Roostaei, M. (University of Alberta) | Guo, Y. (University of Alberta) | Velayati, A. (University of Alberta) | Nouri, A. (University of Alberta) | Fattahpour, V. (RGL Reservoir Management) | Mahmoudi, M. (RGL Reservoir Management)
ABSTRACT: Unconsolidated sand was packed on a slotted-liner coupon in large-scale sand retention tests (SRT) and was subjected to several stress conditions, corresponding to the evolving stress conditions during the life cycle of a SAGD producer. Cumulative produced sand at the end of testing was measured as the indicator for sand control performance. Retained permeability was calculated by measuring pressure drops near the liner and was considered as the quantification of the flow performance of the liner. Experimental results indicate the liner performance is significantly affected by the stress induced compaction of the oil sand. The stress results in the sand compaction, leading to a denser sand, hence, a lower porosity and permeability. The lower porosity results in a higher pore-scale flow velocity, which can trigger more fines mobilization, hence, a higher skin buildup. With respect to sanding, the higher stress can stabilize the sand bridges: Increased normal forces between near-slot sand particles result in a higher inter-particle friction, hence, more stable sand bridges and less produced sand. The lower and upper bounds of slot window are governed by plugging and sand production, respectively. Experimental results indicate an upward shift in both the lower and upper bounds at elevated stress conditions
Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) is a thermal recovery technology currently employed to extract heavy oil and high viscosity bitumen from Alberta oil sands.
Due to the unconsolidated nature of oil sands, SAGD wells are prone to producing sand, hence, requiring sand control devices to prevent sanding during oil production. Slotted liners are a prominent sand control technique, which have been extensively used in Alberta's SAGD wells to avoid sand production problems. The design of the slots must allow a free flow of fines and clays through the slots and the porous medium around the well, with minimal plugging.
In SAGD recovery method, a large volume of high-pressure steam is injected by the injector well to reduce the bitumen viscosity and facilitate the production. Continuous injection of the high-pressure steam leads to a complex alteration of the in-situ stresses and the associated geomechanical properties within the reservoir and even the neighboring strata. Porosity and permeability of the reservoir sand are influenced in this process.
ABSTRACT: The main goal of this research was to investigate the risk of caprock failure due to the SAGDOX process, a hybrid steam and in-situ combustion recovery process for oil sands. A temperature dependency extension to the linear and non-linear constitutive models was developed and implemented in the GEOSIM software. The analysis has shown that there is no increased risk of caprock failure for SAGDOX process compared to SAGD. The study has shown that the overlying Wabiskaw formation experiences shear failure during both SAGD and SAGDOX due to its low initial cohesion, friction angle and proximity to pressure and temperature front, although the failure was mainly driven by pressure propagation. However, Clearwater shale above Wabiskaw can still provide proper zonal isolation to the steam/combustion chamber under SAGDOX operating conditions. Uncertainty in the analysis is due mainly to the sparse nature of geomechanical properties data for the oil sand reservoir and the caprock formations, especially at temperatures over 200 C.
1.1 The SAGDOX process
Nexen Energy ULC (Nexen) has been evaluating SAGDOX - a post SAGD oxidation process (Kerr, 2012; Jonasson and Kerr 2013) - to improve the recovery and project economics of its Long Lake SAGD operation. SAGDOX is meant to be used after several years of SAGD operations when the bitumen between two SAGD well-pairs is mobile. In SAGDOX process (applied to a row of parallel well pairs) oxygen is coinjected with steam in every other SAGD injector well and starts an oxidation process by reacting with residual oil around the injection well. At this point the SAGD production well below the oxygen-steam injector is shut in and steam along with oxygen and combustion gasses fill the steam chamber voidage and push hot bitumen towards the neighbouring SAGD well-pair. The neighbour injection well is also shut-in and could be converted to a producer if need be. Various other well arrangements have been considered including those with vertical injection wells and infill horizontal production wells. Since oxygen is co-injected with steam, very high oxidation temperature of a pure combustion process are not generated as steam carries a large portion of the heat of combustion away from reaction front and temperatures are thereby moderated. Nonetheless, temperatures in the range of 400-600 deg C are expected in the oil sand zone. The high temperature combustion front where the oxidation reactions are active moves away from the oxygen injection wells as the residual oil left behind after steam displacement is consumed. The high temperature reaction zone has a tendency to move upward towards the cap rock under the influence of gravitational forces.
