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SPE/Petroleum Society of CIM 65524 Upgrading Athabasca Tar Sand Using Toe-to-Heel Air Injection

T.X. Xia and M. Greaves University of Bath, England


Copyright 2000, SPE/PS-CIM International Conference on Horizontal Well Technology This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2000 SPE/Petroleum Society of CIM International Conference on Horizontal Well Technology held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 6-8 November 2000. This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE/PS-CIM Program Committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers or the Petroleum Society of CIM and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the Petroleum Society of CIM, their officers, or members. Papers presented at SPE/PS-CIM meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and Petroleum Society of CIM. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.

Abstract The unique operation of the THAI process Toe-to-Heel Air Injection, enables very high oil recovery and substantial in-situ upgrading. Both thermal upgrading (non-catalytic) and also catalytic upgrading, in which a catalyst is emplaced along the horizontal producer well, were investigated. 3-D physical model experiments were conducted on virgin Athabasca Tar Sand bitumen to investigate dry and wet combustion performance. These results were compared against those from a steamflood test, which was also followed by air injection. Excellent ignition and very stable combustion propagation was achieved using Athabasca Tar Sand. Thermal upgrading achieved nearly 10 API points increase. Additional upgrading was achieved using an in situ catalyst. The main limitation of using steam is that a very large fraction of the oil remains immobile. This residual oil can only be unlocked by thermal cracking at high temperature (>500oC), as in THAI. THAI has the extra advantage that some hydrogen is generated in situ, providing further significant upgrading via hydroconversion. There are also substantial environmental benefits because of the large reductions in sulphur and heavy metals in the produced oil. Furthermore, oil is produced without displacement delay, immediately ahead of the combustion front. The Oil recovery using THAI was greater than 75% OOIP. Key Words: Air Injection, In situ Combustion, Heavy Oil Recovery,
Athabasca Tar Sand, THAI, CAPRI, Downhole Upgrading, Horizontal Wells

1. Introduction Tar sand (or bitumen) is defined as a hydrocarbon deposit having an in situ viscosity greater than 10,000 mPas, or a density of more than 100kg/m2 at reservoir conditions. Crude oils with API gravity in the range of 8 to 15 are referred to as heavy oil. Very large resources of heavy oil and bitumen exist throughout the world, most notably in Venezuela1 and Canada2. Worldwide, the reserves of bitumen are estimated at over 6,000 109 barrels3. The worlds conventional crude oil production is expected to reach its peak in the second decade of this century and enter a permanent decline phase4. The composition of the oil barrel is getting heavier and diluent blending stop-gaps, assisted by very limited coke upgrading capacity will, eventually, be insufficient to cope with the increasing demand for light oil. Historically, heavy oil trades at a substantial discount to that of premium light crude oil, therefore, it has lower economic value and also market potential, unless new technology is developed to upgrade it to lighter oil, in an economic manner. Heavy oils present many technical challenges in all phases of oil processing. During the oil production phase, heavy oils are more difficult to recover from the reservoir. The high viscosity of heavy crude oil requires it to be blended before it is transported to refineries. Another problem is that heavy oils are much more difficult to process in a refinery. They usually require additional processing at more severe conditions because of the high bottoms yield. There are also problems arising from high sulphur, nitrogen, heavy metals and acid content. The Athabasca Tar Sand deposit of northeastern Alberta, Canada, is one of the largest reserves of bitumen in the world. These are estimated to be 212.9 109 m3 (1,339 109 bbl)5. Although about 10 per cent of the bitumen reserves are mineable, the rest of the Athabasca Tar Sands have to be exploited by in-situ recovery technology. A number of in situ oil recovery methods, such as steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD)6 and in situ combustion (ISC)7,8, have been extensively studied, both in the laboratory and in field tests. Horizontal well technology has been applied for thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes in heavy oil reservoirs. The major purpose of a horizontal well is to enhance the oil production rate; basically by improving the sweep efficiency and increasing the ultimate oil recovery by

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creating a large contact area in the oil-bearing formation. With new technology developments, heavy oil production has steadily increased to 10% of the total world. It is predicted that unconventional oil from tar sands and heavy oil will become a major energy source in the next 20 years3. SAGD involves the use of a horizontal injector and a horizontal producer well. The injected steam is used to increase the temperature in the formation by utilising the latent heat of condensation of steam in the oil-bearing layer. The heated oil drains at the mobile oil boundary in a growing steam chamber, under gravity, into a horizontal producer lower in the formation. The concept of SAGD for heavy oil recovery was proposed by Butler in the late 1970s9, 10. It has been field tested since 198411. Currently, the main thermal developments in the Athabasca area are associated with the Underground Test Facility (now the Dover Project), based on the SAGD process 5. The SAGD process is the most successful thermal EOR technology for the recovery of oil from tar sands and heavy oil reservoirs to date, but the technology is still at the pilot scale. In situ combustion (ISC) is a thermal EOR method, in which a small fraction of the oil (or coke) in the oil layer is burned in order to mobilise the unburned fraction. Due to the strong exothermic oxidation reactions between hydrocarbon (or coke) and oxygen, the temperature of the oil-bearing matrix in the combustion zone is 500 to 700oC, which is much higher than in steam flood processes (150 to 250oC). Higher temperatures are very favourable for tar sands and heavy oil reservoirs because, not only is the oil viscosity reduced by several orders of magnitude, but the heavy residue is thermally cracked to lighter compounds. By generating the thermal energy in the reservoir, ISC has many advantages over other EOR processes for the recovery of heavy oil and bitumen; namely, high efficiency in terms of heat utilisation, highly efficient displacement drive mechanism, and less potential environmental impact 12. ISC has been extensively studied in both the laboratory and in field tests during last 50 years 8, 13, 14 . Conventional ISC processes, use a combination of vertical injector and vertical production wells or VIVP arrangement. This conventional well arrangement has created many problems for the process, unless ideal reservoir conditions happened to have been chosen. In general, ISC has not received general acceptance in the oil industry, because of the small number of field applications that have achieved economic success12. ISC is a complex process, due to the interaction of chemical reactions and multiphase fluid flow in the porous medium. Conventional ISC, using VIVP well patterns, suffers from some significant operational problems which affect recovery from tar sands and heavy oil reservoirs: (1) gravity segregation, or gas overriding (2) channelling (3) unfavourable gas/oil mobility ratio15 (4) lack of initial heated communication paths within the reservoir

(5) difficulty of regaining a high temperature combustion mode, once it has slipped into a low temperature oxidation mode, due to insufficient oxygen flux12. Many of the apparent failures of the conventional ISC process can be ascribed to inappropriate reservoir selection and poor front control. In order to realise the full potential of heavy oil and tar sands resources, more advanced techniques are required that have higher thermal efficiency, coupled with higher oil recovery, and also significant in situ upgrading capability. Not least, such processes will need to be operated in a clean and environmentally friendly manner, if they are to gain widespread acceptance in the industry. THAI - Toe-to-Heel Air Injection THAI is an advanced ISC technique, which integrates in situ combustion and horizontal well technology16. It uses a horizontal producer well (or wells) instead of a vertical producer well (as in conventional ISC), so as to achieve combustion front propagation along the horizontal well, from the toe position to the heel. The concept of THAI is schematically illustrated in Fig. 1. Ideally, the combustion front travels like a moving window, so that in theory a very high reservoir sweep is possible. Basically, a horizontal producer well is placed in a line drive in the reservoir and air is injected via a horizontal injection well (HIHP), or a vertical well (VIHP). This well arrangement can be extended through the reservoir in a staggered line drive, by employing additional horizontal producer wells (HI2HP, VI2HP or 2VIHP). Conventional in situ combustion using a VIVP arrangement for air injection can be classified as high temperature oxidation-immiscible air flood (HTO-IAF). However, it is generally not possible to control gas overriding satisfactorily by this method. On the other hand, THAI is radically different in that it controls, or even eliminates the effect of gas overriding. By placing the horizontal producer well close to the bottom of the reservoir matrix, the only path for the gas to leave the formation is via top-to-bottom flow, into the horizontal producer well. In practice, all of the fluids (gas, steam, water and mobilised oil) ahead of the combustion front are drawn down into the exposed section of the horizontal producer well, immediately ahead of the combustion front. One of the most important features of the THAI process is the creation of a mobile oil zone ahead of the combustion front (shown in Fig. 2), which provides a unique process condition, allowing the process to be operated safely and efficiently15. The overall sensitivity of the process to reservoir heterogeneity effects may also be significantly reduced, since the combustion and oil displacement processes effectively take place in a small section of the reservoir. This defines what is called a short-range displacement process, e.g. like SAGD, as opposed to a long-range displacement process. The latter typifies most conventional EOR processes, in which the displacing front, i.e. process, has to respond to the full heterogeneity effect of the reservoir. The mechanism and pathway for oil recovery means that THAI is a short distance displacement process15. Like

