Heavy Oil

This feature focuses on the development and trial evaluation of selected new technologies to improve recovery, reduce energy use and environmental impacts, and enhance the overall economics of in-situ extraction of heavy-oil and bitumen resources. Facing formidable technical challenges and lower returns relative to conventional oil plays, the heavy-oil industry traditionally has demonstrated creativity, embraced innovation, and supported the assessment of bold new approaches to achieve improved recovery. The nonthermal, in-situ recovery method called slurrified heavy-oil-reservoir extraction (SHORE) described in one summarized paper certainly represents a novel approach with potential to achieve very high recovery in certain reservoir settings. The complexities involved in modeling and testing this recovery process push several technical-capability limits, and learnings from the rigorous feasibility assessment will undoubtedly provide ancillary benefits in these areas.

While the use of downhole electrical-heating systems as a means to enable or improve heavy-oil recovery is certainly not a new idea—extensive patent and technical literature exists on this subject—there is growing interest by operators in state-of-the-art system designs and approaches for use in a variety of applications. This includes the most basic application where resistive heating systems are deployed in long horizontal wells to reduce flow losses and achieve more-uniform inflow through the active heating of the wellbore and near-wellbore region of the reservoir. This approach has been applied recently by several different operators in both onshore and offshore heavy-oil applications. Another summarized paper demonstrates that the use of even these relatively simple systems in an offshore well can be very challenging but also very effective. Other recent SPE papers describe ongoing technology developments and field piloting efforts to assess the performance/success of various forms of in-well electromagnetic systems for direct reservoir heating and oil recovery. The application of such systems represents an example of the changing oil field where the scientific and technological knowledge involved extends well beyond traditional petroleum-engineering boundaries.

Also garnering attention is a new generation of autonomous inflow-control devices that passively adapt to changing downhole conditions to restrict the entry of unwanted fluids (e.g., water or steam) into horizontal wells. Operators are also exploring new steam-assisted-gravity-drainage and cyclic-steam-stimulation well-optimization capabilities that rely on the combined use of inflow-control-device completions and feedback-controlled injection and production operations. Several recent papers describe workflows and present results from comprehensive reservoir simulations that suggest this approach can be effective in achieving more-uniform recovery and lower steam/oil ratios in highly heterogeneous bitumen reservoirs. It will be interesting to watch the pace of development and uptake of these technologies.

Finally, one additional-reading paper describes technology developments that address the ongoing challenges heavy-oil operators face in obtaining accurate flow measurements.

This Month's Technical Papers

Slurrified Heavy-Oil-Reservoir Extraction as a Recovery Method

Downhole Electrical Heating for Enhanced Heavy-Oil Recovery

The Role of Autonomous Flow Control in SAGD Well Design

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 165064 First Heater Cable Installed in Colombia by W. Acosta, Hocol, et al.

SPE 165547 A Performance Comparison Study of Electromagnetic Heating and SAGD Process by Manyang Liu, University of Regina, et al.

OTC 24503 ICD/AICD for Heavy Oil—Technology Qualification at the Peregrino Field by I. Leitão Junior, Statoil, et al.

SPE 167414 Inflow-Control Devices Improve Production in Heavy-Oil Wells by Brandon Least, Halliburton, et al.

SPE 165388 Control of Reservoir Heterogeneity in SAGD Bitumen Processes by Terry W. Stone, Schlumberger, et al.

Cam Matthews, SPE, is a C-FER Technologies fellow. He is responsible for organizing research-and-development programs related to drilling and completions and production operations. Matthews holds BS and MS degrees in civil engineering from the University of Manitoba and the University of Alberta, respectively. He has written several SPE papers, coauthored a chapter on progressing-cavity-pump systems in the SPE Petroleum Engineering Handbook, and has taught many short courses. Matthews received an SPE Regional Service award in 2004. He holds five patents on novel drilling and production processes. Matthews currently serves on the SPE Canada Board of Directors, as a director for the SPE Research and Development Technical Section, as an SPE Canadian Trust Fund Board Member, and on the JPT Editorial Committee.

Heavy Oil

Cam Matthews, SPE, C-FER Technologies, Fellow

01 March 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 3