The Underground Test Facility (UTF) is producing from three tunnel drilled 500 meter long horizontal well pairs which have produced effectively at their peak rates and reached recoveries of almost 55% 00IP. Two new pairs of 750 meter and 300 meter horizontal wells have been drilled from the surface and were started up in April 1996. Start-up performance and well control methods have been successful. Another 750 meter horizontal well pair is to be drilled from surface in the spring of 1997 and started up in the fall of 1997. Its purpose is to test methods of operating a well pair next to a depleted reservoir without losing steam to it. Net revenue from the UTF Project has funded the costs of adding three surface well pairs and related plant facilities since September 1994. The UTF Project is owned by AOSTRA with nine industry participants, including Gibson Petroleum Company Limited who was appointed Project Operator in October 1995.


This is the third in a series of papers presenting the development status of the Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) process at the Underground Test Facility (UTF) situated 70 kilometers northwest of Fort McMurray, Alberta (Figure 1.1). The first paper1, presented in 1991, covered the initiation of the UTF Project from 1984 to May 1991. It discussed the rationale for starting the UTF, the basic SAGD process, the facilities (shaft, tunnels, underground drill rig, Phase B plant), the results of the three Phase A well pairs, and the drilling and design of the three Phase B well pairs which had not yet started-up. The second paper1,2 reviewed the start-up and performance of the three Phase B well pairs and facilities which had produced 500,000 barrels of bitumen at that time, May, 1994. It also discussed the economics of a potential 30,000 bpd commercial SAGD recovery project.

The current paper looks at the continuing performance of the Phase B wells and facilities which have produced over 2,400,000 barrels of bitumen; the design and April, 1996 start-up of two pairs of SAGD wells drilled from the surface (Phase D) which have produced over 170,000 barrels of bitumen; the design of a third surface well pair to be drilled in the spring of 1997 to test the methods of placing and operating a new well pair next to a depleted reservoir without adverse effects; the features of a produced water recycle plant scheduled for start-up in the fall of 1997; and concludes with a brief discussion of some commercial aspects related to the economics of the SAGD process at the UTF and the marketing of bitumen.

The UTF Project is currently owned by the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA) and funded jointly by AOSTRA (25%) and nine Industry Participants (8 1/3% each) In addition to Gibson, the Industry Participants are: Amoco Canada Petroleum Company Limited., Chevron Canada Resources Limited, China National Petroleum Co. (Canada) Ltd., Imperial Oil Resources Limited, Japex Oil Sands Limited, Petro-Canada, Shell Canada Limited and Suncor Inc.

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