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SAGD, the mobilised oil does not pass through the cold region, but takes the shortest pathway to the horizontal production well. The short displacement feature of THAI means that communication/connectivity is easily established and maintained, no prior steaming or heating of the oil layer is necessary, and early oil production is achieved. Another potential advantage of THAI is the robust degree to which the air flux can be varied during operation. Since air injectivity into the reservoir actually increases because of depletion in the burned region, a high air flux can be employed to maintain oil production at the desired rate, or even to increase oil production rates during later stages of operation. More than 50 one-dimensional combustion tube tests on Athabasca Tar Sand bitumen have been carried out by the In Situ Combustion Group at the University of Calgary. In some tests, the peak combustion temperature was lower than 350oC, i.e. operating in a low temperature oxidation (LTO) mode14. By comparison, a similar number of the 3-D-cell THAI tests on various oils, including Wolf Lake, Clair, and Marguerite Lake oil have been performed by the IOR Group at the University of Bath, over the last decade. All of these tests were sustained in a HTO mode, with peak temperatures greater than 390oC (medium oil) or 450oC (heavy oil) 17,18,19. This is convincing evidence that the THAI process is able to sustain the combustion in an HTO mode. THAI overcomes the operational problems normally encountered when applying a conventional ISC process, and therefore represents a potential major breakthrough in heavy oil recovery technology. Additionally, thermal upgrading of heavy oil in situ is preserved in THAI. The high temperature (>500oC) created by the combustion zone promotes extensive thermal cracking of high molecular weight hydrocarbon molecules. The thermal cracked oil is drawn down into the exposed section of the horizontal well, effectively producing light oil. Previous 3-D cell THAI tests for Wolf Lake oil (10.5 API) achieved an oil recovery of 85% OOIP and in situ oil upgrading of 5 to 7 API points15. The main potential benefits of Toe-to-Heel Air Injection are listed in Table 1. Downhole Catalytic Upgrading of Heavy Oil The main difficulties involved in the recovery, transportation and refining of heavy oil can be removed by moving the upgrading process underground, into the oilbearing formation. This process is called downhole catalytic upgrading, or in situ catalytic upgrading. It is clear that in situ processing has several advantages over surface upgrading technologies. Because in situ upgrading (reaction engineering underground) can be implemented on a well-by-well basis, there is no need for a large capital-intensive project. Rather, at the outset, the size of an in situ upgrading project for a particular field can be tailored to available production rates. Thus, downhole upgrading is practical, even for those fields deemed too small to supply sufficient production for conventional surface processing. Downhole upgrading can produce a more desirable and valuable product, ease shipping and pipelining, and requires less demanding downstream processing (i.e. processable directly in a conventional

refinery). This all adds value to an otherwise uneconomic, or remote heavy oil deposit. The requirements for in situ upgrading include20: (1) provision for a downhole bed of catalyst in the reservoir; (2) achieving appropriate reaction conditions in the reservoir (temperature and pressure) to realise a reasonable degree of catalytic upgrading; (3) mobilisation of reactants, mainly oil and hydrogen, over the catalyst; (4) production of the upgraded oil. Downhole catalytic upgrading in a heavy oil reservoir was first investigated in 1996 by the University of Calgary In situ Combustion Group. They packed a mixture of NiMo hydroprocessing catalyst and sand (50/50, vol/vol) into the bottom 25% of a cumbustion tube, at the production end21. This test arrangement simulates a conventional ISC operation. By heating the catalytic processing zone to 325oC, the crude oil (15.3 API) was upgraded to about 21.2 API. However, the level of coke deposition in the catalytic processing zone was quite high, ranging from 6 to 12 wt%. Hence, the two main problems that were experienced during downhole catalytic upgrading using the conventional ISC process are: (1) the oil entering the catalyst bed was cold, and external heating was required to provide the sufficiently high temperature (>320oC) for the catalytic reaction. (2) the high retention of oil in the catalyst bed (in practice, a large, one-place volume, surrounding a vertical producer well) leads to severe coke fouling on the catalyst. The process needs to be operated in a cyclic mode (backflow from the injection well), in order to regenerate the deactivated catalyst by burning-off the coke deposit. It was proposed that the downhole catalytic upgrading process could be operated, either as a single well turn-andburn, i.e. cyclical operation, or as a conventional ISC process 22, 23 . However, both of these operational strategies require supplementary downhole heating, which is expensive, operationally cumbersome, and somewhat risky. CAPRI Catalytic Version of THAI CAPRI is the catalytic extension of the THAI process, achieved by emplacing an annular layer of catalyst, externally along the perforated horizontal producer well (Fig. 3). During the stable combustion stage of a THAI test, the active zone of the radial inflow catalytic reactor is effectively determined by the lateral extent of the mobile oil zone. The reaction conditions are created ahead of the combustion front, in the mobile oil zone, so that the reactants pass downwards to contact the catalyst around the horizontal producer well. Temperatures generated by the combustion front are around 400 to 600oC, or higher, and the pressure is equal to the reservoir pressure (30 to 100 bar). The reactants comprise water (steam), oil and combustion gases, including carbon monoxide and a small amount of unconsumed oxygen. Extensive thermal cracking occurs ahead of the combustion front, providing fuel (coke) to sustain the combustion

