The current in situ exploitation of oil sands in Alberta employs steam-based recovery methods, which are energy-intensive. A few companies are adding solvent to steam aiming to reduce steam requirements. The mechanism of oil recovery by steam with added solvent is not clear. Over the years, on several occasions- as at the present time- the oil industry has resorted to the use of solvents with steam in thermal recovery operations. The past trials with solvent were short-lived in view of the cost of solvents as well as the lack of success. Given the controversy regarding the use of solvents with steam, this work is intended to explain whether solvent injection with steam increases oil recovery or not.
In this work, a new analytical model is developed for describing the solvent-SAGD performance based on the combination of an overall solvent mass balance, heat balance and volumetric oil displacement and Darcy's oil rate using a mixture viscosity model as a function of temperature and solvent concentration ahead of front which satisfy the equilibrium in the system.
The objectives of this work are to predict: vapour-steam chamber growth, oil production rate, solvent production rate, solvent loss (or solvent retention) rate, and the effect of solvent type and concentration on the solvent-SAGD process. The results show that the rate of solvent retention increases over time, while the rate of solvent and bitumen production decreases.
The efficiency of this process is evaluated using cumulative steam-oil and solvent-oil ratio, which permits a comparison of the efficiency of SAGD and solvent-SAGD processes for different solvents. On the whole, the results of this approach give a better understanding of the mechanism of oil production during the solvent-SAGD process by interconnecting vapour chamber conditions and the conditions of heated and diluted oil ahead of the interface.