SRC’s Post-CHOPS Well Test Centre evaluates new technologies to capture huge left-behind heavy oil resources

SRC’s Post-CHOPS Well Test Centre evaluates new technologies to capture huge left-behind heavy oil resources

This article is brought to you by: SRC

Sept. 1, 2016, 7:33 a.m.


Gaining access to the estimated 30 billion barrels of heavy oil held in Saskatchewan reservoirs has been an ongoing research project for more than 60 years.

Early technologies allowed developers to tap around three per cent of the massive resource. The arrival of progressive cavity pumping led to cold heavy oil production with sand (CHOPS), which provided access to seven per cent of the resource.

But CHOPs is now running its course, leaving the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) to work with collaborators to figure out how to leverage the thousands of wells nearing the end of their productive life to pump out more of the initial heavy oil endowment. Increasing recovery to 20 per cent would add three billion barrels of reserves, worth $100 billion at today’s prices.

“The infrastructure is there; the wells are there. There has been lots of investment,” says Muhammad Imran, manager of EOR Field Development with SRC’s Energy Division.
Muhammad Imran, manager, EOR Field Development, SRC Energy Division

SRC recently launched its Post-CHOPS Well Test Centre to test, monitor and validate new technologies that could work in these end-of-life wells. In the CHOPS process when the reservoir’s gas drive is depleted, it leaves behind a network of wormholes or open channels in the formation. The challenge is how to use the network of wormholes to design enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes, and this is the focus of industry and SRC.

Imran says they are currently working with technology developers on a number of promising candidates to tap the remaining oil from CHOPS reservoirs. SRC has leveraged its 3D modelling capabilities to advance its understanding of fluid mobility in post-CHOPS wells.

SRC has conducted a proof-of-concept numerical simulation study to evaluate recovery capability of alkali metal silicide when injected into the depleted CHOPS reservoirs with a network of wormholes. This EOR method has the potential to provide thermal, chemical and gas-drive benefits in one treatment.

“Alkali metal silicide is very reactive with water, so when you inject it into the reservoir, it reacts with reservoir water and generates a lot of hydrogen and huge amounts of energy,” he explains. “It re-pressurizes the reservoir and produced heat reduces oil viscosity. One of the reaction products acts as a surfactant that has the ability of altering the interfacial tension and wettability, allowing enhancement in oil recovery.”

SRC is also involved in conducting proof-of-concept studies to test potential post-CHOPS EOR processes where steam and flue gases are co-injected into depleted CHOPS reservoirs. One example of such a process is the steam combustion vaporizer process.

The successful application of post-CHOPS will likely not come from one single technology, but from a mix of a few technologies, says Imran.

SRC is also heavily involved in testing and validating thermal EOR processes, especially hybrid thermal where solvents or surfactants are added with steam to control steam to oil ratios,” Imran explains. “We have a complete model to screen surfactants and a defined series of tests to give a complete picture of how a surfactant will behave with steam and whether it will work in reservoir conditions. We also have a comprehensive process and a suite of equipment to determine surfactant performance in the vapour phase before further testing on core flood or large 3D physical model equipment. If it shows good performance, then we do corefloods and 3D physical model experiments and then numerical simulations that gives us a tuned reservoir model. That model is the starting point for field scale simulation as it provides the opportunity to evaluate the process technically and economically.”

Another interesting thermal EOR technology working its way through SRC’s proof-of-concept process is in situ steam reflux (ISR).

“With the use of heaters in the wells, the in situ water near to the wellbore is vaporized into steam, which rises up the formation to create a steam chamber. The condensed steam falls back on the heater and is recycled back into steam. Because of in-situ recycling, this process needs little fresh water injection and thus cuts down on the steam to oil ratios,” says Imran. SRC has done number of large-scale physical model experiments to prove the concept of the ISR process.


About prosperitysaskatchewan

Consultant on Saskatchewan's natural resources.

Posted on September 1, 2016, in economic impact, miscellaneous, oil, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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