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reactions and also generating substantial lighter hydrocarbons by bond scission reactions. When a hydroconversion/hydrotreating catalyst is using for the oil upgrading, hydrogen needs to be generated in situ. Up to 20 mol% hydrogen was observed during BPs ISC production pilot in the Marguerite Lake heavy oilfield24,25. The source was believed to be via gasification and/or water gas shift reactions. During a catalytic upgrading test on heavy oil in a combustion tube at the University of Calgary, 3% of hydrogen was measured in the produced gas21. It is possible that in situ hydrogenation may have provided the hydrogen needed for catalytic upgrading of the heavy oil. Although the technology needed to accomplish all of the tasks is fairly well known (conventional process), their combination into a unified process underground in the reservoir has yet to be demonstrated in practice. CAPRI has been investigated by the IOR Group at Bath University using Wolf Lake heavy oil26. The crude oil was upgraded by 10 API points in a wet combustion test using a CoMo hydrotreating catalyst. The reduction in heavy metals (V, Ni) and sulphur was also very significant. New Steam Injection Process THSF- Toe-to-Heel Steam Flood THSF, like SAGD uses horizontal well technology for heavy oil recovery by steam injection. The main difference between SAGD and THSF, is that THSF uses a vertical injection well instead of a horizontal one. THSF is one of a category of Toe-to-Heel displacement processes. The well arrangement in THSF, like THAI, includes a vertical injection well and one horizontal producer well in direct line drive (VIHP), or one vertical injection well and two horizontal producer wells, in staggered line drive (VI2HP). The concept of THSF involves propagating a steam condensation front in the oil-bearing formation along the horizontal producer well, in a toe-to-heel manner (Fig. 4). Like THAI, THSF should be capable of achieving a high sweep efficiency and hence a high cumulative oil recovery. The Pressure Controlled Gravity Drainage (PCGD) process was proposed recently by Sawhney et al 27 - two horizontal production wells are used with one vertical injection well (Fig. 5). In addition to gravity drainage (as in SAGD), the pressure drop from the heel to the toe of the horizontal production wells provides an additional driving force. This results in the inflow of cold oil along the portion of the horizontal well near the heel of the well. The PCGD process has a number of potential advantages, such as minimising the effect of reservoir heterogeneity, advantageous control via wellbore pressure drop, a high cumulative recovery, and low cumulative steam/oil ratio. The PCGD process has only been studied numerically for two reservoir scenarios. Both of these processes offer the prospect of improved steam flood performance for heavy oil recovery. However, no laboratory studies (or field tests) have yet been reported on THSF and PCGD.

In this paper, 3-D physical model experiments were conducted on virgin Athabasca Tar Sand bitumen to investigate the performance of THAI, CAPRI and THSF. The main objective was to compare in situ combustion (THAI) against steam flooding (THSF). The THSF test was followed by air injection (THAI). The mechanism of oil upgrading achieved in the THAI process is also discussed. 2. 3-D Combustion Cell Experiments 3-D Cell A rectangular stainless steel cell (0.6m 0.4m 0.1m) was used to carry out the Toe-to-Heel steam flooding and Toe-to-Heel air injection tests. The cell, as shown in Fig 6, was fitted with an array of 85 thermocouples, arranged on three levels: at the TOP, MIDDLE and BOTTOM of the sandpack. These are placed, respectively, 2, 5 and 8cm from the top surface of the cell. In previous THAI and CAPRI tests using Wolf Lake heavy oil, the length of the 3-D cell was only 40cm21, 26, 28, 29. The new 3-D cell, which is 50% longer, allows combustion experiments to be run for a longer time, and also at higher air flux. Steam Generator and Heating Element A steam generator was constructed for the THSF test. Steam injection into the 3-D cell was implemented using the steam generator and heating element shown in Fig. 7. This heating element was also used for the post-steam flooded air injection test to heat the air to the required temperature in Run 2000-04. Heat Loss Compensation A near-adiabatic condition for the 3-D-cell steam flood and combustion tests, was achieved by autormatic temperature regulation of the combustion cell surface using nine tape heaters, which were wound around the cell. Temperature control was achieved automatically by a computer in response to the measured temperature profiles in the sandpack and adjacent wall temperatures. In order to further improve the adiabatic condition, and simulate the overlaying and underlying rock strata in an actual reservoir, a layer of ceramic fibre insulation (6mm thick) was fixed to the inside surfaces of the 3-D cell. This proved to be very effective for the reduction of the heat losses, greatly improving the adiabatic operation29. Combustion Gas Analysis The produced gas from 3-D cell combustion tests was continuously monitored by three Servomex analysers (Oxygen Analyser 570A, CO2 Analyser Series 1400 and CO Analyser Series 1400). Gas samples were also taken using three probes inserted into the sandpack as well as from the gas/liquid separator. These were analysed for hydrogen and light hydrogen carbons (C1-C4) using a Chrompack CP 9001 gas chromatograph.

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Packing Before packing the cell with the Athabasca Tar Sand, ceramic fibre insulation was fixed to the inside surfaces of the 3-D cell. The packing was carried out manually by tamping a 2cm thick layer of the Athabasca Tar Sand into the cell, starting from the production end and working up the cell. On completion of the packing operation, the 3-D cell was sealed and the thermocouples were placed into position. The heating tapes were then wound around the cell. The 3-D cell was then placed into an insulated box and a leak test carried out, prior to starting an experiment. Experimental Conditions Four tests were performed using unconsolidated virgin Athabasca Tar Sand, obtained from the AOSTRA Oil Sands Sample Bank (Lease 86-19). The physical properties of the Athabasca Tar Sand are listed in Table 2. It was observed that the Athabasca Tar Sand was not homogeneous core, but contained some large lumps (5 to 10cm). The material was homogenised, as far as possible. The experimental conditions are given in Table 3. Run 2000-01 was an in situ combustion test conducted using THAI with an HIHP well arrangement. Run 2000-02 was a catalytic test (CAPRI), using NiMo HDS catalyst. Run 2000-03 was a steam flood test using one vertical injection well and two horizontal production wells (VI2HP). Run 2000-04 was a THAI test, following on from the steam flood test (THSF), using the same well arrangement as in Run 2000-03. The well arrangements used in these tests are shown in Fig. 8. Elemental Analysis After each experiment, the sandpack was carefully unpacked from the 3-D cell, and samples were taken for residual coke analysis. The produced oil, was first separated from any water, before measuring the viscosity and density. Elemental analysis (S, N, Ni, V) and also SARA analysis (saturates, aromatics, resins and asphaltenes) were conducted on some of the oil samples. 3. Results and Discussion The main results from the experiments are summarised in Table 4. Other details of the results are presented below, according to each individual test. Run 2000-01(THAI) The experiment lasted for more than 10 hours. The air flux was changed (increased or decreased) at certain stages during the test. Water injection, at a water/air ratio (WAR) of 1.1m3/1000m3, was implemented for two hours. This experiment was designed to investigate the stability of THAI when certain operational changes were made. The peak temperature profile, produced gas concentration, oil production rate, and the temperature profiles at the horizontal and vertical mid-planes versus time for Run 200001 are presented in Figs. 9 to 12, respectively. Post-mortem pictures of the sandpack after the combustion test are shown in Fig. 13.

Air injection started when the temperature in the ignition zone reached 450 to 500oC (Fig. 9). Vigorous combustion was established immediately, producing 17% CO2, 7% CO and less than 1% oxygen in the combustion gas (Fig. 10). The combustion front temperature rapidly increased to 900oC within 30 minutes of the ignitor being switched off. During the stable period of dry combustion (90 to 330 minutes), the peak temperature remained steady at 600 to 650oC, with the combustion front propagating steadily to the halfway position in the sandpack. During the wet combustion period, the peak temperature decreased slowly from 650oC to 600oC, due to the cooling effect of the injected water. After water injection was stopped, it remained at 600oC for about 30 minutes and then increased to 750oC, settling down to 700oC during rest of the test. The fact that vigorous combustion was maintained right up to the end of the air injection period, confirms the excellent ignition condition and very stable combustion propagation performance achieved. The combustion performance was very similar to that observed during 3-D cell tests on the Wolf Lake heavy oil21. The combustion zone is propagated in the top part of sandpack above the horizontal producer well (see Figs. 12 and 13). This controlled, gas overriding feature, is actually the key factor for maintaining stable combustion front propagation in the THAI process. It prevents the breakthrough of oxygen into the production well. Water injection during THAI has a two-fold effect on the combustion performance: (1) cooling of the sandpack near the inlet of the horizontal injection well distorts the symmetry of the temperature profiles (2) the presence of steam in the sandpack, due to water injection, improves the sweep efficiency and, hence, oil production 21. The oil production rate is also increased, initially. These effects were also observed in Run 2000-01 (Figs. 11 and 12). A WAR of 1.1m3/1000m3 corresponds to a normal wet combustion made, according to the definition of wet combustion operation 30. However, there was a reduction in the combustion temperature after 60 minutes of water injection, and also decreased oil production rate. This indicates that the combustion performance of THAI in a threedimensional reservoir is radically different from that observed in a one-dimensional combustion tube. The CO2 and CO concentration in the produced gas averaged 17.0% and 5.6%, respectively. These values are substantially higher than those obtained from the tests on Wolf Lake heavy oil. Very high oxygen utilization, averaging 93.4%, was achieved. Oil production started 5 minutes before air injection, stabilizing at 7ml/min during the dry combustion mode. The variation of air flux had only a small effect on the air/oil ratio (AOR) during the stable dry combustion period (Fig. 14). The AOR averaged 1080 Sm3/m3, which is a relatively low value (~ 4500 SCF/bbl) compared to a conventional ISC process 14. The results show that THAI is a stable, highly efficient process for the primary recovery of the Athabasca bitumen.

