Expanding Solvent-Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (ES-SAGD) was invented to enhance SAGD performance by reducing energy use while increasing oil production rates and recovery factor. ES-SAGD involves co-injection of solvent and steam. The majority of energy losses occur between the steam generator and sandface and at the top of the depletion chamber (to the overburden). ES-SAGD performance improvement is traditionally ascribed to oil phase dilution which in turn leads to oil phase viscosity reduction. However, the amounts of solvent added to the process are typically very small (< 5-6% by volume) thus it remains unclear how the solvent can lead to significant lowering of the steam-to-oil ratio (~25-50%) and large enhancements of the oil rate (~25 to 100%). Here, we report on how SAGD and ES-SAGD (hexane, heptane and octane solvents) can potentially perform in the presence of in-situ emulsification at steam chamber edge. We present a numerical approach which allows incorporation of emulsion modeling into SAGD and ES-SAGD simulations with commercial reservoir simulators via a two-stage pseudo chemical reaction. Numerical simulation results show excellent agreement with experimental data for low-pressure SAGD and ES-SAGD. Accounting for viscosity alteration, multiphase effect and enthalpy of emulsification appear sufficient for effective representation of in-situ emulsion physics during SAGD and ES-SAGD in very high permeability systems. Results also show that, in-situ emulsification may play a vital role within the reservoir during SAGD; increasing bitumen mobility thereby decreasing cSOR. It was concluded that traditional approach to numerical ES-SAGD simulation can significantly over-predict incremental oil recovery. Results from this work extend understanding of ES-SAGD by examining its performance improvement over traditional SAGD in terms of multiphase behavior at the edge of the chamber, thermal efficiency and incremental recovery. Results reveal that dynamics at the edge of the chamber is more complex than simple solvent dilution model.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.