… And expecting different results. Electrical heating of oil reservoirs has fascinated petroleum engineers for more than 70 years - longer, if you include the use of heaters in Siberian oilfields. The earliest laboratory study was done in Pennsylvania in 1940's. Since then, many more studies and field tests have been carried out, none of which was a commercial success. This paper takes a look at different forms of electrical heating, the supporting theoretical work, and field tests. Additionally, several examples are given illustrating the limitations of electrical heating processes. Also discussed is the logic behind the resurgence of electrical heating in recent years. Not discussed are over 200 patents on electrical heating. The major electrical heating processes are resistance heating, using direct current or low frequency alternating current, induction heating, microwave heating, and heating by means of electrical heaters. These are described briefly, and compared. In applications to oil sands, the intent is to utilize the connate water as the heating element (resistance heating) or oil sands as the dielectric (microwave heating). Induction heating is much less effective but has been tested in many field projects. Shale that has a permeability of zero to fluid flow, is electrically conductive, and thus channels much of the electric current flow in resistance heating, which also has other limitations. Microwaves suffer from low depth of penetration (of the order of 20 cm in oil sands) and low power delivery (of the order of 1 MW as a maximum). The power requirements for a typical SAGD pair, in contrast, are 15-30 MW. Electric heaters have been used in oilfields for many years for near-wellbore heating. Two large field pilots used powerful electric heaters, and were recently shut down. Although electrical heating has not had commercial success, recently there has been a resurgence in various electrical processes, as a means of reducing GHG emissions, under the flawed logic that oilfield use of electricity would displace emissions caused by steam generation.
The Senlac steam-assisted-gravity-drainage (SAGD) project in Saskatchewan, Canada, does not have the same name recognition as its much bigger brothers in the Alberta Oil Sands, but it certainly deserves to be known better. Senlac was the first industrial SAGD project in Canada, back in 1997, and since then, it has been the site for other technological innovations such as the use of solvent in addition with steam to increase recovery and reduce the steam/oil ratio (SOR), as well as the testing of wedge wells—wells drilled between SAGD well pairs to benefit from the heat remaining in the reservoir.
The reservoir in Senlac is the Dina-Cummings of the Lower Cretaceous, and is much smaller than the McMurray formation, the site of most large-scale oil-sands projects, but the oil is only 5,000 cp; thus, it is mobile at reservoir temperature. This is a significant difference that allows well pairs to achieve excellent production and recovery even though reservoir thickness is only 8 to 16m, well below the standard cutoff for SAGD. The presence of bottomwater under parts of the field is an added challenge to the operations.
The paper will present the field characteristics and production performances as well as the main technological developments such as the solvent-added process (SAP) and the use of wedge wells.
The paper will present a complete case study of an SAGD project in a heavy-oil reservoir where oil is mobile. Most SAGD projects so far have been conducted in bitumen, but the paper will show the potential for this technology in thinner and smaller reservoirs.
Steam-assisted-gravity-drainage (SAGD) processes become effective only after thermal and hydraulic communication between an injection and production well has been established during the startup operation of the well pair. Conventional steam-circulation startup operations typically take 2 to 3 months to achieve interwell communication, but reductions in the startup time can have a favorable impact on project economics. Enhancement of interwell permeability using fluid-injection (water, or steam, or solvent) strategies to promote geomechanical dilation of the oil sands has been proposed as a startup technique. These fluid-injection processes will produce complex interactions of thermal, geomechanical, and multiple-phase flow behavior in the interwell formation region. Understanding better the role that these interactions play in establishing well-pair communication will provide opportunities to improve SAGD recovery performance.
A triaxial experimental program has been designed and executed to explore whether cold-water injection would be sufficient to induce enhancements in effective permeability to water from geomechanical dilation mechanisms. Sample preparation techniques were modified to allow the preparation of reconstituted, very dense water-wet/bitumen sand specimens with different fluid saturations and almost identical porosities. Reclaimed/cleaned tailings sand from oil-sands mining operations was used to prepare artificial specimens, which are representative of McMurray Formation oil sands. A water-wet or bitumen sand core plug was then tested in an environmental chamber to simulate reservoir boundary conditions in terms of stress state, temperature, and pore pressure. A set of experiments was carried out in a triaxial cell under either initial isotropic or initial anisotropic stress state. Experimental results highlight the promising potential to dramatically enhance effective permeability to water and porosity in the dilated zone using cold-water injection at modest levels of stress anisotropy. The experimental results also provide support for the development of numerical models used in predicting SAGD startup performance and proactive utilization of the dilation as startup process for in-situ oil-sands development.
