SUMMARY: This paper will provide an overview about the use of geomechanics in improving heavy-oil production. If high recovery factors are sought, production of heavy-oil reservoirs requires stimulation to reduce oil viscosity. Intelligent use of geomechanics can create additional porosity and permeability by managing rock dilation and fracturing behavior. As a result, new areas are created for injected stimulants to contact the heavy oil, speeding up viscosity reduction and improving oil production. Additionally, the same mechanism can break down the permeability barriers in the reservoir for the injected stimulants to travel through, ultimately improving the reservoir recovery factor.
Using field examples, this paper illustrates theoretical mechanisms and field results. It will hopefully provide a new paradigm for operators when planning their heavy-oil production, because geomechanics is both a necessity and a means to value creation.
Becoming an increasingly important component of global energy supply, development of heavy-oil resources has attracted world attention. Heavy-oil development in Canada and Venezuela, as well as in other countries such as China, the former Soviet Union, Indonesia, Oman, Russia, and the U.S., are some well-known examples, although the list is definitely not exhaustive. In the recent years, Kuwait, a traditionally conventional oil producer, has embarked on an ambitious mission to develop its heavy-oil resources. Therefore, it is timely to have the worldwide geomechanics community turn their attention toward heavy-oil development and how geomechanics can proactively help improve production rates, increase reservoir recovery, and minimize its environmental footprint (on air, land and water).