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Fluid Movement in a SAGD Process

Fluid Movement in a SAGD Process

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Published by: manderson on Sep 21, 2010
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PAPER 2006-153
Fluid Movement in the SAGD ProcessA Review of the Dover Project
Suncor Energy Inc.
University of Calgary
This paper is to be presented at the Petroleum Society’s 7
Canadian International Petroleum Conference (57
Annual TechnicalMeeting), Calgary, Alberta, Canada, June 13 – 15, 2006. Discussion of this paper is invited and may be presented at the meeting if filed in writing with the technical program chairman prior to the conclusion of the meeting. This paper and any discussion filed willbe considered for publication in Petroleum Society journals. Publication rights are reserved. This is a pre-print and subject tocorrection.
Formerly with Devon Canada Corporation
The fundamentals of Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) steam chamber development are now well understood through Butler’s analytical models, and extensive field and laboratorytesting. However as industry continues to extend SAGD to newreservoirs and looks towards SAGD wind down at the end lifeof the projects, it is important that we recognize the value of not only understanding the steam chamber but also of themovement of fluid in the reservoir. The Dover SAGD Pilot is themost mature pilot of its kind in the world. A study of this Pilot has been undertaken in an attempt to understand the behavior of the fluid within and in front of the steam chamber.The economics of SAGD are significantly impacted by the cost of generating steam. At roughly 1mcf/bbl of bitumen produced  for an SOR in the range of 2.3-2.5 m
 , natural gas is the single largest operating cost in a SAGD project. Water movement within the reservoir can impact the natural gasconsumption wherein warm steam condensate not recovered must be replaced in the process by colder make-up water,decreasing the heat efficiency of the steam generation. Further,where water loss to the reservoir is high, the steam-oil ratio(SOR) may be negatively impacted. As we approach the 20
 anniversary of the initiation of the Dover Pilot, the cold water injection test performed prior to any thermal operations taking  place is revisited here. Understanding the transmissibility of water in the reservoir is key to choosing the optimal operating  pressures and maximizing the value of a project. It has been widely published 
that the injection of non-condensable gas (NCG) into SAGD chambers will result in theaccumulation of the NCG at the top of the chamber, cooling thechamber. The lower temperatures within the chamber cause theviscosity of the bitumen to increase thereby reducing thebitumen production rate. This has been suggested as a method of winding down steam chambers as they reach their economic producing limits
.From April 1998 to May 2002 NGC wasinjected with steam at the Dover Pilot. The gas volume injected at reservoir conditions was triple the volume of the produced bitumen over that time. The SAGD chambers did not behave as predicted. The bitumen production rate did not fall off anymore than would be expected from a mature steam chamber and live steam was still detectable through the thermocouples within
Sessions Index
CIPC Program
the steam chamber. Further, an increased overall recovery wasobserved, most likely from the gas assistance in the productionof previously inaccessible reserves. The simulation model developed to describe, as well as further observationsregarding the behavior of NCG in the reservoir, are discussed.
Geographically located in northeast Alberta, the Athabasca OilSands deposit forms part of the western Canadian oil sands.With an estimated 1.7 trillion barrels of oil in place, it isarguably the single largest oil deposit in the world. SAGD,developed by Butler 
 in the early 1980’s, is to date, the mostsuccessful in-situ method of exploiting this resource. Severalfield trials from 1983 to present including PetroCanadaCorporation’s Dover Pilot (Dover) have been conducted. These projects have demonstrated the success of SAGD in fieldapplications. The results of these projects have createdenormous interest in SAGD for use on a commercial scale, withseveral large scale projects on line and predicted SAGD production by 2010 ranging from 500,000 to 1,000,000 barrelsof oil per day
.The early stages of SAGD recovery are now well understoodthrough extensive field and laboratory testing. However, thistechnology is still developing with most field pilots having beenrun for less than five years. The Dover SAGD Pilot is the mostmature pilot of its kind in the world. Further, it is composed of well pairs of varying maturity, within distances that could allowthe well pairs to interact. As a result, a study of the Dover Pilothas been undertaken in an attempt to understand the behavior of the transmissibility of water and gas in and in front of the steamchamber. A schematic illustrating the well layout at Dover can be found asFigure 1. 
