SPE logo

Heavy Oil: Industry Best Practices and Case Studies

12 – 14 November 2012

Bucharest, Romania | Intercontinental Hotel

Technical Agenda

Day 1 – In Situ Production Methods

Monday, 12 November, 0900–1030

Session I: Cold Heavy Oil Production

Session Managers: Farouq Ali and Tom Are Solvoll
Cold heavy oil recovery methods include primary production and cold enhanced oil recovery (EOR). In this session we will discuss:

  • Primary recovery methods in which natural reservoir energy, such as gravity drainage, displaces hydrocarbons from the reservoir into the wellbore and up to the surface.
  • Cold heavy oil production with sand (CHOPS), which is another primary recovery technique involving the continues production of sand to improve the recovery of heavy oil from the reservoir.
  • Cold EOR using non-thermal methods including production from horizontal and multilateral wells with water, solvent and gas injection.
  • Water flooding, which is the most common non-thermal EOR approach which involves the injection of water to displace the heavy oil.
  • Vapour extraction (VAPEX), another non-thermal process which involves the injection of a solvent vapour to reduce the viscosity and improving the mobility of the heavy oil.


Session II: Cyclic Steam Stimulation (CSS)

Session Managers: Louis Castanier and Jeff Jones

Even though this EOR method is over 60 years old, it continues to be a significant contributor to world oil production. It not only serves as a primary recovery process in selected reservoirs, it is also an important adjunct to other thermal recovery processes. Improvements to process understanding, surface steam handling, down-hole distribution, hot well producing methods, reservoir monitoring are ongoing and show results in the shipping tank. The goal of this session is to open a dialogue among practitioners and share experiences in what does and does not work in applying this technology.


Session III: Steam Flood and Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD)

Session Managers: Michael Dowling and Jeff Jones

Steam assisted EOR methods have been the backbone of EOR technology for decades. The outlook is even brighter for the future of steam EOR in view of the world’s shifting focus from mature light oil reserves to previously bypassed heavy oil. New steamflood projects are being started all over the world and the technology is poised to make big gains with this new focus. Conversely many huge projects are very mature and companies are struggling with how to end a steamflood most efficiently. Conventional steam flooding as practiced in California and the specialised version of SAGD as practiced in the Canadian oil sands will be very interesting topics to cover in a session attended by the world’s expert practitioners. Come ready to share your discoveries and learn from other steamflood experts.


Session IV: In-Situ Combustion

Session Managers: Claude Gadelle and Gabriel Selischi

In-situ combustion has not always been considered as a valuable because it is applied on fields when the characteristics are outside of the screening criteria, or it is applied as a final resort when no other EOR methods can be used. More recently, interest in applying in-situ combustion has increased.

Increasing make-up water management costs and better gas incineration techniques have made this method more attractive for heavy oil operators in the US and China. The success of implementation relies on an attentive screening of reservoir and oil characteristics. Lab experiments must be carried out to determine the main parameters of the in-situ combustion and numerical models must be used for pilot tests or field industrial applications to control the CO2 emissions in to the atmosphere. New processes involving horizontal wells and the potential utilisation of catalysts to improve the results of in-situ combustion shall be discussed.

Day 2 – In-Situ Production Technologies

Tuesday, 13 November, 0900–1030

Session V: Reservoir Description and Dynamics

Session Managers: Vasile Badiu and Steve Webb

This session will review the state-of-the-art “integrated reservoir modelling approaches” for reservoir description and dynamics of heavy oil, extra heavy oil and oil sands deposits in both the exploration and developments phases. It will also explore three important questions:

  • What is integrated reservoir modelling?
  • How to do integrated reservoir modelling?
  • Why do integrated reservoir modelling?

While the industry has made significant progress in developing an improved understanding of heavy oil, extra heavy oil and oil sands deposits, key uncertainties remain in industry’s predictive capabilities, this session will further explore the balance of “learning by science and measurements” and “learning by the bit”. In this panel session, each panellist will speak for 10 minutes followed by a one hour panel discussion where we will “debate” reservoir description and the dynamics of heavy oil, extra heavy oil and oil sands deposits.