Thermal recovery methods, in particular technology based on steam injection, are used extensively around the world for heavy oil and bitumen production. Because of the unconsolidated nature of the majority of such deposits, sand control is required. Design effectiveness of sand control depends on the reservoir type, production technology and operational practices. The industry is facing many challenges such as low oil prices, tight environmental regulations, the need to lower risks while assuring well integrity and longevity and project economics. All of that requires special technical solutions for thermal well design, including sand control.
The paper provides an overview of sand control for thermal heavy oil and bitumen production operations, factors affecting sand control design for thermal projects, sand control devices and industry trends. Laboratory observations and field data are discussed. The impact of steam on different quality heavy oil and bitumen deposits in relation to sand control is discussed in detail. Efficient sand control design for thermal production operations requires a multidisciplinary approach and is an integral part of the well longevity and project economics. Better understanding of the impact of reservoir quality, thermal formation damage and operational practices on well performance is required to assure success of a thermal project.
When compared with steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operations in the McMurray Formation, Athabasca Oil Sands, SAGD projects in the Clearwater Formation at Cold Lake did not perform as expected, likely because of reservoir properties. This paper will use the Orion SAGD case study to: (1) investigate the impacts of reservoir properties on the SAGD thermal efficiency by field evidences; (2) identify key geological parameters influencing each well pad; and (3) summarize major geological challenges for Orion SAGD expansion.
Wireline log data were interpreted to characterize reservoir properties, which were used to build 3D models. 3D visualizations and 2D cross sections of the reservoir revealed spatial distribution and heterogeneity of each property. SAGD production performance was analyzed using: (1) temperature profiles that monitored the growth of the steam chamber; (2) cumulative steam-oil ratios (CSORs); and (3) oil production rates (OPRates), which are direct indicators of thermal efficiency.
Results show that impermeable barriers and low-permeability zones were detrimental to steam injectivity and steam chamber growth, as observation wells in Pilot Pads 1 and 3 did not detect any steam saturation. High-permeability zones favored high steam injectivity and mobility, especially in Pad 105. Steam chambers were irregularly shaped by high shale-content zones, as two sharp spikes displayed on the temperature profile in Pad 103. Low oil-saturation zones and thin net-pays increased the CSORs, as seen in Pads 106 and 104. Impermeable barriers are almost horizontal, making no difference on well pad orientation by their dip angles. Lack of porosity variation made it difficult to identify the impact of porosity on each well pad.
The relatively extensive distribution of impermeable barriers between and above well pairs, as well as the relatively large area of low oil saturation and thin net-pay, were identified as major geological challenges.
Producing from bitumen reservoirs overlain by gas caps can be a challenging task. The gas cap acts as a thief zone to the injected steam used during oil-recovery operations and hinders the effectiveness of processes such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). Moreover, gas production from the gas cap can accentuate the problem even more by further depressurization of the gas zone.
Following a September 2003 ruling by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), the oil and gas industry in the province of Alberta, Canada, had approximately 130 million scf/D of sweet gas shut-in to maintain pressure in gas zones in communication with bitumen reservoirs. This decision led to the development of EnCAID (Cenovus' air-injection and -displacement process), a process in which air is injected into a gas-over-bitumen (GOB) zone, and combustion gases are used to displace the remaining formation gas while maintaining the required formation pressure.
An EnCAID pilot was started in June 2006, and preliminary results were reported in 2008. After 8 years of operations, the EnCAID project has not only proved to be effective at recovering natural gas and maintaining reservoir pressure, it has also shown it can heat up the bitumen zone and make the oil more mobile and amenable for production. This led to the development of the air-injection and -displacement for recovery with oil horizontal (AIDROH) process.