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The cumulative oil recovery was very high, at 81.5 wt% OOIP (or 85.8 vol% OOIP). Run 2000-02 (CAPRI, HIHP) Catalytic upgrading of the Athabasca Tar Sands bitumen was performed by emplacing an annular layer of hydrotreating/NiMo catalyst along the horizontal producer well. The experimental conditions were the same as for Run 2000-01. Overall, the combustion performance during this test was very similar to the non-catalytic run (2000-01), i.e. vigorous and stable combustion was achieved from the start of air injection (Figs. 15 and 16). Although combustion front propagation along the horizontal producer well was perfectly stable, the test was terminated early, due to a severe gas leak on the inlet sealing flame. Hence, the result presented here should be considered preliminary only. Oil Upgrading A significant advantage of THAI is its ability to produce a lighter oil from a heavy oil bitumen, even no catalyst placed in the oil-bearing formation21, 29. This is because thermally cracked oil mobilised ahead of the combustion front is produced directly into the exposed section of the horizontal producer well. In a conventional ISC operation, however, the mobilised oil has to be bankedup first, in the colder downstream regions of the reservoir, and the oil produced is only slightly lighter (about 0.005g/cm3) than the crude oil. Fig. 17 shows the trend of thermal and catalytic upgrading in the oil produced from the virgin Athabasca Tar Sands bitumen, as indicated by the variation of measured as indicated API gravity. From the beginning of oil production, THAI produces thermally upgraded oil (Run 2000-01), which is 3 API points higher than the crude bitumen. The API gravity then increased to 17.8 API points, after 30 minutes, possibly due to the very high combustion temperature during the ignition period (see Fig. 9). Once the ignitor was switched off after 30 minutes, the API gravity of the produced oil reduced to 14.1 API points. After the combustion front (500oC contour) reached the toe of the horizontal producer well - so that it was anchored on the horizontal well, the produced oil became lighter again, reaching 16 to 18 API points during the stable oil production stage. The oil samples collected during the wet combustion period have a similar gravity to those from the stable dry combustion period. The thermally upgraded oil produced during Run 2000-01 averaged an 8 API points increase above the original bitumen value. Therefore, even without catalyst, this level of upgrading represents a very significant potential economic gain. The oil was further upgraded using the NiMo catalyst in Run 2000-02. The first sample collected from Run 2000-02 was very light oil (27 API points). After the first two samples, the variation of the API gravity showed the same trend as in Run 2001 (30 to 165 minutes). After the combustion front reached the toe position of the horizontal producer well, the produced oil gravity increased from 16.1 to 22.8 API points

(see Fig. 17). This represents an increase of some 4 API points, which can be attributed to catalytic upgrading. The concentration of hydrogen in the sandpack and also the production line, was measured for both runs (Fig. 18). This shows that the hydrogen concentration in the top part of the sandpack was very low, less than 0.4%, even during the catalytic upgrading. However, 0.5 to 1% H2 was detected in the production line. In conventional catalytic hydrotreating processes, a high hydrogen partial pressure (> 200 psi) is normally required to cause significant hydrogen addition to the unsaturated compounds. The reaction conditions required for downhole hydrogenation are expected to be similar to those of surface processing; i.e. a temperature of at least 300oC and pressure over 400 psi, with at least 200 psi consisting of hydrogen partial pressure 20. The pressure inside the 3-D cell was very low, only 15 to 30 psi, far below this level. Hence, the mechanism for conventional catalytic upgrading does not appear to fully explain the experimental results on the Wolf Lake oil15, nor the result for Athabasca Tar Sands bitumen. Actually, the degree of thermal upgrading of the Wolf Lake heavy oil and the Athabasca Tar Sands bitumen achieved in the 3-D cell tests is higher than that obtained from other ancillary ISC tests; namely, (1) Flow Tube (+1.5 API), (2) Bath Autoclave (+1.7 API), and (3) Combustion Tube (+7.9 API). The results of compositional analysis on the samples obtained from Run 2000-01 at various sample times are given in Table 5. It is clear that the saturates content of the produced oil increased significantly from the start of the oil production, while the aromatics, resins and asphaltenes decreased substantially. Compared with the crude oil, it appears that upgrading results mainly from the change in the aromatics to saturates. However, during the combustion operation, conversion of resins also makes a substantial contribution to oil upgrading, as does the consumption of asphaltenes, the source of the fuel (coke) for sustaining the combustion reaction. Based on the above results and understanding of the THAI process for primary heavy oil recovery and downhole upgrading15, the downhole (thermal or catalytic) upgrading processes involved can be represented as in Fig. 19. However, this should only be considered as preliminary explanation. Run 2000-03 (THSF/VI2HP) The THSF test presented in this paper is the first trial in a 3-D cell of the Toe-to-Heel steam injection concept for heavy oil recovery. After the completion of this test, it was very difficult to achieve separation of the oil and water mixture. The values for oil production were therefore estimated by weighing the liquid samples, and then assuming that the density of the produced oil was the same as that of the original crude bitumen. The steam temperature and backpressure (effective total pressure in sandpack) during the steamflood test are shown in Fig. 20. The oil production began at 300 minutes, and consequently, there was a long production delay. There are some reasons for this:

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(1) the low initial sandpack temperature, 15oC; (2) the high temperature needed to mobilise Athabasca Tar Sand bitumen, >90oC; (3) the heat loss from the sandpack due to the non-ideal adiabatic condition; (4) the low permeability of the virgin Athabasca Tar Sand. 23% of the initial oil in place in the sandpack was recovered after steamflooding for 14 hours, at a steam injection rate of 10.0ml/min. The overall cumulative steam/oil ratio was approximately 5, but this is reduced to ~3, during the oil production period. The temperature profiles at the horizontal and vertical midplanes versus conbustion time are shown in Fig. 21. The pattern of the temperature distribution inside the sndpack during THSF is similar to that observed in THAI. During the early stage of THSF, the steam chamber (or front) grows around the injection well. As the steam front propagates along the horizontal producer wells, a controlled steam overriding condition develops in the top part of the sandpack, due to the gravity segregation. Under backpressure control, the steam front temperature eventually stabilises at around 134oC, and propagates steadily to two thirds of the length of the sandpack, at t = 720 minutes. The results of the THSF test, reveal one important feature of the THSF concept - stable toe-to-heel steam front propagation. The oil recovery from tests using the 3-D physical model steam flood experiment is somewhat low and the steam/oil ratio is high by comparison with SAGD laboratory tests using two-dimensional physical models 31. However, at higher experimental pressures and more realistic reservoir steam temperatures (~200 to 230oC), much higher oil recoveries could be anticipated. Run 2000-04 (THAI, VI2HP) After THSF, an air injection test was conducted on the steam-flooded matrix from Run 2000-03, with an initial temperature of 100oC. To create ignition, air was injected at 550oC. Fig. 22 shows the production gas composition. After 180 minutes, produced Oxygen was only 1%, confirming vigorous combustion in the sandpack. The temperature profiles (Fig. 23) show that a high temperature combustion region was maintained, above 600oC, during the whole test after the ignitor switched off. Changing the air flux from 12 Sm3/m2h to 22 Sm3/m2h, in a stepwise manner, during the test, did not have any deteriorating effect on stable combustion performance, except for a small increase in the produced oxygen level. A large amount of water was produced initially, during the ignition stage (Fig 24). Once the combustion was stablised, oil production rates increased to more than 10ml/min, which was higher than that obtained in Run 2000-01 during the ignition period. This is attributed to the vapourization of the water in the sandpack, which created a super-heated steam flood, improving the oil displacement. Generally, the combustion performance observed during this post-steam flood THAI test was very similar to that of

