Cold production, where sand production is encouraged, (CHOPS), has proven to be successful for vertical wells. However, application of CHOPS to horizontal wells has been less profitable due mainly to excessive sand cleanout costs. Therefore, reducing sand cleanout costs by controlling sand production into horizontal wells while enhancing the surrounding permeability of the formation is an important factor in optimizing cold production from unconsolidated heavy oil reservoirs.
This paper presents the results of an experimental investigation of the flow of oil and sand in the vicinity of a horizontal well under cold production. Specifically, the experiments physically simulated the flow of oil and sand into a slot in a horizontal well liner. The parameters studied include slot width and sand properties (morphology and grain size distribution).
Experimental results suggest that sand production through horizontal well slots can be controlled, depending more on sand grain sorting than on grain morphology or average diameter. The sand cut had a tendency to be higher at the beginning of the sand production period and to decline with time. In most tests, the decline in sand cuts continued until no more sand was produced. Significant changes in the permeability and porosity were determined in the vicinity of the slot. The changes in the parameters were less significant away from the slot. The largest fractions of the sand (< 20 mesh U.S. - 500 µm) have an important role in arch/bridge formation.
Cold production is a primary non-thermal process used in unconsolidated heavy oil reservoirs in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. In this process sand and oil are produced together in order to enhance the oil recovery1–3. A comprehensive review of cold production has been presented by Tremblay et al.1.
Hall and Harrisberger4 found that arch stability was rate sensitive at low confining stress but independent of flow rate at high confining stress levels. They observed that angular sand without compaction did not form an arch. When a moderate compaction was applied it could lead to a slightly stable arch. A better interlocking of the surface grains was the explanation for this result. For round sand, arching was not observed for a loose or dense pack at low loads. Yim et al.5 observed that in addition to the flow rate, the arch stability is strongly dependent on the granulometry of the sand and on the size of the perforation. Larger perforations required larger grains to form stable arches. McCormack6 conducted experimental work with spherical particles to determine the arching/bridging mechanism that influences the performance of wire-wrapped sand screens.
Selby and Farouq Ali7 showed that sand production increases as the overburden pressure and the fluid flow rate are increased. They also found that spherical small grain sand packs can produce more sand than angular large grain sand packs. Cleary et al.8 observed that the structure of an arch depends on the stress distribution in a sand pack. The cohesive force was shown to have an important role in arch stability when different hydrocarbons liquids were used.