Scale deposition and its treatment are crucial part of any thermal recovery method. High temperature variation, phase change associated with steam condensation and flashing, and complex flow dynamics of the wells make the thermal wells more susceptible to scale deposition. Several studies evaluated the type of scales collected from plugged sand screens; however, more investigation is required to address the reservoir conditions and wellbore hydraulics affecting the scaling potential of minerals at downhole conditions.
A laboratory workflow combined with a predictive modeling toolbox to evaluate scaling tendency of minerals for different downhole conditions has been developed. First, saturation indices (SI) for different minerals were calculated at reservoir temperature and pressure using water chemistry analysis and the Pitzer theory. Then, the mineral composition of deposited materials collected from thermal wells in Athabasca and Cold Lake area were characterized using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometry (EDS), Total Organic Carbon (TOC) and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) analyses. Finally, a comparison analysis was performed between predictive and characterization results.
The results of SI calculations showed that Mg-based silicates and Fe-based minerals are positive (SI>5) even at high temperatures (T>430 K). This indicates that the possibility of deposition for these minerals is high. Carbonates (calcite and aragonite) minerals are the most common depositing minerals. However, the extent of scaling index of carbonates is controlled by the concentration of Ca, HCO3, and CO3 in the water sample. The characterization results confirm the results of modeling part. The results of SEM/EDS, ICP-MS analyses showed that carbonates, Mg-based silicates, and Fe-based corrosion products are the most common depositing materials among all minerals.
The workflow presented in this study will help the industry to evaluate the scaling potential for thermal wells at different downhole conditions to make a proper decision to prevent plugging of the completion tools.