This paper summarizes an integrated field, experiments and computer simulation research program conducted to support a review of the reserves and development plan for the Hamaca Area in the Orinoco Belt (OB), Venezuela. The impact of the foamy oil mechanism on the Hamaca heavy-extra heavy Oil reserves and the importance of understanding this behavior is presented in this paper. The study was conducted in reservoirs with the largest production history (within the OB). The experimental results showed in-situ formation of non-aqueous oil foam with high gas retention, improving oil mobility and leading, therefore, to high well productivity. An experimental recovery factor over 10% was obtained under primary conditions so it was possible to increase oil reserves by approximately 30% over the currently accepted volumes. Experimental results provided input parameters to perform preliminary simulation runs which would allow the modification of well spacing schemes, the generation of a high-probability production profile, and the optimization of artificial lift systems, incorporating larger capacity equipment.
When the exploitation of Hamaca heavy oil reservoirs began, it was assumed that the primary production mechanisms were sand compaction, solution gas drive and thermal effects due to steam cyclic stimulation which improves oil mobility. However, an unexpectedly high cold production lead to research of the drive mechanisms to explain the special production performance. Similar behavior has been observed in the Lloydminster area of Canada. Despite considerable speculation, a number of authors have studied foamy oil behavior and some research has recently been done, yet the mechanism leading to this behavior still remains to be successfully explained. Reservoir properties that were proposed to explain the behavior in the OB and in Canada include unusually high sand permeability and/or critical gas saturation. In Canada, high critical gas saturation is now an accepted property of some reservoirs, the so called Foamy Oil reservoirs. However, a monitoring field program of sand compaction and land subsidence did not show any evidence that this mechanism has taken place in the Hamaca Area. None of these proposed properties and mechanisms are consistent with field observations. On the other hand, numerical models showed high uncertainty when trying to match the reservoir production pressure behavior. As a consequence, a research program was designed as part of an integrated reservoir study. It included a production behavior analysis, an experimental program for fluid/porous media characterization through conventional and nonconventional PVT tests, and solution gas drive experiments at research centers of Venezuela (INTEVEP), Canada (PRI-CMG) and USA (LAB).