As steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) producers continue to look for methods for enhancing oil recovery, understanding the dynamics at play in the evolution of the steam chambers becomes critical. Steam thief zones introduce operational risks affecting the economic recovery of the bitumen. Sensitive reservoirs need careful monitoring to avoid compromising cap rock integrity and to detect steam breakthrough.

A need exists for real-time, spatially sensitive temperature monitoring in production, injection, and observation wells. Although such monitoring has been used in production and injection wells for decades, operators of SAGD observation wells (with typical two to six per pad) mostly used either piezometers for single-point pressure and temperature measurements and/or multiple-point thermocouple bundles. Distributed temperature sensing (DTS) application in these remote environments has been limited by availability of infrastructure with temperature-controlled environment and power supply in close proximity to the wellhead, which most DTS interrogation equipment requires.

In this paper we introduce and demonstrate the installation of a new stand-alone, low-power DTS solution to address the specific needs of remote observation wells within a northern Alberta SAGD field. An acquisition system with extended working temperature range and small geometry form is installed within enclosures equipped with temperature-control devices and zonal certification. Downhole temperature data is transmitted continuously over a cellular network to a secure server with data-trending software for ease of viewing.

The system was installed in February 2015 and the downhole temperature data accessible through web browser download during the field trial period.

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