Steam assisted gravity drainage


Steam assisted gravity drainage

Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) is an enhanced oil recovery technology for producing heavy crude oil and bitumen. It is an advanced form of steam stimulation in which a pair of horizontal wells is drilled into the oil reservoir, one a few metres above the other. Low pressure steam is continuously injected into the upper wellbore to heat the oil and reduce its viscosity, causing the heated oil to drain into the lower wellbore, where it is pumped out.

Description

In the SAGD process, two parallel horizontal oil wells are drilled in the formation, one about 4 to 6 metres above the other. The upper well injects steam, possibly mixed with solvents, and the lower one collects the heated crude oil or bitumen that flows out of the formation, along with any water from the condensation of injected steam. The basis of the process is that the injected steam forms a "steam chamber" that grows vertically and horizontally in the formation. The heat from the steam reduces the viscosity of the heavy crude oil or bitumen which allows it to flow down into the lower wellbore. The steam and gases rise because of their low density compared to the heavy crude oil below, ensuring that steam is not produced at the lower production well. The gases released, which include methane, carbon dioxide, and usually some hydrogen sulfide, tend to rise in the steam chamber, filling the void space left by the oil and, to a certain extent, forming an insulating heat blanket above the steam. Oil and water flow is by a countercurrent, gravity driven drainage into the lower well bore. The condensed water and crude oil or bitumen is recovered to the surface by pumps such as progressive cavity pumps that work well for moving high-viscosity fluids with suspended solids.

Operating the injection and production wells at approximately reservoir pressure eliminates the instability problems that plague all high-pressure steam processes and SAGD produces a smooth, even production that can be as high as 70% to 80% of oil in place in suitable reservoirs. The process is relatively insensitive to shale streaks and other vertical barriers to steam and fluid flow because, as the rock is heated, differential thermal expansion causes fractures in it, allowing steam and fluids to flow through. This allows recovery rates of 60% to 70% of oil in place, even in formations with many thin shale barriers. Thermally, SAGD is twice as efficient as the older cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) process, and it results in far fewer wells being damaged by high pressure. Combined with the higher oil recovery rates achieved, this means that SAGD is much more economic than pressure-driven steam process where the reservoir is reasonably thick. [ cite book
last = Speight
first = James G.
title = The Chemistry and Technology of Petroleum
publisher = CRC Press
date = 2007
pages = 165-167
url =
isbn = 0849390672
]

Invention and development

The gravity drainage idea was originally conceived by Dr. Roger Butler, an engineer for Imperial Oil around 1969. But it wasn't until 1975 when Imperial Oil moved him from Sarnia, Ontario to Calgary, Alberta to head their heavy oil research effort that he pursued the concept. He tested the concept with Imperial Oil in 1980, in a pilot at Cold Lake which featured one of the first horizontal wells in the industry, with vertical injectors. The latter were established to be inefficient by research at the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA) in the early '80s. This resulted in the first test of twin (horizontal) well SAGD, at their Underground Test Facility (UTF) in the Athabasca Oil Sands, which proved the feasibility of the concept, briefly achieving positive cash flow in 1992 at a production rate of about 2000 bbl/day from 3 well pairs.

The original UTF SAGD wells were drilled horizontally from a tunnel in the limestone underburden, accessed with vertical mineshafts. The concept coincided with development of directional drilling techniques that allowed companies to drill horizontal wells accurately, cheaply and efficiently, to the point that it became hard to justify drilling a conventional vertical well any more. With the low cost of drilling horizontal well pairs, and the very high recovery rates of the SAGD process (up to 60% of the oil in place), SAGD is economically attractive to oil companies.

Current applications

This technology is now being exploited due to increased oil prices. While traditional drilling methods were prevalent up until the 1990s, high crude prices of the 21st Century are encouraging more unconventional methods (such as SAGD) to extract crude oil. The Canadian oil sands have many SAGD projects in progress, since this region is home of one of the largest deposits of bitumen in the world (Canada and Venezuela have the world's largest deposits).

The SAGD process allowed the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board to increase its proven oil reserves to 179 billion barrels, which raised Canada's oil reserves to the second highest in the world after Saudi Arabia and approximately quadrupled North American oil reserves.

