Discovered resources of heavy and extraheavy crude oil are estimated to be approximately 4,600 billion bbl, two-thirds of which are in Canada and Venezuela. Bitumen and tar sands are excluded from this estimate. Published data on reserves estimates (RE) from this resource by primary drive mechanisms are sparse. Meyer and Mitchell estimated worldwide ultimate recovery from heavy and extraheavy crude oils to be 476 billion bbl, which is 10% of the Briggs et al. estimate of the discovered resource initially in place. Estimated primary reserves estimates (RE) ranges from 8 to 12% oil-in-place (OIP) for the Orinoco area of Venezuela, where stock-tank gravities range from 8 to 13 American Petroleum Institute (API).
Heavy oil is defined as liquid petroleum of less than 20 API gravity or more than 200 cp viscosity at reservoir conditions. No explicit differentiation is made between heavy oil and oil sands (tar sands), although the criteria of less than 12 API gravity and greater than 10,000 cp are sometimes used to define oil sands. Unconsolidated sandstones (UCSS) are sandstones (or sands) that possess no true tensile strength arising from grain-to-grain mineral cementation.
At the present time, more than 9,000 offshore platforms are in service worldwide, operating in water depths ranging from 10 ft to greater than 5,000 ft. Topside payloads range from 5 to 50,000 tons, producing oil, gas, or both. A vast array of production systems is available today (see Figure 1). The concepts range from fixed platforms to subsea compliant and floating systems. In 1859, Col. Edwin Drake drilled and completed the first known oil well near a small town in Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Cold heavy oil production with sand (CHOPS) is a relatively recent technology. As such, only a few case histories of its application over a number of years have been published. Nonetheless, those that are available provide insight into the application of this technology. A detailed Luseland field case history has been published.
Cold heavy oil production with sand (CHOPS) involves the deliberate initiation of sand influx during the completion procedure, maintenance of sand influx during the productive life of the well, and implementation of methods to separate the sand from the oil for disposal. No sand exclusion devices (screens, liners, gravel packs, etc.) are used. The sand is produced along with oil, water, and gas and separated from the oil before upgrading to a synthetic crude. To date, deliberate massive sand influx has been used only in unconsolidated sandstone (UCSS) reservoirs (φ 30%) containing viscous oil (μ 500 cp). It has been used almost exclusively in the Canadian heavy-oil belt and in shallow ( 800 m), low-production-rate wells (up to 100 to 125 m3/d).
A passive tracer that labels gas or water in a well-to-well tracer test must fulfill the following criteria. It must have a very low detection limit, must be stable under reservoir conditions, must follow the phase that is being tagged and have a minimal partitioning into other phases, must have no adsorption to rock material, and must have minimal environmental consequences. The tracers discussed in the following sections have properties that make them suitable for application in well-to-well test in which dilution volumes are large. For small fields in which the requirement with respect to dilution is less important, other tracers can be applied. Figure 1.1 – Production curve of S14CN compared with the production curve of HTO in a dynamic flooding laboratory test (carbonate rock) (after Bjørnstad and Maggio). There are no possibilities for thermal degradation, and it follows the water closely. The 36Cl- is a long-lived nuclide (3 105 years), and the detection method is atomic mass spectroscopy rather than radiation measurements. The disadvantage is that the analysis demands very sophisticated equipment and is relatively time consuming. For mono-valent anions, the retention factors (see Eq. 6.2) are in the range of 0 to -0.03, which means that such tracers pass faster through the reservoir rock than the water itself (represented by HTO). A compound such as 35SO42- may be applied in some very specific cases but should be avoided normally because of absorption. Some anionic tracers may show complex behavior. Radioactive iodine (125I- and 131I-) breaks through before water but has a substantially longer tail than HTO. Both a reversible sorption and ion exclusion seem to play a role here. Cationic tracers are, in general, not applicable; however, experiments have qualified 22Na as an applicable water tracer in highly saline (total dissolved solids concentration seawater salinity) waters. In such waters, the nonradioactive sodium will operate as a molecular carrier for the tracer molecule. Retention factor has been measured in the range of 0.07 (see Eq. 6.2) at reservoir conditions in carbonate rock (chalk). Wood reported the use of 134Cs, 137Cs, 57Co, and 60Co cations as tracers.
