Evaluating Solvent-enhanced Thermal Processes to Replace or Supplement Recovery in Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) Operations

Downhole Flow Control Devices (FCDs) installed in SAGD wells have been shown to reduce the Cumulative Steam Oil Ratio and increase net oil recovery. When used correctly, FCDs can provide improved efficiency over “traditional” SAGD and a lower GHG intensity per unity of production.

At the same time, the industry has been evaluating a variety of solvent-enhanced thermal processes to replace or supplement recovery. These processes typically use various combinations of hydrocarbon solvents and Non-Condensable Gases (NCGs) to replace some or all of the steam injected into the reservoir to mobilize the bitumen.

Research and field pilots indicate that these solvent-enhanced thermal processes can:

  • Reduce energy intensity;
  • Significantly reduce GHG emissions;
  • Reduce water use; and
  • Increase oil recovery.

Optimizing the integration of these two types of technology requires an increased understanding of the complex thermal-hydraulic behaviour of FCDs under thermal, multiphase conditions with solvents and NCGs.

Combining FCDs with solvent-enhanced processes has the potential to significantly reduce both the GHG emissions and energy intensity needed for SAGD production.

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Joint Industry Project Evaluating FCD Performance

Inflow Control Device Testing

C-FER Technologies operates two flow loops to perform full-scale laboratory testing of Inflow Control Devices (ICDs), which are a type of FCD often used for in-situ thermal recovery operations.

The ICD Characterization Loop is used to evaluate the hydraulic performance of ICDs under a variety of operating conditions, including oil, water, steam and non-condensable gases (NCGs).

The ICD Erosion Apparatus subjects ICDs to accelerated erosive conditions using abrasive materials and air injection to simulate the long-term effects of solids production in SAGD representative conditions.

C-FER also operates the Special Environments Lab (SEL), which is one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive containment test facilities. The SEL is a highly specialized facility that includes large-scale explosion proof containment systems, air scrubbers, and the capability of performing fully unmanned testing in either a hazardous or inert environment.

The JIP will establish an industry-accessible and independently operated new test facility for evaluating the performance of FCDs under solvent-enhanced SAGD conditions. The existing testing facility will be upgraded to safely accommodate solvent testing. This approach leverages the safe testing protocols and industry-funded infrastructure already in place at C-FER. It also leverages C-FER’s experience testing with solvents and the existing infrastructure in place for handling hazardous materials in the SEL.

The proposed test program would characterize the performance of commercial and prototype FCDs to assist operators in selecting and implementing the best technologies for solvent enhanced thermal processes. This testing will also assist vendors in identifying ways to improve the performance of their devices in solvent-enhanced SAGD processes.

The expected outcomes of this project are:

  • Improved understanding of solvent-enhanced thermal processes in terms of energy efficiency, oil recovery and GHG intensity;
  • De-risking the implementation of FCDs for solvent enhanced thermal applications by providing independent verification of their performance under controlled representative conditions; and
  • A better understanding of thermal-flow dynamics to help identify new concepts for optimizing FCDs and solvent-enhanced recovery processes.


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