Run 2000-01 (THAI recovery of virgin Athabasca Tar Sand bitumen): (i) the combustion process was stable, due to the controlled gas override condition; (ii) high oil recovery was achieved (83.0 wt% residual oil after steam flooding, 63.9 wt% OOIP recovered); (iii) the produced oil was upgraded (Fig. 25). The air/oil ratio shown in Table 4 is more than 50% higher during the post-steam flooded THAI test than that required for THAI in a primary recovery (Run 2000-01). This mainly due to the large amount of heat required to vaporize the condensed water in the sandpack, after THSF. During unpacking of the cell, it was found that there were three different layers in the first half of the sandpack, nearest to the injection well end (Fig. 26). This condition is like the layered models used to study the steam and gas push process 31 , in which the effectiveness of the SAGD process was substantially reduced. The stable performance obtained during the post-steam flood test indicates that the THAI is a robust process when operated in a reservoir which is heterogeneous. Moore et al 32, who studied the in situ combustion performance of steam flooded heavy oil cores using a highpressure combustion tube, reported that viscosity of the produced oil (1000-1200 cp at 80oC) was higher than that of the original oil (800cp, 80oC). The ratio of injected oxygen to the produced oil, calculated according to the data presented in their paper, was 2,500 Sm3/m3. Compared to the post-steam flooded combustion tube test (conventional ISC), THAI produces oil at a much lower oxygen requirement, i.e. Oxygen/Oil ratio = 355 Sm3/m3, and also produces upgraded oil with a much lower viscosity. Although the total oil recovery, including that from steam flooding and the combustion, obtained from the combustion tube and the 3-D cell tests are at the same level, about 80% OOIP, the onedimensional tube provides a very high combustion front sweep through a heavy oil core, which is not attainable by the conventional ISC process in a real three-dimensional reservoir. Comparison of THAI and THSF There was no upgrading effect on the produced oil, from the THSF test. The density of the produced oil was heavier that that of the water (Fig. 27), and therefore the viscosity would be expected to be very high (>100,000cp). On the other hand, the viscosity of the produced oil from the THAI and post-steam flooded THAI tests is reduced to 50 to 500cp at room temperature (Table 6). The quality of the oil produced by THAI is greatly improved in terms of the saturates faction (Table 5) and the reduction of N, S and heavy metals (Table 7) is also very significant. The thermal EOR performance of steam flooding (THSF) and air injection (THAI) using the 3-D physical model is summarised in Table 8. It is evident that THAI is superior to steam flooding for the recovery of Athabasca Tar Sand bitumen, achieving very high oil recovery, early oil production and substantially upgraded oil. The performance of the THAI

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process after steam flooding is similar to that of THAI as a primary method for oil recovery, except that there is a long preheating period. The latter is because of the condensed water retained in the sandpack and consequently 50% more air is required to produce the same amount of oil. 4 1 Conclusions Athabasca Tar Sand bitumen gave excellent ignition and very stable combustion propagation was achieved during primary oil recovery with Toe-to-Heel Air Injection, using a 3-D physical model. THAI Toe-to-Heel Air Injection is a very efficient heavy oil recovery method. Very high oil recoveries were achieved (>80% OOIP) for primary production, and also as a follow-up in a partially depleted reservoir, previously produced by steam injection (THSF). The oil produced by THAI (primary production, and poststeam flooded) is substantially upgraded, achieving an increase in API gravity averaging 8 points. The viscosity of the produced oil by THAI is reduced by over four orders of magnitude, compared with oil produced by steam injection. S, N and heavy metals in the produced oil are also greatly reduced compared to the original bitumen. THSF Toe-to-Heel Steam Flooding, of Athabasca Tar Sand bitumen required a long period of preheating, before oil production commenced. The steam front propagaton during THSF is similar to movement of the combustion front in THAI, i.e. from the toe position of the horizontal producer well, to the heel. THSF rcovered 23% of the original bitumen, with an average steam/oil ratio of 3, after the commencement of oil production. Downhole catalytic upgrading of Athabasca Tar Sand bitumen using the CAPRI process increased oil upgrading by 4 API points, compared to thermal upgrading alone using THAI.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6. 7.

8.

9.

Acknowledgements The authors are grateful to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), United Kingdom, for supporting the THAI and CAPRI Process research via Research Grants Nos GL/L71773 and GR/M93017. We would like to thank the Alberta Research Council/AOSTRA Oil Sands Sample Bank, for supplying the Athabasca Tar Sand. We acknowledge the assistance of Dr Hider Al-Saffar and Professor R Hughes of the University of Salford, in providing the SARA analysis. Thanks are also due to Mr Adrian Tuddenham (Research Technician) for the design and construction of the steam injection system. AKZO NOBEL Chemicals bv, Holland, are gratefully acknowledged for supplying the catalyst materials.

10.

11.

12

13

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References:
1. Layriss, I., and Chacin, J.: The impact of technology on the exploitation of the Orinoco belt: Results and Future Trends Paper No 1998-001 presented at the 7th. UNITAR 15

International Conference on Heavy Oil and Tar Sand, Beijing, China, 27-30 October (1998) 1-10. Mink, F. J.: Canadian heavy crude oil supply/demand 1988-2000 Canadian Heavy Oil Association Reservoir Handbook, Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority, (1992) 493-497. Lanier, D.: Heavy Oil A Major Energy Source for the 21st. Century, Paper No 1998-039 presented at the 7th. UNITAR International Conference on Heavy Oil and Tar Sand, Beijing, China, 27-30 October (1998) 361-370. Stosur, G. J., Waisley, S. L., Reid, T. B. and Marchant, L. C.: Tar Sands Technology, Economics and Environmental Issues for Commercial Production beyond the Year 2000, Paper No 1998-002 presented at the 7th. UNITAR International Conference on Heavy Oil and Tar Sand, Beijing, China, 27-30 October (1998) 11-18. Sadler, K. and Houlihan, R.: Oil Sands Development in Alberta An EUB Perspective, Paper No 1998-012 presented at the 7th. UNITAR International Conference on Heavy Oil and Tar Sand, Beijing, China, 27-30 October (1998) 111-125. Butler, R. M.: SAGD Comes of Age!, JCPT, (1998) 37, No. 7, 9-12.. Moore, R.G., Laureshen, C.J., Methta, S.A., and Ursenbach, M.G: Observations and Design Considerations for In Situ Combustion Projects, JCPT, (1999) 38, No. 13, PAPER: 97-100. Sarathi, P.S.: Nine Decades of Combustion Oil Recovery A Review of In situ Combustion History and Assessment of Geologic Environments on Project Outcome, Paper No 1998-124 presented at the 7th. UNITAR International Conference on Heavy Oil and Tar Sand, Beijing, China, 27-30 October (1998) 1189-1200. Butler, R. M., Mcnab, G. S., and Lo, H. Y.,: Theoretical Studies on the Gravity Drainage of Heavy Oil During In Situ Steam Heating , Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, (1981) 59, 455-460. Butler, R. M., and Stephens, D, J.: The Gravity Drainage of Steam Heated Heavy Oil to Parallel Horizontal Wells, JCPT, (1991) April-June, 90-96. ORourke, J.C., Yee, C.T., Chambers, J.I., Begley, A.G., Boyle, H.A., and Luhning, R.W.: UTF Project Status Update, May 1997. Petroleum Society of CIM, 48th Annual Technical Conference, Calgary (1997) June 9-12. Moore, R.G., Laureshen, C.J., Belgrave, J.D.M., Ursenbach, M.G., and Methta, S.A.: In-situ combustion heavy-oil reservoirs: problems and perspectives, In Situ, (1997) 21, No.1, 1-26. Burger. J.G., Sourrieeau, P., and Combarnous, M.: Thermal Methods of Oil Recovery, Institute Francais du Petrooles, (1985). Moore, R.G., Laureshen, C.J., Ursenbach, M.G., Methta, S.A., and Belgrave, J. D. M.: A Canadian Perspective On In Situ Combustion, JCPT, (1999) 38, No. 13, PAPER: 93-10-07. Greaves, M., T. X. Xia, Turta, A. T., and Ayasse, C.: Recent Laboratory Results of THAI and Its Comparison

