Producing from bitumen reservoirs overlain by gas caps can be a challenging task. The gas cap acts as a thief zone to the injected steam used during oil-recovery operations and hinders the effectiveness of processes such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). Moreover, gas production from the gas cap can accentuate the problem even more by further depressurization of the gas zone.

Following a September 2003 ruling by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), the oil and gas industry in the province of Alberta, Canada, had approximately 130 million scf/D of sweet gas shut-in to maintain pressure in gas zones in communication with bitumen reservoirs. This decision led to the development of EnCAID (Cenovus' air-injection and -displacement process), a process in which air is injected into a gas-over-bitumen (GOB) zone, and combustion gases are used to displace the remaining formation gas while maintaining the required formation pressure.

An EnCAID pilot was started in June 2006, and preliminary results were reported in 2008. After 8 years of operations, the EnCAID project has not only proved to be effective at recovering natural gas and maintaining reservoir pressure, it has also shown it can heat up the bitumen zone and make the oil more mobile and amenable for production. This led to the development of the air-injection and -displacement for recovery with oil horizontal (AIDROH) process.

The AIDROH process is the second of two distinct stages. First, an air-injection well is drilled and perforated in the gas cap. The well is ignited and air injection is performed to sustain in-situ combustion in the gas zone. This phase is characterized by a radially expanding combustion front, accompanied by conduction heating into the bitumen below. The second stage begins when horizontal wells are drilled in the bitumen zone. The pressure sink caused by drawing down the wells alters the dynamics of the process and creates a pressure drive for the combustion front to push toward the producers in a top-down fashion, taking advantage of the combustion-front displacement and gravity drainage.

In light of the temperature increases observed in the bitumen overlain by the EnCAID project, a horizontal production well was drilled in late 2011 and commenced producing in early 2012. This paper provides an update of the EnCAID pilot results and presents a summary of the technical aspects of the AIDROH project, pilot results, and interpretation of the data gathered to date, such as observation-well temperatures, pre- and post-burn cores, and temperatures along the horizontal producer.

Results indicate that the AIDROH process has the potential to maximize oil production from GOB reservoirs, and efforts continue to be made to optimize its design and operation.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.