Heavy oil is recovered from deep reservoirs by injection of a gaseous mixture containing hydrogen, steam and in some cases oil soluble gases and/or vapors. This mixture is produced by a reversible exothermic catalytic reaction in a down-hole reactor and injected into a well drilled, preferably horizontally, into the reservoir. The reactor feed streams are prepared in surface facilities with low air pollution, using as feedstocks water, air and inexpensive fuels, such as natural gas, coke or residual fuel oil.
The heavy oil contacted by the injected gaseous mixture is formed into a mobile oil bank of reduced viscosity, which is produced to the surface by means of production wells or by alternatively using the injection well in a production mode. The process is of particular interest for reservoirs deeper than 1,000 feet, located in the vicinity of natural gas fields, oil refineries or coal mines.