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18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

With Other IOR Processes, SPE paper: 59334, presented at the 2000 SPE/DOE Improved Oil Recovery Symposium, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 3-5 April (2000). Greaves, M. and Turta, A.T.: Oil Field In Situ Combustion Process, U.S. Patent No. 5,626,191 (1997). Al-Honi, M. A.:Three-Dimensional Physical Model Studies of Air Injection-In Situ Combustion Process: Effect of Reservoir Heterogeneity, Ph.D. thesis, University of Bath (1997). Al-Shamali, O.: In Situ Combustion (ISC) Process Using Horizontal Wells, M.Phil. thesis, University of Bath (1993). Tuwil, A. A.: Horizontal Producer Wells In Situ Combustion Processes, M.Phil thesis, University of Bath (1991). Weissman, J. G.: Review of processes for downhole catalytic upgrading of heavy crude oil, Fuel Processing Technology (1997) 50, N2. 2-3, 199-213. Moore, R.G., Laureshen, C.J., Methta, S.A., Ursenbach, M.G., Belgrave, J.D.M., Weissman, J. G., and Kessler, R. V.: A Downhole Catalytic Upgrading Process for Heavy Oil Using In Situ Combustion, JCPT, (1999), 38, No. 13, PAPER: 96-73. Weissman, J.G., Kessler, R. V., Sawicki, R. A., Belgrave, J.D.M., Laureshen, C.J., Methta, S.A., Moore, R.G., and Ursenbach, M.G.: Down-hole Catalytic Upgrading of Heavy Crude Oil, Energy & Fuels (1996) 10, No.4, 883889. Weissman, J.G., and Kessler, R. V.: Downhole heavy crude oil hydroprocessing, Appl. Catal. (1996) A 144, 116. Hajdo, L. E., Hallam, R. J. and Vorndran, L. D. L.: Hydrogen Generation During In-Situ Combustion, PSE paper No 13661 presented at the SPE 1985 California Regional Meeting, Bakersfield, California, (March 1985) 27-29. Hallam, R. J., Hajdo, L. E. and Donnelly, J. K.: Thermal Recovery of Bitumen at Wolf Lake, SPE paper No

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17022 presented at the Second International Symposium on Improved Oil Recovery, Maracalbo, Venezuela, (Feb. 1987) 24-27. Greaves, M., Saghr, A. E., and Xia, T. X.: CAPRI Horizontal Well Reactor for Catalytic Upgrading of Heavy Oil, Symposium on Advances in Oil Field Chemistry: Downhole Upgrading, ASC National Meeting, Washington, DC, August 20 25 (2000), Sawhney, G., Eddy, D., and Peters, E.: Pressure Controlled Gravity Drainage (PCGD): Method for Effective Utilization of Steam with Horizontal Producers in Heavy Oil Pools, Paper 97-97 presented at the 48th. Annual Technical Meeting of the Petroleum Society, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, June 8-11 (1997). Greaves, M., and Xia, T. X.: Preserving Downhole Thermal Upgrading Using Toe-to-Heel ISC - Horizontal Wells Process, Paper 98-197 presented at the 7th. UNITAR International Conference on Heavy Oil and Tar Sand, Beijing, China, 27-30 October (1998) 1837-1842. Greaves, M., El-Sakr, A., Xia, T.X., Ayasse A., and Turta, A.: Thai New Air Injection Technology for Heavy Oil Recovery and In Situ Upgrading, Paper No 99-15 presented at the 1999 CSGP and Petroleum Society Joint Convention, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, June 14-18. Burger. J.G., Sourrieeau, P., and Combarnous, M.: Thermal Methods of Oil Recovery, Institute Francais du Petrooles, (1985). Jinag, Q, Butler, R. M., and Yee, C.-T.: Steam Gas Push (SAGP) 4: Recent Theoretical Developments and Laboratory Results Using Layered Methods, Paper 2000-51 presented at the Petroleum Societys Canadian International Petroleum Conference 2000, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, June 4-8. Moore, R.G., Belgrave, J. D. M., Ursenbach, M.G., Laureshen, C.J., Methta, S.A., and Gomez, P.A.: In Situ Combustion Performance in Steam Flooded Heavy Oil Cores, JCPT, (1999) 38, No. 13, PAPER: 92-78.

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TABLE 1- BENEFITS OF THAI PROCESS FOR HEAVY OIL RECOVERY AND UPGRADING Gas override is controlled, upright in situ combustion front All mobilised liquids and combustion gases are drawn down into exposed section of horizontal producer well High sweep efficiency, related to the absence of any gas coning (channelling) in the producer Significant environmental benefits due to in situ removal of sulphur and heavy metals Unique enhanced mobility oil zone downstream of the in situ combustion front reduces sensitivity (preferential advancement) to reservoir heterogeneity in the virgin zone, mainly for extra-heavy reservoirs Fluid injectivity is increased due to higher permeability in the burned out zone and production mostly of upgraded and heated oil, immediately downstream of in situ combustion front Front tracking capability via its toe-to-heel propagation with tight control of propagation No extensive prior steaming/heating of oil layer necessary for injector-producer communication development; this is achieved during in situ combustion ignition phase and initiation of the linear front using vertical wells For a commercial line drive operation, for a fixed well pattern, the number of wells is reduced to almost half due to their use first as producers and then as injectors Creates ideal conditions for downhole catalytic upgrading, via the novel CAPRI TM in situ upgrading of heavy oils process, displaying enhanced upgrading, similar to surface upgrading

TABLE 2PROPERTIES OF THE ATHABASCA TAR SAND BITUMEN API Gravity 8 Density @ 25oC (g/cm3) 1.0077 Elements (wt %)* C 81-84 H 10.-11.0 N 0.3-0.6 S 4.6-5.6 Viscosity @ 15oC(cp)* 1.8104 -1106 SARA composition (wt%) Saturates 14.5 Aromatics 37.8 Resins 38.0 Aspheltenes 12.7 Porosity 34 Oil Saturation (wt%) 13.6 -- 15.3 Water Saturation (wt%) 1.75 * Values from Strausz, O. P.: Bitumen and Heavy Oil Chemistry, in AOSTRA Technical Handbook on Oil Sand, Bitumens and Heavy oils, ed. by Hepler, L. G. and His, C. AOSTRA, Edmonton, Alberta (1989)

