The cold-production-recovery process, also known as cold heavy-oil production with sand (CHOPS), is a method for enhancing primary heavy-oil production by aggressively producing sand. It is successful in vertical (or slanted or deviated) wells in western Canada. In this process, large amounts of sand are produced on a continuing basis along with heavy oil. Attempts at cold production in horizontal wells have not been particularly successful. When sand production has been generated in horizontal wells, these wells have tended to become plugged with sand.
This paper presents the results of experiments performed to assess the feasibility of applying cold heavy-oil production in horizontal wells that have been completed with slotted liners using less-aggressive (i.e., managed) sand-production strategies. Specifically, the effects of slot size, confining stress, fluid velocity, and sand-grain sorting on sand production were investigated.
The results indicate that slot-size selection is critical for establishing "sand on demand." From the experiments, a correlation between slot size and controlled sand production was found for well-sorted sands. This correlation should allow for the specification of appropriate slot sizes for target reservoirs containing well-sorted sands.
In the experiments, when flow rates resulted in low but persistent sand production, channels and/or elliptical dilated zones were created that greatly enhanced the effective permeability near the slot. This observation suggests that producing at low and steady sand cuts for a long period of time might bring two benefits: a way to transport the sand out of the well without causing plugging and the creation of high-permeability channels or zones that can improve production from the reservoir.
To summarize, if the appropriate slot size were combined with the right drawdown rates, controlled sand production could be achieved, with attendant significant increases in permeability. This suggests that substantially increased oil-production rates could be achieved from horizontal wells if sand-production rates could be maintained at low but persistent levels.