The diatomite reservoir in the Belridge field, California, has been undergoing water injection for pressure maintenance to mitigate reservoir compaction and improve oil recovery. The reservoir is over one thousand feet thick with multiple layers, high compressibility, and very low permeability. Accurate placement of injection water across this massive reservoir is essential for balancing layer by layer voidage and reducing compaction. Therefore, monitoring sub-surface injection profile has become an important part of diatomite waterflood surveillance. However, monitoring profile with conventional wireline radioactive tracer tools has proven to be challenging due to the inability to access wellbores for logging because of scale build-ups or casing deformations.

Over the past several years, a number of field trials have been performed to see if injection profile could be monitored using distributed temperature sensing (DTS) fiber-optic technology. If the technology works, then the strategy would be to install the DTS fiber early in the life of a well while the whole wellbore was still accessible. Once the fiber was in place, dynamic monitoring of injection profile could continue even if the well later developed scale build-ups, dog-legs, or other obstructions.

Initial tests at Belridge were done with the DTS cable temporarily deployed on slickline. Once it was established that DTS could be used to measure injection profile in diatomite, several permanent installations were made in different areas of the field and in injectors with different mechanical configurations. Also, three different analysis methods were tried: stabilized injection; thermal restoration; and thermal tracer. In all cases, DTS-derived injection profiles were compared against wireline radioactive tracer profiles run at about the same time and under similar injection rates and pressures.

Based on the technical success of the pilot, it was decided to scale-up to a 25-well program prior to full-field implementation in all 1000+ injectors in Belridge. This scaled-up program was focused on retrofitting DTS in existing injectors that still have an unobstructed well bore. These installations required the DTS cable to be run inside the injection tubing to the current effective depth of the well. However, the presence of the fiber-optic cable inside the tubing made the well unserviceable for future interventions such as coil-tubing clean-out, stimulation, or cased-hole logging operations. For this reason, design work is currently under way to run the DTS cable outside the injector casing at the time of initial drilling and completion of the well.

This paper is a case study of the application of a new technology in solving surveillance issues in an old field. It covers the slow but methodical implementation of the DTS project, the challenges, and our solutions. It presents many examples of injection profiles derived from DTS measurements and a comparative evaluation of different interpretation techniques. The learnings from this project have potential for application in other secondary or tertiary recovery operations that require measurement of injection profile or continuous monitoring of the injection front.

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