The use of multilateral wells started in the mid-1990s in particular in Canada, and they have since been used in many countries. However, few papers on multilateral wells focus on their production performance. Thus, what can be expected from such wells in terms of production is not clear, and this paper will attempt to address that gap.
Taking advantage of public data, the production performance of multilateral wells in various Western Canadian fields has been studied. In the cases reviewed in this paper, these wells always target a single formation; they have been used in a variety of fields and reservoirs, mostly for primary production but also for polymer flooding in some cases. Multiple examples will be provided, mostly in heavy oil reservoirs, and production performance will be compared with nearby horizontal wells whenever possible.
From the more classical dual and trilateral, to more complex architectures with seven or eight laterals, and the more exotic with laterals drilled from laterals, the paper will present the architecture and performance of these complex wells and of some fields that have been developed almost exclusively with multilateral wells. Interestingly, multilateral wells have not been used much for secondary or tertiary recovery, probably because of the difficulty of controlling water production after breakthrough. However, field results suggest that this may not be such a difficult proposition. One of the most remarkable wells producing a 1,250-cp oil under polymer flood has achieved a cumulative production of more than 3 million bbl, which puts it among the top producers in Canada.
Although multilateral wells have been in use for more than 25 years, very few papers have been devoted to the description of their production performance. This paper will bring some clarity to these aspects. It will also attempt to address when multilateral wells can be used and to compare their performance to that of horizontal wells in the same fields. It is hoped that this paper will encourage operators to reconsider the use of multilateral wells in their fields.