Steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and steam and gas push (SAGP) are used commercially to recover bitumen from oil sands, but for thin heavy-oil reservoirs, the recovery is lower because of larger heat losses through caprock and poorer oil mobility under reservoir conditions. A new enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) method, expanding-solvent SAGP (ES-SAGP), is introduced to develop thin heavy-oil reservoirs. In ES-SAGP, noncondensate gas and vaporizable solvent are injected with steam into the steam chamber during SAGD. We used a 3D physical simulation scale to research the effectiveness of ES-SAGP and to analyze the propagation mechanisms of the steam chamber during ES-SAGP. Under the same experimental conditions, we conducted a contrast analysis between SAGP and ES-SAGP to study the expanding characteristics of the steam chamber, the sweep efficiency of the steam chamber, and the ultimate oil recovery. The experimental results show that the steam chamber gradually becomes an ellipse shape during SAGP. However, during ES-SAGP, noncondensate gas and a vaporizable solvent gather at the reservoir top to decrease heat losses, and oil viscosity near the condensate layer of the steam chamber is largely decreased by hot steam and by solvent, making the boundary of the steam chamber vertical and gradually a similar, rectangular shape. As in SAGD, during ES-SAGP, the expansion mechanism of the steam chamber can be divided into three stages: the ascent stage, the horizontal-expansion stage, and the descent stage. In the ascent stage, the time needed is shorter during ES-SAGP than during SAGP. However, the other two stages take more time during nitrogen, solvent, and steam injection to enlarge the cross-sectional area of the bottom of the steam chamber. For the conditions in our experiments, when the instantaneous oil/steam ratio is lower than 0.1, the corresponding oil recovery is 51.11%, which is 7.04% higher than in SAGP. Therefore, during ES-SAGP, not only is the volume of the steam chamber sharply enlarged, but the sweep efficiency and the ultimate oil recovery are also remarkably improved.

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