The steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) recovery process is strongly impacted by the spatial distributions of heterogeneous shale barriers. Though detailed compositional flow simulators are available for SAGD recovery performance evaluation, the simulation process is usually quite computationally demanding, rendering their use over a large number of reservoir models for assessing the impacts of heterogeneity (uncertainties) to be impractical. In recent years, data-driven proxies have been widely proposed to reduce the computational effort; nevertheless, the proxy must be trained using a large data set consisting of many flow simulation cases that are ideally spanning the model parameter spaces. The question remains: is there a more efficient way to screen a large number of heterogeneous SAGD models? Such techniques could help to construct a training data set with less redundancy; they can also be used to quickly identify a subset of heterogeneous models for detailed flow simulation. In this work, we formulated two particular distance measures, flow-based and static-based, to quantify the similarity among a set of 3D heterogeneous SAGD models.

First, to formulate the flow-based distance measure, a physics-based particle-tracking model is used: Darcy’s law and energy balance are integrated to mimic the steam chamber expansion process; steam particles that are located at the edge of the chamber would release their energy to the surrounding cold bitumen, while detailed fluid displacements are not explicitly simulated. The steam chamber evolution is modeled, and a flow-based distance between two given reservoir models is defined as the difference in their chamber sizes over time. Second, to formulate the static-based distance, the Hausdorff distance (Hausdorff 1914) is used: it is often used in image processing to compare two images according to their corresponding spatial arrangement and shapes of various objects.

A suite of 3D models is constructed using representative petrophysical properties and operating constraints extracted from several pads in Suncor Energy’s Firebag project. The computed distance measures are used to partition the models into different groups. To establish a baseline for comparison, flow simulations are performed on these models to predict the actual chamber evolution and production profiles. The grouping results according to the proposed flow- and static-based distance measures match reasonably well to those obtained from detailed flow simulations.

Significant improvement in computational efficiency is achieved with the proposed techniques. They can be used to efficiently screen a large number of reservoir models and facilitate the clustering of these models into groups with distinct shale heterogeneity characteristics. It presents a significant potential to be integrated with other data-driven approaches for reducing the computational load typically associated with detailed flow simulations involving multiple heterogeneous reservoir realizations.

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