This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights of paper SPE 166266, ’The Role of Autonomous Flow Control in SAGD Well Design,’ by Sudiptya Banerjee, SPE, Robert Jobling, SPE, Tarik Abdelfattah, SPE, and Hang Nguyen, SPE, Baker Hughes, prepared for the 2013 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans, 30 September-2 October. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

One notable improvement originating from recent field experience is the novel use of injection-/inflow-control devices (ICDs) in a conventional steam-assisted-gravity- drainage (SAGD) well pair. The use of a properly designed ICD completion has proved beneficial to the processes of developing the steam chamber and improving the inflow profile of the producing well of the SAGD pair. Work conducted in the Surmont field of Alberta, Canada, provided an excellent starting point to optimize flow-control improvements to the SAGD process.


To obtain high efficiency, the SAGD process demands a high degree of steam conformance along the wellbore. The better the steam conformance, the greater the amount of oil mobilized and the higher the potential for oil recovery. However, conformance should not come at the cost of excessive steam injection.

A number of thermal inefficiencies (described in the complete paper) are unavoidable in the SAGD process. These collectively result in a deformed and nonoptimal steam chamber that undermines energy maintenance and lowers the ultimate recovery factor. By incorporation of flow-control devices (FCDs) into the injector or producer well, however, a more ideal, more desirable chamber shape can be realized.

Overview of ICD Geometries

Fundamentally, all flow-control devices operate by the same mechanism: They provide an additional pressure drop at select points in the completion string to complement the pressure drop of fluid moving through the reservoir as well as internal pressure drops within the completion itself. Despite this fundamental similarity, however, the methods by which different styles of ICDs create this pressure drop vary strongly with design.

There are three distinctive categories of passive inflow-/injection-control devices (PICDs) available today. The two most common PICD geometries are orifice/tube/nozzle-based (restrictive) (Fig. 1) and helical-channel/baffled- pathway (frictional) (Fig. 2). The restriction-based PICD uses fluid constriction to generate a differential pressure across the device. This method essentially forces the fluid from a larger area through small-diameter ports, creating flow resistance. A frictional-pathway PICD relies instead on surface friction to generate a similar pressure drop. These designs produce a distributed pressure drop over a relatively long area, as opposed to the instantaneous loss through a restriction-style PICD. When fluid flows through the channel/ channels, fluid rheology and channel characteristics interact to create the designed pressure drop.

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