As a critical input in determining the maximum steam injection pressure, caprock integrity assessment in thermal operations has become increasingly important because of the potential severe consequences of a caprock integrity breach on the environment, safety and project economics. Because of the complex thermo-poro-mechanical coupling of the thermal stimulation process, numerical simulation is required in evaluating caprock integrity.

Thermal stimulation of heavy oil reservoirs significantly alters the pore pressure and in-situ stresses not only in the reservoir, but also in the caprock. Rock mechanical properties also change with temperature, pore pressure, stresses and rock deformation. Accurate characterization of reservoir and caprock mechanical properties and constitutive behavior is critically important in caprock integrity analysis. Through geomechanical and fluid flow coupled simulation of a steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) case using commercially available reservoir simulator and finite element geomechanical simulator, this paper discusses the physical processes that occur in thermal operations, including stress and strain change, rock volume change, and rock failure, in both the reservoir and the caprock. The effects of rock elastic and strength properties, constitutive model, coefficient of thermal expansion, thermally induced pore pressure, and steam injection pressure on reservoir deformation and caprock integrity will be explained through simulation cases.

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