Abstract

Particle-size distribution (PSD) is a list of values that defines the relative amount of particles present according to the size in a sample. The PSD of the McMurray Formation sediments characterizes rock granulometry and is a fundamental indicator of sediment's nature. The size distribution of the component solid particles in the McMurray Formation sediments relates to their porosity, volume of water and bitumen contained within the pore space, and to depositional environment, including lithological association, stratigraphy, aerial distribution, and associated physical processes.

Particle size distribution is known to be a significant factor for evaluating bitumen recovery from an oil sands mine. This is because presence of fines (evaluated by PSD analysis) affects the hot water separation process, processing plant recovery prediction and provides grade control. Presence of more fines translates into lower recovery from commercial oil sands processing. In this paper we investigate whether the particle size distribution should be also considered a critical parameter for evaluation and estimation of permeability of an oil sands reservoir.

We show using the data from the Cenovus Energy's Telephone Lake lease that there is a strong relationship between permeability and particle size distribution data. We also show that the information provided by the PSDs for permeability prediction is more significant than the one inferred from a simple porosity-permeability relationship. Subsequently, we comment on permeability modeling using particle size distribution data and list the techniques available for cleaning and modeling of multivariate PSDs.

We document a methodology for accurate modeling of PSDs and provide a workflow for incorporating these data in improved understanding and modeling of permeability and its distribution.

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