An in-depth analysis was performed to determine the ignition delay via the enhanced spontaneous ignition (ESI) method on three well pairs (each pair constituted by one vertical injector and one horizontal producer) belonging to the Toe-To-Heel Air Injection (THAI) pilot in Athabasca. ESI consisted of preheating of the surroundings of injection wells by injecting a steam slug for 3 to 4 months just before starting air injection. At first, the ignition delay had been determined based on both the oil production and on the bottomhole temperatures (BHTs) recorded in the observation wells as well as at the toe of the horizontal producer. For the purposes of this paper, a more rigorous evaluation was carried out based on the variation in time of the apparent atomic hydrogen-carbon ratio (AAHCR) calculated from detailed gas analyses for a long period of time. AAHCR is a very strong synthetic parameter giving a direct indication of the peak temperature value before, during, and after the in-situ combustion (ISC) front is generated. Therefore, it provides complete information on the occurrence of high-temperature oxidation and low-temperature oxidation (LTO) reactions. Using the variation of the AAHCR, it was found that the ignition time was shorter than those determined by the previously mentioned methods. In the case of first well pair, ignition took 3 weeks as compared to the 1 month determined by the previous methods. The second well pair ignited in 1 month as compared to the previously calculated 2 months, and for the third well pair, ignition time was approximately 2 months in both cases.

As an additional and complementary approach, estimation of the ignition time was also based on the variation of individual components of the produced gas. This allowed for the discovery of a new method for ignition time determination. This was possible in the THAI process, unlike conventional ISC processes, significant concentrations of hydrogen (H2) are produced, and the interpretation of its variation can give an indication of the ignition time. The new method is very simple to use, as the percentage of hydrogen in the produced gas starts to take off only after the full establishment of an ISC front, as hydrogen production is associated with high-temperature bond scission reactions in the ISC front. In general, the ignition delay is overestimated to some degree when using this method.

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