The Pembina field is the largest oil field in Canada with in excess of 5,000 current operating wells. The field has been on production for more than 40 years and under water flood since the early 1960's. In spite of its advanced age, this field contains a large amount of remaining reserves. Reducing or controlling operating costs today and into the future will be a major challenge due to the advanced age of the wells and facilities. It is paramount to control cost to lengthen the economic life of the field resulting in incremental oil recovery.

One of the technologies used to control operating costs in aging fields has been wellhead managers with and without remote control (SCADA). Petro-Canada investigated wellhead automation in a number of mature fields in Canada and the U.S. prior to the implementation of a ten well test project in the Pembina field. There were a number of objectives to be studied during the pilot test:

  • the reduction of bottom hole equipment failures related to fluid pound;

  • the reduction of lost production related to equipment failures with better surveillance;

  • prove the applicability in low oil rate, high water cut wells in a mature water flood;

  • optimize the use and reduce the cost of paraffin and scale control chemicals;

  • the effectiveness of using an integrated team of production engineering, field technical and operations staff during the design and implementation phases of the test.

The pilot test was expected to last for a maximum of 6 months, as wellhead managers had proven successful at reducing costs and production losses in other fields. The main purpose of the test was to gain the field operators support of the system, as well as quantify the benefits under Pembina operating conditions prior to a field wide expansion of a fully automated SCADA system.


The Pembina Cardium Field(l) located in west central Alberta is the largest oil field in Canada in terms of both areal extent and original oil in place. The portions of the field operated by Petro-Canada are located in the southeastern area near the village of Buck Creek (Figure 1). The first producing wells were drilled in this area in 1954 with first water flooding started in 1957. By 1961, all Petro-Canada operated areas were under water flood.

This area was operated by Norcen Energy and predecessor companies up until 1994 when, Petro-Canada was elected operator. The Cardium reservoir in this area has responded well to water flooding and the production trend is characterized as low decline (4 to 7% per year) with a long remaining reserves life index in spite of more than 40 years of past production. The operated properties consist of approximately 120 producing wells, 100 injection wells and 20 suspended wells. Most of the area is on 80 acre well spacing and 160 acre 5 spot water flood patterns. There are 6 separate tank batteries complete with water plants and numerous satellite testing facilities scattered throughout the property.

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