Effective steam distribution in the injector is the key to achieve efficient and uniform reservoir heat up in SAGD operation. The focus of this research is on simulating the flow dynamics in outflow control device (OCD), the annular space between the liner and tubing, the slots, and the gap between the slotted liner and formation, using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The objective is to use the approximated metamodel to optimize the OCD design and achieve more even steam distribution through the slots.

A CFD model of the steam is developed through a systematic investigation of different domain sizes to study the effect of the pressure drop across the nozzle and the steam distribution. An evenness factor is proposed to quantify the overall steam distribution and to identify problematic slot areas. Based on the developed model, the OCD design is simplified and parameterized to conduct optimization efficiently. With the CFD expert system for steam simulation, the robust simulation models corresponding to different designs are obtained, providing accurate simulation results to the optimization algorithm. Using metamodeling, the response to the five design variables is derived, and the optimum is obtained subsequently. A cylindrical region representing the vicinity of the liner is added to the periphery of the slots to translate the optimization results into the realistic design.

The CFD simulation and OCD design optimization show that the steam distribution is highly controlled by the OCD design, mainly by the nozzles’ distance to the central plane. The novel evenness factor provides a quantitative assessment of the effect of design changes and it enables the application of advanced design optimization algorithms. Fifty-five numerical experiments are conducted to obtain the relationship between the proposed evenness factor and the design variables. The overall design of the OCD can be fine-tuned to account for the steam distribution. At the beginning of the heating cycle, some flow reversal is found in some specific slots, which may lead to sand production, plugging and erosion. When the distance between the two sets of nozzles is extended to 50 mm, the normalized evenness factor shows that the steam distribution can be improved by 12.5% from the original design in which the distance used to be zero. Moreover, the velocity magnitudes in the reverse flow affected region are also reduced in the optimized design.

The CFD simulation is a powerful tool to understand the flow dynamics through OCDs. This study applies a robust CFD model to investigate the complex flow interactions that affect steam distribution through OCDs to improve their design and thus to improve the steam distribution. The provided model and the design optimization algorithm could ultimately improve the heating efficiency.

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