Co-injection of CO2 or light hydrocarbons with steam in the SAGD process may improve SAGD efficiency and lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions through reduced Steam Oil Ratios (SORs). Various additives are postulated to have differing effects on bitumen recovery, depending on the nature of the reservoir, the operating conditions, and the API gravity of the oil. A PVT study was conducted to investigate the phase behaviour of CO2-, C3-, and C4-bitumen systems at varying concentrations, representing the edge of a SAP steam chamber with the expected temperature range of 70°C to 160°C.

A produced and dewatered bitumen sample was collected from the Cenovus Osprey Pilot in the Cold Lake oil sands region and characterized. Constant Composition Expansion (CCE) experiments were conducted on solvent-bitumen systems in the temperature range of 70°C to 160°C. Filtration tests were also conducted at high temperature and reservoir pressure to investigate the effect of solvent type and concentration on asphaltene precipitation. A Peng-Robinson Equation of State (PR-EOS) model was calibrated to measured data for CO2-, C3-, and C4-bitumen systems. Viscosity of the bitumen saturated with CO2, C3, and C4 was measured with an electromagnetic-based viscometer elevated temperatures. Phase equilibrium calculations were performed using the calibrated EOS to predict the solubility of the solvents in bitumen. A correlation was fitted to the measured viscosity data to predict the liquid phase viscosity as a function of solvent solubility and temperature for each solvent.

From the CCE tests, two equilibrium phases (i.e., liquid and vapour) were observed for the C3- and CO2-bitumen systems. Three equilibrium phases were observed for the C4-bitumen system at high C4 concentrations. These three phases include a bitumen-rich heavy oil phase, a solvent-rich lighter oil phase, and a vapour phase. Due to the extracting/condensing mechanism and asphaltene precipitation, the bitumen-rich phase formed in C3-bitumen system was lighter than the one in C4-bitumen system. Filtration tests showed more asphaltene precipitation by C3 and C4 dissolution than CO2. Moreover, C3 has more potential for asphaltene precipitation than C4.

Viscosity measurements showed that dissolution of C3 and C4 in bitumen resulted in greater viscosity reduction than CO2 dissolution. This difference was more pronounced at lower temperatures. The highest C4 solubility in bitumen and C4 potential for forming a C4-rich liquid phase showed stronger condensing and extracting effect of C4 than C3 and CO2 in solvent-bitumen interactions. Moreover, C4 lead to more bitumen swelling than C3 and CO2. EOS predictions and viscosity measurements indicated that increasing the solvent concentration in a solvent-bitumen system beyond a defined Threshold Solvent Concentration (TSC) has an insignificant effect on solvent solubility and bitumen viscosity reduction.

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