Model predictive control (MPC) technology has been successfully used in many midstream and downstream processes to control and optimize processes, production and overcome operating challenges. In spite of this, there are no documented applications of MPC on upstream heavy oil extraction processes, such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). MPC can be used in SAGD process to stabilize well pair operating variables and thus help optimize production.

As a first step in the initiative of implementing MPC technology to control SAGD process, we investigate the feasibility of controlling the SAGD process with MPC by integrating the process control software with a reservoir simulator consisting of a single SAGD well pair. For this purpose we ran a computer-based model using commercial reservoir simulator software coupled with proprietary MPC software. This allowed us to run different control configurations along with different reservoir models to investigate the effectiveness of MPC technology.

The paper discusses the simulation setup and results of a typical simulation run indicating that MPC technology can be used to stabilize important SAGD process variables, such as subcool and steam chamber pressure. In addition, this method can help optimize production by enabling maintenance of these process variables at their optimum.

The success of this investigation also demonstrates the ability to connect commercial reservoir simulator software with other computer programs opening up the possibility to test a wide range of algorithms for SAGD process control and optimization.

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