamber near the steam inlet.  This thermocouple immediately made it to about 160F when outside steam blanket was introduced to membrane. Opening the valve to keep steady flow also allowed steam to enter the pressurized space. 



Althought this is a report submitted to MHI, there is no independent authetication of the data or experiment by MHI.   The amount of uniformity enhancement, if any, will vary from installation to installation.