Surface deformation, measured from space, provides a means to remotely monitor Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) activities. Using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) to measure surface deformation allows for a common measuring stick with no access issues. Currently surface deformation is measured using many alternative approaches, some of which are less economical and not feasible at the regional scale when compared to InSAR. Information collected from InSAR could be used to develop an informed planning mechanism.

Space based SAR data from January 2009 to August 2011 was examined over a SAGD site in Alberta, Canada. The data was extracted from the satellite archives and advanced InSAR processing techniques were applied to measure the surface deformation over the site.

The InSAR results show the extreme variability in the ground conditions that are to be expected in the region. The surface deformation was measured using a combination of corner reflectors and infrastructure targets. The highly variable ground conditions make monitoring of subtle deformation signals (2.5 – 5 cm/yr) difficult to measure without the use of installed targets. The challenges of InSAR monitoring without installed targets are addressed to emphasize the importance of on-site ground control points.

Furthermore, the surface changes observed with the InSAR results are related to reservoir changes. Geomechanical simulation is dependent on many rock physics parameters and complex geological frameworks. History matching with InSAR observation provides enhanced prediction and estimation of reservoir growth, which can inform decisions related to reservoir performance and caprock integrity.

This paper is a result of a collaboration between the Alberta Energy Regulator, MDA Geospatial Services Inc. (MDA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to examine the requirements for rapid-turnaround measurement of ground deformation over enhanced oil recovery sites in the Alberta Oil Sands. Funding for this effort was partially provided by the CSA.

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