Disadvantages

As in all thermal recovery processes, cost of steam generation is a major part of the cost of oil production. Historically, natural gas has been used as a fuel for Canadian oil sands projects, due to the presence of large stranded gas reserves in the oil sands area. However, with the building of natural gas pipelines to outside markets in Canada and the United States, the price of gas has become an important consideration. The fact that natural gas production in Canada has peaked and is now declining is also a problem. Other sources of generating heat are under consideration, notably gasification of the heavy fractions of the produced bitumen to produce syngas, using the nearby (and massive) deposits of coal, or even building nuclear reactors to produce the heat. A source of large amounts of fresh and brackish water and large water re-cycling facilities are required in order to create the steam for the SAGD process. Water has often been mentioned in the popular media as a constraint on development, but, according to Alberta Environment, in the oil sands areas less than 5% of the river flows are committed to current or proposed oil projects, and there are few farms or urban centers to compete with them. However, some competing reports say that the proposed excavation of the tar sands will completely deplete the flow from the North Saskatchewan River and that although the tar sands reserves are promising, there is not enough water in Canada to process them under the current processing parameters.

Relying upon gravity drainage, SAGD also requires comparatively thick and homogeneous reservoirs, and so is not suitable for all heavy-oil production areas.

Different processes are still being developed. Derivative processes are being developed including SAGP and ES-SAGD in which non condensable / condensable gas is mixed with the steam.

Alternative methods

Alternative enhanced oil recovery mechanisms include VAPEX (for Vapor Extraction), Electro-Thermal Dynamic Stripping Process, ET-DSP, and ISC (for In Situ Combustion). VAPEX uses solvents instead of steam to displace oil and reduce its viscosity. ET-DSP is a patented process that uses electricity to heat oil sands deposits to mobilize bitumen allowing production using simple vertical wells. ISC uses oxygen to generate heat that diminishes oil viscosity; alongside carbon dioxide generated by heavy crude oil displace oil toward production wells. One ISC approach is called THAI for Toe Heel Air Injection.

ee also

*Steam injection (oil industry)
*Enhanced oil recovery

References

External links

* [http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/ccg/pdfs/Vol3-IntroSAGD.pdf?bcsi_scan_27D7EF85B9B9160A=4US+7bKiNWIHrV1tXmS1+QUAAAC7PFgd&bcsi_scan_filename=Vol3-IntroSAGD.pdf Description of SAGD and SAGD history ]
* [http://www.blueskyprocess.com Supplier of SAGD components]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage - SAGD — Steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) is a drilling technique that is used to extract heavy oil that is too deep or otherwise economically inefficient to mine using traditional methods. The process was originally developed by the Alberta, Canada …   Investment dictionary

  • Steam injection (oil industry) — Steam injection is an increasingly common method of extracting heavy oil. It is considered an enhanced oil recovery (EOR) method and is the main type of thermal stimulation of oil reservoirs. There are several different forms of the technology,… …   Wikipedia

  • Steam-Oil Ratio — The steam oil ratio (SOR) is a metric used to quantify the efficiency of oil recovery processes based on types of steam injection. The steam oil ratio measures the volume of steam used to produce one unit volume of oil. The lower the ratio, the… …   Investment dictionary

  • Oil sands — The Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada, are a very large source of bitumen, which can be upgraded to synthetic crude oil. Bituminous sands, colloquially known as oil sands or tar sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The… …   Wikipedia

  • History of the petroleum industry in Canada (oil sands and heavy oil) — Canada s oil sands and heavy oil resources are among the world s great petroleum deposits. They include the vast oil sands of northern Alberta, and the heavy oil reservoirs that surround the small city of Lloydminster, which sits on the border… …   Wikipedia

  • Connacher Oil and Gas — Limited Type Public (TSX: CLL) Industry Oil and Ga …   Wikipedia

  • List of oil field acronyms — Contents 1 # 2 A 3 B 4 C …   Wikipedia

  • Diffusion of technology in Canada — This article outlines the history of the diffusion or spread of technology in Canada. Technologies chosen for treatment here include, in rough order, transportation, communication, energy, materials, industry, public works, public services… …   Wikipedia

  • Pétrole albertain — Sable bitumineux Pour les articles homonymes, voir Sable et Bitume. Un sable bitumineux (ou bitumeux) est un mélange de bitume brut, qui est une forme semi solide de pétrole brut, de sable, d argile minérale et de l eau. En d’autres mots, c’est… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sable bitumeux — Sable bitumineux Pour les articles homonymes, voir Sable et Bitume. Un sable bitumineux (ou bitumeux) est un mélange de bitume brut, qui est une forme semi solide de pétrole brut, de sable, d argile minérale et de l eau. En d’autres mots, c’est… …   Wikipédia en Français


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.