Lloydminster area that straddles Alberta and Saskatchewan border contains vast amounts of heavy oil deposits in thin unconsolidated formations. Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sand (CHOPS) has been successfully implemented in these reservoirs. However, primary recovery is still low averaging below 10%. How to economically recover the large amount of remaining oil in place is a challenge. Therefore, an effective follow up recovery process is required.
Steam injection technologies cannot be widely applied because most of the Lloydminster heavy oil reservoirs are thin and the heat losses to overburden and under burden make the process uneconomic. Alternative solvent methods are not commercial yet due to uncertain oil recovery rates and low solvent recovery. Hybrid application of the aforementioned two technologies using hot water together with solvents could be an economic post CHOPS recovery process. The wormholes created during the primary recovery can be used to contact large reservoir volumes with hot water and solvent.
This paper contains the results of hot water and solvent oil recovery experiments conducted in preserved heavy oil cores. Experimental work consisted of three phases. Cores were immersed in hot water in the first phase to pre-heat the formation. Next, cores were exposed to heptane as hydrocarbon solvent. Finally, cores were immersed in hot water again to recover the oil as well as the solvent. The ultimate oil recoveries varied between 42% and 88% OOIP and, the asphaltene precipitation varied between 2.5 wt% and 11.7 wt%. Experiments were also carried out with a distillate from Husky's Lloydminster upgrader used for heavy oil transportation in the pipelines. Better results were obtained if the distillate was used instead of the pure hydrocarbon solvent.
It was observed that oil recovery at the end of the initial hot water injection phase due to thermal expansion and viscosity reduction was negligible compared to the ultimate recovery. However, the first phase serves to condition the reservoir for better diffusion in the second phase when the solvent is injected. The final phase of hot water injection causes the water to strongly imbibe into the matrix enhancing the oil and the solvent recovery.