Session VI: Drilling and Completions

Session Managers: Bill Karran and Greg Wilson

This session will address drilling and completion techniques for heavy oil wells, with a focus on factors to be considered in horizontal wellbores and further factors for wells to be planned for thermal stimulation. Drilling planning includes:

  • Drilling rig selection
  • Wellbore and casing sizes to accommodate required multiple tubing strings
  • Liner and liner hanger selections
  • Cementing requirements, with emphasis on high temperature capability

Completion planning will address intent of wells (such as production vs. injection) and include selection and running of downhole tubulars, tools, instrumentation and bottomhole pumps. We will also discuss wellhead considerations including criteria for elevated temperatures, ability to accommodate single and multiple tubing strings, instrumentation lines and artificial lift mechanisms. Comparisons will be made in wellhead configurations demonstrating differences for recovery methods such as gas lift, progressive cavity pumps and electric submersible pumps. The session will provide discussion material on all phases from initial wellsite preparation to final tie in and start up.


Session VII: Artificial Lift Technologies

Session Managers: Michael Dowling and Svein Tollefsen

Because of low GOR, which commonly accompanies heavy oil, artificial lift has traditionally been required to sustain production of heavy oil at economical rates. As everywhere, the traditional challenges in artificial lift are the frequency and cost of well work-overs, which are the two most important uncertainties that determine the economic success of a project. During the last decade, many improvements have been made, overcoming such challenges in order to improve technical performance, increase downhole equipment durability and reduce well downtime, thereby increasing overall economic success. This session will focus on the latest developments in artificial lift that are specific to heavy oil. We will investigate real-life examples and lessons-learned of artificial lift selection for heavy oil field development and the relative merits of different lift methods for heavy oil applications.


Session VIII: Reservoir Management and Production Optimisation

Session Managers: Louis Castanier and Clint Jones

The focus of this session will be in describing how successful reservoir management and production optimisation is achieved in thermal heavy oil applications. Topics include:

  • An overview of existing reservoir temperature and reservoir pressure monitoring equipment
  • How observation wells are used in the reservoir management of SAGD operations and techniques for successful deployment of instrumentation in production/injection wells
  • Observation wells

This session will also cover emerging reservoir monitoring technologies including the use of fibre optic cables for distributed temperature sensing, distributed acoustic sensing, distributed vibration sensing, pressure sensing and other production optimisation techniques including the use of solvents and electric heating to enhance steam processes.

Day 3 – In Situ Field Developments

Wednesday, 14 November, 0900–1030

Session IX: Heavy Oil Field Development Case Studies I

Session Manager: Johann Lechner and Steve Webb

In this first of two sessions, field development cases focussing on both thermal and non-thermal recovery processes will be presented and discussed. Projects from different parts of the world will be analysed in a holistic manner focusing on extracting best practices. The session targets an integrated view on various development cases ranging from the applied EOR process, well construction and completion topics, artificial lift, surface facilities, reservoir management as well as regulatory and economic aspects. One aspect discussed will also be the re-development of brownfields with optimised thermal methods and state of the art equipment, which yielded a significant increase in production in numerous fields in the past.


Session X: Heavy Oil Field Development Case Studies II

Session Manager: Clint Jones and Tom Are Solvoll

This session will focus on a design analysis of a successful thermal heavy oil project. Topics will include:

  • Well pad location and layout
  • Drilling and the importance of directional control
  • Choice of casing and liner sizes, design of liner slots
  • Well completion design as it relates to control of steam injection and production optimisation
  • Wellbore monitoring for temperature and pressure
  • Wellhead design for ease of well work-overs
  • Steam plant design
  • Production facility design

The above topics will be analysed from an economic, operations and environmental, health and safety perspective. The importance of having a multi-disciplinary approach to the field development design will also be discussed. Examples of both positive and negative results will be used to illustrate this point.