The AIDROH process is the second of two distinct stages. First, an air-injection well is drilled and perforated in the gas cap. The well is ignited and air injection is performed to sustain in-situ combustion in the gas zone. This phase is characterized by a radially expanding combustion front, accompanied by conduction heating into the bitumen below. The second stage begins when horizontal wells are drilled in the bitumen zone. The pressure sink caused by drawing down the wells alters the dynamics of the process and creates a pressure drive for the combustion front to push toward the producers in a top-down fashion, taking advantage of the combustion-front displacement and gravity drainage.
In light of the temperature increases observed in the bitumen overlain by the EnCAID project, a horizontal production well was drilled in late 2011 and commenced producing in early 2012. This paper provides an update of the EnCAID pilot results and presents a summary of the technical aspects of the AIDROH project, pilot results, and interpretation of the data gathered to date, such as observation-well temperatures, pre- and post-burn cores, and temperatures along the horizontal producer.
Results indicate that the AIDROH process has the potential to maximize oil production from GOB reservoirs, and efforts continue to be made to optimize its design and operation.
Mahmoudi, Mahdi (University of Alberta) | Fattahpour, Vahidoddin (University of Alberta) | Nouri, Alireza (University of Alberta) | Yao, Ting (University of Hong Kong) | Baudet, Beatrice Anne (University of Hong Kong) | Leitch, Michael (RGL Reservoir Management Inc.)
Oil sand characterization tests are essential for the selection and evaluation of sand control devices. Current approaches for screen selection and evaluation usually rely on Particle Size Distribution (PSD) and neglect the effect of important parameters such as porosity, grain shape and frictional properties. One aim of this study is to characterize oil sand's mechanical, geometrical and size characteristics that should be considered in the completion design. Another objective is to determine if natural mixture of oil sand could be reasonably replicated with commercial sands for large-scale sand control evaluation tests.
In this paper we present the results of a comprehensive image analysis and laser sieve analysis on oil sand samples from the McMurray Formation to quantify geometrical grain characteristics (sphericity, aspect ratio, convexity and angularity) of the sand grains and establish the PSD of the samples. Direct shear tests were performed to assess the frictional characteristics of different oil sands around the liner under variable stress conditions during the SAGD well lifecycle.
Image analysis, PSD, and direct shear tests showed that natural mixture of oil sand could be successfully simulated with commercial sands in terms of size and shape of grains and mechanical properties. This conclusion is significant to those performing large-scale sand control evaluation tests that usually require large quantities of sands that are not readily available and require significant preparation.
This paper provides the first comprehensive investigation of the granular, and geomechanical characteristics of oil sand from the McMurray Formation. The paper discusses the missing parameters in the design of sand control device, and evaluates test methods that measure those parameters. The proposed testing program could be used as a benchmark for oil sand characterization in relation to the design and evaluation of sand control device.
Due to the unconsolidated nature of the Athabasca Oil Sands in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, it is common practice to complete Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) well pairs with the use of standalone screens (SaS's). The sizing of the liner/screen types are commonly determined by: first, getting a particle size distribution (PSD) by dry-sieve analysis and/or Laser Particle Sand Analysis (LPSA); and second, running a number of prepack Sand-Retention Tests (SRT's).
In this Nexen Long Lake study, five batches of unconsolidated McMurray Formation sand were collected from six different cored wells. Using these batches of sand, more than twenty SRT's were run with a variety of fine-tuned modifications to the traditional test protocols to best duplicate fluid production conditions as observed in the field. Some of these modifications included: altering the injected fluid/gas rate and reconfiguring the order in which the fluids / gas were injected.
The SRT results were then plotted to identify if they passed the general criteria for a successful sand control device design. Unexpectedly, many of the SRT results did not meet the pass criteria for solids production and therefore, altered the direction in which future tests were run. However, when reviewing the solids production with the cumulative fluids / gas injected, the outcome commonly reverted to being favourable.
Understanding the laboratory derived test results, and how they applied to the field, was instrumental in the lab testing process. By redefining the tests results and pass/fail criteria, based upon observed in-situ production conditions, it was possible to make both qualitative as well as quantitative analysis and therefore, more confidently decide on the optimal reservoir completion type.
The study discusses an alternative approach to interpretation of conventional SRT results relative to observed field production conditions and how ultimately, this analysis influenced the choice of liner/screen sizing selected for implementation in future Long Lake field development projects.