Designing and selecting the proper sand control mechanism for horizontal wells in unconsolidated heavy-oil reservoirs tend to be underlooked in some cases. Standalone completions pose some sand control challenges, which could jeopardize the oil production or even lead to critical problems. Massive sand production, screen/formation plugging, hot spots, and mechanical integrity failures are some of the well-known issues. This study attempts to optimize the slotted liner design for horizontal wells in a heavy-oil field in Colombia.

A careful selection of representative core data was made to study the variation of sand particle-size distribution (PSD) within the development area. Reservoir fluid properties were analyzed. Based on PSD variation and current design criteria in the industry, several seamed slotted-liner configurations were proposed as an alternative completion for testing. Later, a series of large-scale sand retention tests (SRTs) were performed to assess the selected alternatives under typical field production conditions. The effects of aperture size and open-to-flow area were investigated to evaluate flow and sand control performance.

This investigation started with a detailed study of the PSD, particle shape variation, and composition of fines in the development area. The PSD then classified into four distinct minor and major sand facies, ranging from medium to very coarse sand with different fines content. Further investigations have shown that current design is only suitable for a limited number of the PSDs, while the overall PSD classes indicate the requirement for wider slot aperture sizes. The results of the SRTs indicated that the flow performance of the screen is mainly controlled by the slot aperture. Choosing the optimized aperture size avoids unacceptable sanding even for the multiphase flow scenarios with gas. Results also indicated that by increasing the aperture size and application of the seamed slots for the studied formation, plugging could be mitigated.

A comprehensive sand control design workflow for cold primary heavy-oil production in horizontal wells is presented in this work. The current study is one of the first that investigates and compares conventional straight slotted liners with seamed slotted liners at a larger scale for this field. Moreover, this study helps to better understand the effect of design parameters of seamed slotted liners on sand control, flow performance, and plugging tendency.

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