Steam Assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) is demonstrated as a proven technology to unlock heavy oil and bitumen in Canadian reservoirs. One of the long-term concerns with the SAGD process is high energy intensity and related environmental impacts. The addition of suitable hydrocarbon solvents to steam has long been regarded as the simplest and most effective method to increase SAGD performance. Higher oil recovery, accelerated oil production rate, reduced steam to oil ratio and generally more favorable economics is expected from the addition of potential hydrocarbon additives to steam. This paper summarizes experimental results of addition of potential solvents to steam in SAGD process. N-Hexane and n-heptane were co-injected with the steam and the experimental results were compared with pure steam injection. In addition, pure heated n-hexane was injected in one experiment to assess the performance of solvent-based processes. Experiments were conducted using a scaled two-dimensional physical model. Peace River Bitumen samples were used to conduct the experiments at 80 psia.
Experimental results were analyzed to determine the key variables involved in Solvent Assisted SAGD (SA-SAGD) processes. Solvent choice is not solely dependent on mobility improvement capability but also reservoir properties and operational conditions. Co-injection of suitable solvents with the steam led to accelerated oil production rate, higher oil recovery and lower energy to oil ratio. Solvent requirement for pure heated n-hexane injection was considerably high. The vaporized solvent chamber expansion was slow due to low heat content of the solvent and heat losses.