The majority of bitumen and extra heavy oil is produced by steam-based recovery processes yet these methods are energy intensive and emit large amounts of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. Not only is the emissions intensity high due to steam generation, but also the water handling and treating facilities required for these recovery methods is expensive both to purchase and install but also to operate. A lot of focus of research has been on reduced steam processes, such as thermal-solvent techniques, as well as in situ combustion technologies such as Air Injection. Here, air injection is evaluated as a follow-up process to Cyclic Steam Stimulation in a deep thick heavy oil reservoir. The reservoir simulation model is obtained from a history-match to existing cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) field data. The results demonstrate that an additional 33% oil recovery is reached by using an air injection follow-up process. This gives a total recovery factor equal to about 55%. Based on incremental cumulative energy-to-oil ratio, the results suggest that air injection follow-up processes should be considered for post-CSS operations but that further improvement of the energy intensity is needed.
With the decline of conventional oil production, developing and producing heavy oil resources efficiently is becoming more important. The Liaohe Heavy Oil Field steam operation is unique - it started with cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) operation that transitioned into a continuous steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operation. With respect to oil production in China, this field is considered critical for heavy oil production and technology development. Cyclic steam injection was initially done through vertical wells. This had the benefit that it provided a good start-up of depletion chambers in the reservoir. These chambers then grew under gravity drainage after continuous steam injection (through the vertical wells) and continuous production through a set of horizontal wells was started. Controlled and deliberate transition from CSS to a gravity drainage process with the objective of optimizing energy intensity (GJ injected per unit volume oil produced) with control enabled through production and thermocouple data is a smart field operation which we refer to as a Reservoir Production Machine (RPM). In this paper, as a first step to understand the operation and its impact on the reservoir, we have history matched the CSS operation based on the injection and production data from field. The use of vertical steam injection wells (formerly the CSS wells) in combination with horizontal production wells operated in a SAGD mode of operation is explored. The history-matched model can be used to develop automated RPM technologies to optimize not only energy intensity but also emissions intensity.
Carbonate-cemented concretions in Grand Rapids oil sand reservoirs are common with length scales up to several meters wide and high. The concretions can be found embedded in unconsolidated oil sands distributed irregularly within the formation. From a Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) recovery process point of view, calcite concretions are non-productive rock which can interfere with the growth of steam chambers. However, depending on the length scales of the spatial distribution, sizes, and shapes of the concretions, thermal dispersion can occur which can potentially enhance heat transfer within the oil sands formation. Thus, although calcite concretions are heat sinks that reduce the oil in place, they could potentially aid in steam chamber conformance. Heterogeneity of the SAGD steam chamber depends on the heterogeneity of the underlying geology. Here, the impact of spatial distributions and size of concretions on the performance of SAGD is examined. The temperature distribution (chamber growth) and steam chamber height and shape are examined. The results reveal that steam chamber growth and conformance is impacted by the presence of calcite concretions. Concretion nearer the SAGD wellpair have the largest impact since they interfere with steam chamber growth from the earliest stages of the process and the impact grows throughout the process yielding cold spots along the wellpair. This provides a means to decide length scales for placement of wellpairs to optimize chamber conformance and SAGD performance.
Expanding Solvent-Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (ES-SAGD) was invented to enhance SAGD performance by reducing energy use while increasing oil production rates and recovery factor. ES-SAGD involves co-injection of solvent and steam. The majority of energy losses occur between the steam generator and sandface and at the top of the depletion chamber (to the overburden). ES-SAGD performance improvement is traditionally ascribed to oil phase dilution which in turn leads to oil phase viscosity reduction. However, the amounts of solvent added to the process are typically very small (< 5-6% by volume) thus it remains unclear how the solvent can lead to significant lowering of the steam-to-oil ratio (~25-50%) and large enhancements of the oil rate (~25 to 100%). Here, we report on how SAGD and ES-SAGD (hexane, heptane and octane solvents) can potentially perform in the presence of in-situ emulsification at steam chamber edge. We present a numerical approach which allows incorporation of emulsion modeling into SAGD and ES-SAGD simulations with commercial reservoir simulators via a two-stage pseudo chemical reaction. Numerical simulation results show excellent agreement with experimental data for low-pressure SAGD and ES-SAGD. Accounting for viscosity alteration, multiphase effect and enthalpy of emulsification appear sufficient for effective representation of in-situ emulsion physics during SAGD and ES-SAGD in very high permeability systems. Results also show that, in-situ emulsification may play a vital role within the reservoir during SAGD; increasing bitumen mobility thereby decreasing cSOR. It was concluded that traditional approach to numerical ES-SAGD simulation can significantly over-predict incremental oil recovery. Results from this work extend understanding of ES-SAGD by examining its performance improvement over traditional SAGD in terms of multiphase behavior at the edge of the chamber, thermal efficiency and incremental recovery. Results reveal that dynamics at the edge of the chamber is more complex than simple solvent dilution model.
The creation and evolution of point bar systems is well understood in meandering river deposits. A large fraction of Athabasca oil sands deposits are ancient point bar systems characterized by bedded, sandstone-dominated strata with interbedded siltstone layers. The recovery process of choice for these deposits is the Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) process due to the high viscosity of the oil, low solution-gas ratio, and often caps rock not sufficient to with stand injection pressures of Cyclic Steam Stimulation. However, because of the presence of siltstone interbeds, these reservoirs commonly have lateral and vertical lithological heterogeneity which interfere with the formation of uniform steam chambers along SAGD wellpairs. Other units in point bar deposits that impact SAGD chamber development within the formation include remnant channel succession and channel lag. The objective of this research is to construct a detailed three-dimensional point bar model to determine how its heterogeneity impacts SAGD performance. Here, the point bar model is based on the Lower Cretaceous Middle McMurray Formation in the Athabasca oil sands deposit in Alberta, Canada. Single SAGD wellpair submodels at different locations and orientations were extracted from the point bar model. The results of the reservoir models simulation suggest that attention must be paid to SAGD wellpair placement in point bar systems.
The Steam and Gas Push (SAGP) process was developed to improve the thermal efficiency of SAGD process. In SAGP, non-condensable gas is co-injected with steam into the reservoir. Ideally, the non-condensable gas accumulates at the top of the reservoir and provides insulation which reduces heat losses to the overburden. This means that lower SOR can be achieved at the same recovery factor. It remains unclear how energy is distributed and transformed within the chamber and its edges when non-condensable gas is added to the injected steam. In this work, we compare conduction and convection at edge of the steam chamber during SAGD and SAGP. The results show that both oil production rate and cumulative oil are reduced in SAGP compared to SAGD when 0.8 mole% NCG is co-injected with steam. This is because the injected NCG accumulates at the upper part of the leading edge of the steam chamber and slows down the growth of the steam chamber in that area, which results in lower cSOR but with a reduction of recovery factor. If 0.8 mole% NCG is co-injected at later periods of the operation, lower cSOR results without a significant reduction of oil production rates and cumulative oil production. In this case, the injected NCG migrates directly to the upper part of the reservoir and accumulates at the side edge of the steam chamber, since the steam chamber had already grown to the top of the reservoir. The added gas slows down lateral growth of the steam chamber in the upper part of the reservoir and forces steam chamber growth in the downward direction. From an analysis of energy transport in SAGP and SAGD operations, the results reveal the optimal timing for the onset of NCG co-injection with steam.