A review of laboratory and field testing of a new flow control device is presented in this paper. The device is designed specifically to limit steam breakthrough in thermal operations.
For the past few years, four companies operating Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) facilities in Alberta’s oil sands have come together to study downhole Flow Control Devices (FCDs) in a laboratory setting and to share field data of the application of such devices. Within this collaboration, a new device was designed to address the challenge specific to thermal operations, namely limiting steam breakthrough into production wells. Laboratory tests were undertaken to define the steam-limiting characteristics of this device under field representative SAGD conditions at full scale rates, temperatures and pressures. Tests were performed with oil to gauge viscosity sensitivity, as well as with water and steam at various inflow rates, temperatures and steam qualities. Testing was also performed with Non-Condensable Gas (NCG) to help assess how methane production may affect performance under both low and high Gas Volume Fraction (GVF) conditions. Finally, three-phase erosion testing was performed using water, quartz and air, allowing a realistic, scalable assessment of the device’s long-term reliability.
Highlights from these tests are reported and compared to results from testing of conventional, commercially available devices. The new device has shown superior performance relative to other devices designed for non-thermal applications. Thus, it inhibits the influx of steam while allowing the flow of emulsion into a production well. Based on the results of laboratory testing, the device is currently being tested in field operations. Early indications are that the device is performing as expected. Preliminary field data are presented.
Laboratory testing of thermal flow control devices is especially challenging and unique when compared with similar testing for conventional flow control devices. This becomes more evident when testing devices designed specifically to limit steam breakthrough. Furthermore, in thermal operations, the phase change potential that is inherent when operating near the saturation point of water opens new possibilities in the design of flow control devices. A successful, practical implementation of this phase change characteristic was achieved in a collaborative environment.