Phase A – Water Transmissibility
Cold Water Injectivity Test
The first phase of the pilot, Phase A, consisted of threehorizontal well pairs, approximately 55m in length, separated by approximately 25m. Twenty-six, vertical observation wellswere drilled from surface through the reservoir, to measuretemperature, pressure, and surface heave resulting from thesubsequent SAGD operations. From November 12-28, 1987, prior to the first steam injection into Phase A, a cold water injection test was undertaken. The water was injected into theA1 (center) injection and production wells. The injection took  place at hydrostatic pressure of between 1550 – 1100 kPa, theoriginal reservoir pressure was 510 kPa. Initial water injectioninto each well was 12 m
/d, falling to 8 m
/d over the course of the test. The pressure responses at the observation wells areshown inFigure 2
Of interest is the relative positioning of the observation wellswith respect to the depth of the horizontal wells. Assuming anaverage surface elevation, the
approximate depths of AP1(producer) and AI1 (injector) were 161m TVD and 156m TVDrespectively. Only the piezometers in AGP1, AGP2, and AGP4at the respective depths of 157.6m, 157.6m and 160m TVDwere located at depths at or below that of the horizontal wells.All three of these piezometers demonstrated a pressureresponse, and the logs of these wells indicate that all three piezometers are located in bitumen rich zones. It can therefore be inferred from the pressure responses that water did movehorizontally through this sand.A numerical model was created based on Chalaturnyk’s
 geological description of the area in order to evaluate the water injection movement and associated pressure responses in themodel. Figure 3,Figure
show the historymatch obtained for the water injection, as well as the pressure behavior at AGP1, AGP2, and AGP4. Also in the simulationmodel, the pressure from the injection has traveled laterallyfrom the injection wells, consistent with the observations in the piezometers located in the upper portions of the reservoir.In order to achieve full injectivity of water in the simulation, thefollowing parameters were adjusted:i)
The irreducible water saturation was decreased and aslight relative permeability to water was created over therange in which the initial water saturation is mobile, toallow the injection of water into the model.ii)
The endpoints of the water relative permeablities wereadjusted upwards in the water saturation region fromirreducible to 45%. This allowed water to propagatehorizontally and prevented large pressure build-ups near the injection points.iii)
Saturations were changed by introducing a small freegas saturation and the correspondingly decreasing oilsaturations. The addition of gas saturation preventedsharp pressure responses. The reduction of bitumensaturation allowed the water saturation in the model to be maintained, preventing an associated reduction in therelative permeability to water and maintaining thenecessary water injectivity.The pressure responses at the piezometers coupled with thesustainability of water injection into AI1 and AP1 providestrong evidence of cold water transmissibility within theMcMurray Formation.
Phase A Numerical Simulation
Steam injection into the Phase A horizontal wells began inDecember 1987, and concluded in December 1989. Over thistime, bitumen recovery of approximately 25,000m
, 60%recovery of OOIP, and a steam injected to oil recovered ratio(SOR) of 2.38 had been achieved. This exceeded the performance of any previous in situ bitumen recovery performance in Alberta up to that time, and Phase A remainsone of the few SAGD pilots to undergo a complete wind down.
Utilizing the geological model based on Chalaturnyk’s work,and incorporating the increased water mobility, a history matchof the Phase A Pilot was undertaken, the results of which can befound inFigure 6.The enhanced water transmissibility in themodel prevented the extreme pressure build-up around thechamber, allowing full injectivity.The question then becomes, how, with increased water mobility,can steam be contained within the over-pressured steamchambers?
