Primary Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sand (CHOPS) recovery factors are low (typically 8%) and most of the oil is left behind in the formation. Canadian Natural Resources Limited (Canadian Natural) is pursuing alternatives to primary recovery and secondary post CHOPS Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) to recover more of this stranded oil resource. Wire-wrapped screens were investigated, using a High-Pressure High Temperature Sand Retention Testing (HPHT-SRT) apparatus, for sand control and inflow performance in a CHOPS formation near Bonnyville, Alberta.

A new HPHT-SRT apparatus was designed/commissioned to better understand the role of oil viscosity on the capability of the standalone sand control screen. The facility allows to control the temperature of the fluid flowing across the sand pack and sand control coupon at different pressure drops. Each test is performed at constant pressure drops up to 300 psi. The temperatures up to 85 °C were tested. Coupons of wire-wrapped screen with three aperture sizes (0.008″, 0.010″, and 0.012″) were tested. Canadian Natural provided oil sand cores and crude oil from the target formation for this testing.

The results indicated a high dependency of the near screen flow performance on the temperature and oil viscosity. As the increase in temperature reduces the oil viscosity below 300 cP, the near screen pressure gradient falls 26% to 40% under constant pressure drop for different aperture sizes. As the screen aperture increases from 0.008″ to 0.012″, the flow rate increases up to 20% for the test stages at 85°C temperature and up to 162% for the test stages at 25°C, for the tested pressure drops. The results indicate that at higher viscosities, the aperture size is the dominant factor in screen flow performance where a slight increase in aperture increases the flow performance and reduces pressure drop. However, increasing the aperture size, up to 0.012″, led to an increase in the sanding over 0.20 lb per square feet of the screen (lb/sq.ft.), which exceeds the acceptable threshold of 0.12 to 0.15 lb/sq.ft. for typical SRTs. Based on the pressure drops and produced sand results, a 0.010″ aperture size was recommended for the target formation.

This paper outlines the results of the experiments with a HPHT-SRT, which is developed to better assess the function of sand control design for heavy oil assets. This phase of the work mainly focused on better understanding the role of the oil viscosity on sand control performance.

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