TABLE 3 EXPERIMENTAL CONDITIONS OF 3-D CELL TESTS 2000-01 2000-02 2000-03 Virgin Athabasca Tar Sand 13.55 13.55 15.3 20 20 15 THAI CAPRI THSF (wet combustion) (Wet combustion) Air flux (Sm3/m2h) 12 -- 18 12 -- 18 Steam injection rate (g/ min) 10 Water air ratio (m3/1000sm3) 1.1 0.6 Well type HIHP HIHP VI2HP Well configuration Direct line drive Direct line drive Staggered line drive Back Pressure (psi) 10--20 10--20 15 to 30 Run Sandpack Oil saturation (wt%) Initial temperature (oC) Method

2000-04 15.3 100 THAI (post-steam flood) 12 -- 22

VI2HP Staggered line drive 15-20

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Run Recovery method

TABLE 4 EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS OF 3-D CELL TESTS 2000-01 2000-02 2000-03 THAI CAPRI THSF

Overall period (hrs) Pre-ignition period (hrs) Dry combustion phase (hrs) Average produce gases (%) CO2 CO O2 CO/(CO2+CO) H/C O2 utilisation (%) Fuel consumption (% OOIP) Injected air (Sm3) Oil recovery (wt%OOIP)* (vol% OOIP)** Air/oil ratio (Sm3/m3) Combustion front velocity (m/hr) Residual oil (% OOIP) Steam/oil ratio (m3/m3)

14.5 3.5 9 17.0 5.6 1.38 0.248 0.0 93.4 8.2 5.37 81.5 85.5 1080 0.035 11.0

11 3.3 5.7 17.1 3.3 0.23 0.162 0.403 99.0 6.3 3.39 43.5 46.0 1190 0.029

14

2000-04 THAI (post-steam flooded) 14.5 3.5 11.5 15.4 3.18 2.54 0.171 0.401 87.9 9.5 8.28 63.9 (83.0*) 66.7 (86.6*) 1690 0.038 8.2

23

* Oil recovery wt% OOIP is calculated from the weight of the initial oil in place. ** Oil recovery vol% OOIP is based on the volume of the initial oil in place. *** The values are calculated based upon the residual oil after steam flooding. Test terminated after half-way burn, due to gas leak.

Table 5 -- SARA Analysis of Athabasca bitumen and Produced oil Samples from Run 2000-01 Sample Crude oil Produced oil Sampling Time (min) 0 75 210 420 570 Saturates (wt%) 14.52 49.0 62.0 69.7 61.0 69.7 Aromatics (wt%) 37.8 9.0 9.2 7.5 9.7 7.3 Resins (wt%) 38.0 38 26.4 21.0 26.0 21.4 Asphaltenes (wt%) 12.7 4.0 2.2 1.8 3.3 1.6

Table 6 Viscosity of produced oil Run 2000-01 Run 2000-04 Sampling Viscosity Sampling Viscosity o time (cp, @20oC) time (cp, @20 C) 0 317 300 325 120 336 420 137 285 148 565 59.4 345 182 645 163 570 72.5 760 66.8

Table 7 Elemental Analysis of Athabasca bitumen and produced oil from Run 2000-01 Element S N Ni V (%) (%) (ppm) (ppm) Crude oil 4.6-5.6 0.3-0.6 60-100 160-300 Produced oil 3.93 0.07 11 23

TABLE 8 COMPARISON OF THAI AND THSF RESULTS Run 2000-01 2000-03 2000-04 Method THAI THSF THAI Primary PostPrimary recovery recovery steam flood recovery Start of Oil Early Long time Long time production production delay delay Oil production high low high rate Oil recovery High Low High (wt%OOIP) (81.5) (23) (83.0) Residual oil Low High Low (wt%OOIP) (11) (8.2) No Yes Oil upgrading Yes (8 oAPI) (8 oAPI) Low High Low Viscosity of (50 to 500 ) (50 to 500) produced oil o (cp, @ 20 C)

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Combustion front
Horizontal injection well

Production well

Fig. 1--Concept of Toe-to-Heel Air Injection (THAI) Process

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Combustion front

Mobile oil zone

Cold Heavy Oil

Air & Water

Producer well
Fig.2 Mobilised oil draining from narrow zone into exposed section of the horizontal well

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Combustion front

Mobile oil zone

Cold Heavy Oil

Air & Water

Annular Catalyst

Producer well

Fig. 3 -- Toe-to-Heel Air Injection Process with Annular Catalyst Layer (CAPRI)

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Vertical injection well

Horizontal Producer well

(a) Direct line drive configuration (VIHP) in THSF

(b)Staggered line drive configuration (VI2HP) in THSF

Steam front

Mobile oil zone

Cold Heavy Oil

Steam

Producer well Steam front propagation during THSF

Fig.4 The Concept of Toe-to-Heel Steam Flood (THSF) using Horizontal Producer Wells

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Steam injection well

Horizontal producer well

Fig. 5 Pressure Controlled Gravity Drainage (PCGD)

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Top Middle Bottom

40 10 5 0 5 20 10 15 20 15 25 30 35 10 40 45 50 55 5 60 0 30 25 35

Fig. 6 Three-dimensional Combustion Cell

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Fig. 7 -- Steam Generator and Temperature Control Element

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Horizontal producer well Horizontal injection well Vertical injection well

(a)

Direct line drive (HIHP)

(b) Staggered line drive (VI2HP)

Fig. 8 Well configurations used in the 3-D cell tests

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1000 Ignitor off

900

Peak temperature ( C)

800

Wet Combustion Air flux: 12Sm3/m2h 3 3 AOR: 1.1 m /1000Sm

700

600

Air flux: 12Sm /m h 500

Air flux: 16Sm /m h

Air flux: 12Sm /m h

400 0 60 120 180 240 300 360 420 480 540 600 660

Time (minutes)

Fig. 9Peak temperature versus time for Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen THAI, Run 2000-01 (Primary oil Recovery)

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25

20

Gas Concentration, %

15

CO2 10
Wet combustion 3 3 WOR: 1.1 m /1000Sm

CO O2

60

120

180

240

300

360

420

480

540

600

660

Time (min)

Fig. 10Produced gas composition versus time for Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen THAI, Run 2000-01 (Primary oil Recovery)

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Wet combustion

12

Oil production rate (ml/min)

10

0 0 100 200 300 400 500 600

Time (min)

Fig. 11Oil Production rate during THAI for Athabasca Tar Sand Run 2000-01 (Primary oil Recovery)

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(a) t = 35 min 40 35 30
400 300 500 400 600 700 700 300 200 800 500 600 400 500 400 300 100 200 100

(b) t = 120 min 40 35 30 25


100 500 400 300 200 100

Y (cm)

25 20 15 10 5 0 10 8 6 4 2 0 0

500 600 500

Horizontal mid-plane

20 15 10

400

100 200 300 100

500

200

5 0 0 5

400 300

200

100

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

Vertical mid-plane

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 8 6 4 2 0

Z (cm)

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

X (cm)

X (cm)

(c) t = 360 min 40 35 30 Horizontal mid-plane


600 600 600 500 400 300 200 500 400 300 200

(d) t = 600 min 40 35 30 25 20 500 15


200 500 400 500 300 200 500 400 500 500 400 600 600 500 400 700 600 500 400 400

Y (cm)

25 500 20 15
400 300

500

10 100 200 5 0 10 8 6 4 2 0 0
300 400

10 5 0 0

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

Vertical mid-plane

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 8 6 4 2 0

Z (cm)

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

X (cm)

X (cm)

