Pilot in-situ combustion oil recovery operations began in the South Belridge Field in 1963, and commercial operations began on a 164-acre area in 1964. This operation ended in 1986 when an air compressor failed. South Belridge oil in place of a third of billion barrels of oil with an estimated 8 percent recovery inspired interest in thermal oil recovery in 1947. This study presents results of 22 years of commercial in-situ combustion at South Belridge.
Although continuous steam injection is the most important thermal oil recovery operation in South Belridge, in-situ combustion offers opportunity for extending thermal operations in other fields far beyond bounds appropriate for steam injection. Results at South Belridge for both commercial steam injection and in-situ combustion have been published. Steam injection is among the best in California, and in-situ combustion is considered average for California conditions.
At South Belridge, the surface energy requirement per barrel of oil produced by in-situ combustion was about one fifth that required for steam drive. The pounds of flue gas generated per barrel of oil recovery from in-situ combustion was about half that required for steam drive. Emulsions were produced by in-situ combustion, but posed no special problems. Well failures for in-situ combustion were similar to those for steam drive once old (pre-1964) completions were replaced.
The ratio of cum. inj. air to cum. prod. oil was 3.7 MCF/BBL, about a third of the design ratio. In-situ combustion offers an efficient extension of thermal enhanced oil recovery to deep, high-pressure, low-oil-reactivity formations.