ExxonMobil and its Canadian affiliate, Imperial Oil Resources, are actively developing the next generation of solvent-aided and solvent-dominated heavy oil recovery processes. While these new recovery processes possess multiple environmental and technical advantages relative to traditional heavy oil recovery processes, there are a variety of challenges that must be addressed and overcome before commercial application. One especially promising technology is the Solvent Assisted – Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SA-SAGD) process. In the SA-SAGD process, a light hydrocarbon solvent (diluent) is injected along with dry steam in a dual horizontal well SAGD configuration.
An integrated research program has been implemented in order to progress the SA-SAGD technology from the laboratory to the field and to better quantify the benefits of SA-SAGD over SAGD. This integrated research program includes fundamental laboratory work, advanced numerical simulation studies, scaled physical laboratory models, and a two well-pair field pilot. In this paper, we review the scope, technical challenges, and key learnings from the laboratory, numerical modeling efforts, and the field pilot. Each individual component of the research program is important and provides unique and useful information concerning the SA-SAGD process. Given the technical and economic challenges of solvent-assisted thermal heavy-oil processes, these types of fully integrated research programs are essential in order to successfully progress new technologies from the laboratory to the pilot scale and ultimately to the commercial scale. Ultimately, the program is targeted at developing reliable commercial predictive capabilities that have been validated against both laboratory and field data, for application to a wide range of heavy oil reservoirs, operating conditions, and development plans.