At initial reservoir conditions, with an average 85% oilsaturation and 7ºC, the relative permeability to oil achievedthrough the simulation study is 0.96 whereas the relative permeability to water is 2.14e-3. However, the viscosity of the bitumen is 4.3 million cP and that of water is 1cP. Calculatingthe water oil mobility ratio (M) at these conditions:M = k 
……………………………… (1)
 The mobility ratio is 9600 which strongly favors the flow of water. At initial conditions, bitumen can be considered to beimmobile. At steam temperature, bitumen and water viscositiesapproach parity and, since bitumen has a much higher relative permeability at high oil saturation the mobility ratio becomesmuch smaller than one, and oil becomes significantly moremobile than water.The simulation results indicate that it is the fluid movementahead of the chamber that allows the steam to be largelycontained within the chamber. When a SAGD chamber isoperated above the reservoir pressure and the bitumen withinthe chamber becomes heated, bitumen becomes mobile and isforced ahead of the chamber in banks. As the bitumen is further  pushed out into the reservoir it cools losing viscosity andlimiting the extent of the banks. The oil movement into thereservoir in turn pushes non-condensable gas and water, bothmobile at reservoir conditions, ahead of the bank propagating both an increase in pressure as well as higher temperaturesahead of the steam chamber front. The edge of the bank closestto the chamber has very high oil saturation, reducing the water saturation in these areas to its residual saturation and renderingwater immobile in these regions. It is difficult for steam fromthe chamber to finger through the bank as steam is acondensable fluid, and is liquid water at the chamber edge of the bank where the temperature is cooler than the steamchamber. As a result the bitumen banks limit steam loss fromthe chamber.The bitumen banks are perpetually being eroded and shiftedoutward as the steam chamber develops.Figure 7is anidealized representation of what was observed in the simulation.
Implications for Operating Pressure
For SAGD operations in reservoirs where the bitumensaturation is high (>80%) and the corresponding water relative permeability is low, operating at pressures above reservoir  pressure will result in additional water loss. This will be trueespecially during early times before the bitumen banks have hadthe opportunity to set up. This additional water loss will haveonly a small impact on the SOR, as the fluid lost is condensedsteam, and it would normally be produced to surface withoutcontributing energy to the steam chamber. The impact of wateloss on natural gas consumption results from warm steamcondensate not recovered that must be replaced by cold makeupwater, decreasing the heat efficiency of steam generation.There are also facility capital implications in that larger volumes of makeup water must be sourced. While this is aconsideration, the operating pressure decision will likely bedominated by parameters such as geomechanical effects andadditional heat losses at higher pressures.In regions where the initial oil saturation is lower, and the water relative permeability is higher, not only will these regions havea higher SOR as less bitumen is heated per unit of rock andwater but it will be difficult for the bitumen to bank in theseareas. When the SAGD wells are operated at pressures higher than the reservoir pressure, if the reservoir contains lean zonesthat are laterally extensive, both water and steam will propagatethrough these zones and result in a very high SOR. As water transmissibility exists in bitumen rich zones, it will be difficultto maintain pressure gradients between well pairs. In order tomaintain an economic SOR the field operating pressure willhave to be tailored to the wells in the lean zones.
Phase B – Fluid Movement
The test of the SAGD concept at Phase A of the Dover Projectwas successful, however, the peak rates at these wells werelimited to a rate of 20m
/d due to the well
 pair length of 55m inthe horizontal section. The three Phase B wells were acommercial length of 500m and spaced 70m apart. Injectioninto these wells began in 1993. Commercial rates of 110m
/d of  bitumen per well were demonstrated.
Water Leak Off 
The Total Fluid produced to Steam injected Ratio (TFSR) isused to indicate the degree of balance in the reservoir betweenthe fluid withdrawn and the steam injected. Assuming no fluidloss ahead of a steam chamber, the ideal producing TFSR can be calculated.TFSR = H2O Prd + Oil Prd - Steam in chamber ……….. (2)Steam InjEvery cubic meter of bitumen production would be replaced bya cubic meter of steam, which at 2,500kPa and 225ºC isequivalent to 0.045m
of water at standard conditions. At anSOR of 2.5, 2.5m
of steam (CWE
) injected and equivalentvolume of water will be produced. As the steam volume in thechamber is nearly two orders of magnitude less than the volumeof water produced or injected, it is the water that will have thelargest impact on the TFSR. The calculation of a balancedTFSR under these conditions is:TFSR = 2.5m
+ 1m
-0.045 m
 2.5 m
 TFSR = 1.38 m
 At a TFSR of less than 1.38m
under these conditions, either water is leaking off from the steam chamber or the pressure of the reservoir would increase. The plots of TFSR and thecumulative TFSR for the Dover total field production can befound in Figures 8 and 9. By December of 1998, thecumulative TFSR in Phase B was 1.27m
, and by December of 2003 it had increased to a balanced 1.39m
.Because TFSR represents balanced production and injection itwould be expected that the pressure in the Phase B chamber 
Steam in cold water equivalent at standard conditions.

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