While typical production operations seek to prevent sand production, cold heavy oil production with sand (CHOPS) operations use sand production to increase overall productivity. This difference can create operational issues throughout the life of a CHOPS well. It has implications for monitoring strategies as well. To initiate sand influx, a cased well is perforated with large-diameter ports, usually of 23 to 28 mm diameter, fully phased, and spaced at 26 or 39 charges per meter. More densely spaced charges have not proved to give better results or service, but less densely spaced charges (13 per meter) give poorer results.
The claim that the world is irresponsible in rapidly consuming irreplaceable resources ignores technical progress, market pressures, and the historical record. For example, the "Club of Rome," with the use of exponential growth assumptions and extrapolations under static technology, predicted serious commodity shortages before 2000, including massive oil shortages and famine. First, the new production technologies are proof that science and knowledge continue to advance and that further advances are anticipated. Second, oil prices will not skyrocket because technologies such as manufacturing synthetic oil from coal are waiting in the wings. Third, the new technologies have been forced to become efficient and profitable, even with unfavorable refining penalties. Fourth, exploration costs for new conventional oil production capacity will continue to rise in all mature basins, whereas technologies such as CHOPS can lower production costs in such basins. Fifth, technological feedback from heavy-oil production is improving conventional oil recovery. Finally, the heavy-oil resource in UCSS is vast. Although it is obvious that the amount of conventional (light) oil is limited, the impact of this limitation, while relevant in the short term (2000 to 2030), is likely to be inconsequential to the energy industry in the long term (50 to 200 years). The first discoveries in the Canadian heavy-oil belt were made in the Lloydminster area in the late 1920s. Typically, 10- to 12-mm diameter perforations were used, and pump jacks were limited by slow rod-fall velocity in the viscous oil to a maximum of 8 to 10 m3/d of production, usually less. Operators had to cope with small amounts of sand, approximately 1% in more viscous oils. Small local operators learned empirically that wells that continued to produce sand tended to be better producers, and efforts to exclude sand with screens usually led to total loss of production. Operators spread the waste sand on local gravel roads and, in some areas, the roadbeds are now up to 1.5 m higher because of repeated sand spreading. The sharp oil price increases in the 1970s and 1980s led to great interest in heavy-oil-belt resources (approximately 10 109m3). Many international companies arrived and introduced the latest screen and gravel-pack technology but, in all cases, greatly impaired productivity or total failure to bring the well on production was the result. To this day, there are hundreds of inactive wells with expensive screens and gravel packs. The advent of progressing cavity (PC) pumps in the 1980s changed the nonthermal heavy-oil industry in Canada. The first PC pumps had low lifespans and were not particularly cost-effective, but better quality control and continued advances led to longer life and fewer problems. The rate limits of beam pumps were no longer a barrier and, between 1990 and 1995, operators changed their view of well management.
Different factors are involved at each stage within the overall constraints of optimum reservoir penetration. Most directional wells are drilled from multiwell installations, platforms, or drillsites. Minimizing the cost or environmental footprint requires that wells be spaced as closely as possible. It has been found that spacing on the order of 2 m (6 ft) can be achieved. At the start of the well, the overriding constraint on the well path is the presence of other wells.
Interwell tracer tests are widely used. This article reviews some of the studies reported in open literature. The selection introduces different problems that have been addressed, but the original papers should be studied to obtain a more detailed description of the programs. The Snorre field is a giant oil reservoir (sandstone) in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. Injection water and gas were monitored with tracers, 18 and the resulting tracer measurements are discussed in this page.