Toe-to-Heel Air Injection (THAI)—A Promising In-Situ Combustion Emerging Technology

Management and Information


This course covers key reservoir engineering aspects of heavy oil recovery by conventional in-situ combustion (ISC), emphasizing the field applications, with a focus on the new areas of ISC application, namely, for deep heavy oil reservoirs and for tertiary applications after steam-injection based processes.

The use of horizontal wells in combination with ISC is the main focus of this course. Use of horizontal wells both in old fields (where an ISC was implemented) and in newly developed ISC processes are covered. These new processes comprise of COSH, top-down ISC, and THAITM processes. Details are provided on Toe-to-Heel Air Injection (THAITM) as an emerging technology involving gravity-stable, short-distance oil displacement. A critical mass of information has emerged after more than 11 years of field testing in five different oil fields (two fields in Canada and three fields outside Canada). This course involves discussion of the lessons pertaining to THAI process in the following areas:

  • Development of the process
  • Basic mechanisms
  • Laboratory testing
  • Field testing: piloting and semi-commercial operations
  • Consistent in-situ upgrading of the produced oil and hydrogen production
  • Status of current development and limitations
  • Main areas of needed improvements
  • Criteria for application

Why Attend?

Attendees will become familiar with conventional ISC as a process, which can be commercially applied in heavy oil reservoirs, including heavy oil reservoirs having a high reservoir temperature, either naturally or due to a previous application of a steam-based steam injection process.  Potential of the new ISC processes involving consistent oil in-situ upgrading and hydrogen production will be discussed. It is surmised that ISC with upgrading of produced oil will become reality in the not-too-distant future.

Who Should Attend

Upstream: Engineers involved in thermal heavy oil recovery operations, improved/enhanced oil recovery engineers and managers, reservoir engineers and managers, development and exploitation engineers and managers.

Mid-stream: Engineers interested in evaluating and comparing other methods of heavy oil transportation with transportation of in-situ partially upgraded oil (in THAI process)

Downstream: Engineers interested in either oil upgrading methods or hydrogen production, directly in the oil field.


0.8 CEUs (Continuing Education Units) will be awarded for this 1-day course.

Cancellation Policy

To receive a full refund, all cancellations must be received in writing no later than 14 days prior to the course start date. Cancellations made after the 14-day window will not be refunded. Send cancellation requests by email to; by fax to +1.866.460.3032 (US) or +1.972.852.9292 (outside US); or mail to SPE Registration, PO Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083.


Alex Turta, PhD, PEng, is a reservoir engineer who worked as a research engineer at the Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (AITF), former Alberta Research Council (ARC), more than 25 years. He has a PhD in oil recovery by in-situ combustion (ISC), with a subsequent in-depth specialization in ISC applications.

For more than 12 years, Alex was involved in the implementation and management of Suplacu de Barcau commercial project, the world's biggest ISC project. He has served as an ISC consultant for many companies. He has also been engaged in assignments from the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programs (UNDP). As an UNDP expert, he has guided the development of Balol and Santhal ISC projects in India from pilot to commercial stage operation. Alex has been involved in 8 commercial ISC operations and 16 ISC pilots, worldwide. He has held courses on heavy oil recovery by ISC in Canada, Romania, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Malaysia, China and Japan.

Since 1992, Alex has been part of the "split-team," which has continuously worked on both sides of the Atlantic, to develop novel ISC processes for heavy oil recovery, namely Toe-to-Heel Air Injection (THAITM) and its version for enhanced in-situ upgrading, CAPRITM.  Since 1996, Alex has also been instrumental in developing the Toe-to-Heel Waterflooding process, which has been under field testing in Canada and USA.  He has investigated the steamdrive in a toe-to-heel configuration, which is still at the laboratory stage.