Extra-heavy oil or bitumen wells are very difficult to start up and recover because of the high oil viscosity in cold production. It is necessary to get initial mobility by reducing the viscosity of oil or bitumen when the wells are drilled. Although there are mechanical ultrasonic stimulation technologies, the penetration of ultrasonic wave in the formation is very limited and their efficiency is not very good. Hot water or steam circulation is another option. However the heat loss in the wellbore is too significant to send enough heat to the targeted interval, specifically for deep reservoirs. Solvent could be a better option from both oil viscosity reduction and operation points of view. It can be injected into the well immediately after drilling for soaking, which is a convenient method to reduce viscosity without many complicated procedure as thermal methods. The concern for using solvent to reduce viscosity is selecting the optimal solvent. This paper studied the mixture of some typical extra-heavy oil and bitumen with solvent. After fully mixed with each other, viscosity reduction and potential precipitation have been investigated. Different solvents are discussed and recommended to reduce viscosity for new well start up and work-over.
A series of viscosity tests is conducted in the paper for heavy oil-solvent mixture under different temperatures to discuss the effect of three different solvents (diesel, ligarine and toluene) on viscosity reduction. Through these viscosity tests, the optimal solvent, temperature and solvent concentration for viscosity reduction are recommended. And it is found that after a solvent is placed in contact with heavy oil samples at any temperature in the range of 20 – 80C the reduction of viscosity can be significant. However, considering the economical effectiveness, diesel is not recommended. And 60–90 ligarine and toluene are better choices for starting up super heavy oil or bitumen wells. In addition, as to bitumen, due to its extremely high viscosity, using several times volume of solvent as the bitumen volume still can’t have the viscosity reduce to a desired value. So these solvents tested in the experiments are not recommended for bitumen well starting up after drilling.