Fig. 12 Temperature profiles for Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen THAI, Run 2000-01 (Primary oil Recovery)

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(a) x = 10 cm

(b) x = 25 cm

(c) x = 35 cm

(d) x =50 cm

Fig. 13 Post-mortem pictures of sandpack. THAI Run 2000-01

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3.0

2.5

Air/ Oil ratio (1000Sm /m )

Wet Combustion 2.0

1.5

1.0

0.5

0.0 0 60 120 180 240 300 360 420 480 540 600

Time (min)

Fig. 14 Air/oil Ratio versus time for Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen THAI, Run 2000-01 (Primary oil recovery)

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800 Ignitor off

700

Peak temperature (oC)

600

Wet combustion 3 2 Air flux: 12 Sm /m h 3 3 WOR: 0.75m /1000Sm 500 Air flux: 12 Sm m h
3/ 2

Air flux: 15 Sm3/m2h

400 0 60 120 180 240 300 360 420 480

Time (minutes)

Fig. 15 Peak temperature versus time for Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen CAPRI, Run 2000-02, NiMo Catalyst

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25

O2 20 CO CO 2

Gas Concentration, %

15

10
W et com bustion

60

120

180

240

300

360

420

480

Time (min)

Fig. 16 -- Produced gas composition versus time for Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen CAPRI, Run 2000-02, NiMo Catalyst

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API density of the Produced Oil

Run 2000-01 Run 2000-02


20

15

Wet Combustion

10 0 60 120 180 240 300 360 420 480 540 600

Time (min)

Fig. 17 -- Thermal and catalytic upgrading of produced oil in THAI and CATHAI processes

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Run 2000-01

Run 2000-02

5 4 3
Wet combustion

H2 CH4

5 4 3

(a) Probe x = 15 cm
2 1 0

2 1 0

5 Gas Concentration, % 4 3 2 1 0
0 60 120 180 240 300 360 420 480 540 600 660 Wet combustion

Gas Concentration, %

4 3 2 1 0

(b) Probe x = 47 cm
Wet combustion

Time (min)
5 4 3 2 1 0 0 60 120 180 240 300 360 420 480

(c) Production line

Time (min)

Fig. 18 Hydrogen and methane concentration during Runs 2000-01 and 2000-02

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Crude oil in Place

Light ends (Saturates) Combustion front

Heavy ends (Aromatics, Resin, Asphaltenes)

Thermal Cracking

coke

Produced oil Catalyst Bad

Fig. 19Pattern for Downhole upgrading of heavy oil using CAPRI process

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160

50 45 40 35 30

Steam temperature ( C)

140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 1800

Steam temperature Back pressure

25 20 15

Cumulative oil production (ml)

1600 1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0 12

Oil production rate (ml/min)

10

0 0 60 120 180 240 300 360 420 480 540 600 660 720 780 840 900

Time (min)

Fig. 20Operating conditions and oil production versus time for Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen THSF, Run 2000-03 (primary recovery)

Back pressure (Psig)

32

T. X. XIA AND M. GREAVES

SPE/PS-CIM 65524

(a) t = 60 min 40 35 30
60 50 40 70 60 80 70 60 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 40 50 30 20 30 20

(b) t = 180 min 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 0 5


110 100 110 100 90 8070 60 50 40 100 70 90 80 30 60 50 40 20 30 30

Horizontal mid-plane

Y (cm)

25

20 100 90 15 10 5 0 10 8 6 4 2 0 0

90 80 70

30 6050 40

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

Vertical mid-plane

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 8 6 4 2 0

Z (cm)

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

X (cm)

X (cm)

(c) t = 480 min 40 35 30


130 130 132 130 130 130 130 128 130 126 128 128 130 130 126 130

(d) t = 720 min 40


128 128 126 126 124 126 126 126

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 0 5
136 138 136 134 134 134

134 132 130

132

Horizontal mid-plane

Y (cm)

25 20 15 10 5 0 10 8 6 4 2 0 0 5

128 130 130

134

132

132

132

134 132

132

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

Vertical mid-plane

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 8 6 4 2 0

Z (cm)

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

X (cm)

X (cm)

Fig. 21 Sandpack temperature profiles for Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen THSF, Run 2000-03

SPE/PS-CIM 65524

UPGRADING ATHABASCA TAR SANDS USING TOE-TO-HEEL AIR INJECTION

33

25

CO2 20 CO O2

Air flux: 22 Sm3/m2h

Gas Concentration, %

15

Air flux: 18 Sm3/m2h

10
Air flux: 12 Sm3/m2h

Air flux: 15 Sm /m h Air flux: 15 Sm /m h


3 2

60

120

180

240

300

360

420

480

540

600

660

720

780

840

Time (min)

Fig. 22 Produced gas composition versus time. THAI, Run 2000-04 (post-steam flood)

34

T. X. XIA AND M. GREAVES

SPE/PS-CIM 65524

(a) t = 180 min 40 35 30 Horizontal mid-plane


100 150 100

(b) t = 300 min 40 35 30 25 20 15


100 450 500 250200 300 400 350 450 500 550 600 550 500 450 500 450 100 150 100 400 250 350300 200 150 100 100

150

100

Y (cm)

250 25 300 200

20 500450 400 350 15 300 200 250 150 10 5 0 10 8 6 4 2 0


150

10 550 5

400 350 300 250200 150

100

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

Vertical mid-plane

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 8 6 4 2 0

Z (cm)

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

X (cm)

X (cm)

(c) t = 480 min 40 35 30


600 550 500 600 600 550 550 250 400 450 500 300 350 200 550 400 250 300 350 450 500 200

(d) t = 720 min 40


150 150

35 30

150

650 600 700 550

700

350 550 500 400 350 450 600 650

Y (cm)

25

500 25 450 150

700 650 650 550 600 500 400 450 350

Horizontal mid-plane

20350 400 450 15 500 550 10 5 0 10 8 6 4 2 0 0 5


600 600

20 250 300 650 350 400 550 600 15 450 500 10


650 700 650

550

500450 400 250 200 350 300 200

150

5 0

550 600 650

600 550 500450

350 400

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

Vertical mid-plane

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

10 8 6 4 2 0

Z (cm)

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

X (cm)

X (cm)

Fig. 23 Sandpack temperature profiles for Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen THAI, Run 2000-04 (post-steam flood)

SPE/PS-CIM 65524

UPGRADING ATHABASCA TAR SANDS USING TOE-TO-HEEL AIR INJECTION

35

5000

4500

4000

Water Oil

Cumulative liquid production (ml)

3500

3000

2500

2000

1500

1000

500

0 0 60 120 180 240 300 360 420 480 540 600 660 720 780 840

Time (min)

Fig. 24 Cumulative oil and water production THAI Run 2000-04 (Post-steam flood)

36

T. X. XIA AND M. GREAVES

SPE/PS-CIM 65524

22

20

API density of the Produced Oil

18

16

14

12

10

8 180

240

300

360

420

480

540

600

660

720

780

840

Time (min)

Fig. 25 Thermal upgrading versus time of Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen THAI Run 2000-04 (Post-steam flood)

SPE/PS-CIM 65524

UPGRADING ATHABASCA TAR SANDS USING TOE-TO-HEEL AIR INJECTION

37

(a) x = 5 cm

(b) x = 15 cm

(c) x = 25 cm

(d) x = 50 cm

Fig. 26Post-mortem pictures of sandpack THAI Run 2000-04 (post-steam flood)

38

T. X. XIA AND M. GREAVES

SPE/PS-CIM 65524

(a) Run 2000-03 (THSF)

(b) Run 2000-01 (THAI)

Fig. 27Produced oil samples for (a) steam flood and (b) THAI