The last few years have seen the end of the Athabasca land play and the revival
of interest in Alberta's bitumen resources in carbonate reservoirs. Of these,
the Grosmont Formation is the most promising in terms of resource size and
concentration. It is also the best known, in terms of having been the subject
of several in situ pilots operated in the late '70s and early '80s.
The data recorded from these early pilots is priceless in terms of having a
touchstone of reality for new process concepts. On the other hand, the
interpretations written in those days ('before gravity') are not necessarily as
helpful. This paper looks at the Grosmont in terms of facts and fundamentals,
and presents the case for Grosmont exploitation.
There is good evidence that the Grosmont has very high bulk permeability as a
result of karst porosity development and fracturing. This bodes well for the
use of modern gravity drainage methods in the Grosmont.
Grosmont Piloting History
The Grosmont Formation in north-central Alberta is a dolomitized, karsted and
fractured platform carbonate containing a massive bitumen accumulation. An
excellent historical summary of various Grosmont pilots was recently provided
by Alvarez et al.(1) Cyclic Steam Stimulation (CSS), steam drive and
forward combustion were all attempted in the Grosmont during the '70s and '80s.
CSS was the most widely and successfully piloted method. The best well, at
10A-5-88-19W4, recovered about 100,000 bbls of oil over 10 cycles, with a
cumulative steam-oil ratio (CSOR) of about 6. Results of other tests were
mixed, as were the operating procedures; most of these were based on horizontal
flooding concepts. However, responses to well-executed CSS first cycles were
reasonably similar at a number of widely-spaced wells. Notably, steam
injectivity was generally sufficient so that a few hundred tonnes/day could be
injected at pressures that were significantly below overburden pressure (ruling
out geomechanical enhancement of permeability).
A degree of pessimism, or at least great caution, has been expressed with
respect to the supposed complexity of the reservoir, and hence, prospects for
commercial recovery. In particular, it is often said that the reservoir is very
heterogenous, and that this explains the historical failure of attempted steam
drive and fire flood processes.
Review of the Unocal Buffalo Creek and McLean scheme reports(2, 3)
suggest that much of this originates in the interpretations of the contemporary
operators, who largely explored conventional EOR concepts involving horizontal
displacement. They expected to recover oil by means of horizontal, radial flow.
When this failed, it was natural to assume that the problem lay in a failure to
maintain the 'radial' part of the prescription, due to permeability
Figure 1 presents the performance of the Buffalo Creek 10A-5 CSS test in
perspective with a contemporary test and two modern-day, commercially-optimized
CSS wells (the data is publicly available from the Alberta Energy Resources
Conservation Board). It can be seen that the Grosmont well had comparable
performance to a Clearwater CSS test of the same vintage.
© 2009. Petroleum Society of Canada (now Society of Petroleum Engineers)
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- Original manuscript received:
25 June 2008
- Meeting paper published:
17 June 2008
- Revised manuscript received:
29 July 2009
- Manuscript approved:
4 August 2009