Canada ranks third in the world in terms of oil reserves which are primarily heavy oil and oil sands. In situ production of heavy oil and bitumen by thermal methods based on steam injection is a commercial technology. However, as the availability of better quality deposits is declining, the industry is moving towards development of lower quality oil sands. Lower quality oil sands are typically finer, have lower initial oil saturation and a more complex mineralogy.

Thermal formation damage associated with steam injection is discussed in the paper in regards to oil sands located in the Lower Cretaceous formations in Western Canada. The focus of the paper is the McMurray, Clearwater and Grand Rapids oil deposits. Petrographic data (thin section analysis, X-ray diffraction and scanning electron miscroscopy) and physical rock properties are used to compare three oil sand formations. Results of laboratory experiments to obtain relative permeability data and evaluate thermal formation damage are discussed. Examples of the high temperature-high pressure water-oil relative permeability and steamflood data for three formations are presented. The paper shows that thermal formation damage is reservoir specific.

A multidisciplinary approach is needed to obtain a good understanding of oil sand deposits, in particular lowerquality reservoirs. Laboratory testing to evaluate formation damage effects and obtain relative permeability data is essential for reservoir simulation and feasibility studies for a specific project.

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