China has significant heavy oil deposit of more than 1.9 billion tons of oil reserve in place (OOIP) with four major heavy oil producing areas, which are Liaohe Oil Field, Xinjiang Oil Field, Shengli Oil Field and Henan Oil Field. China has many types of heavy oil reservoirs such as single-layer, multi-layer, thick-blocked reservoir with wide range of oil viscosity from 100 cp to 100,000 cp and depth from 200m to more than 2000m.

Heavy oil has been produced for many years in China. However, the commercial heavy oil development was initial in 1982, when the first cyclic steam injection pilot test was successful in Liaohe Oil Field. In 1993, the heavy oil production had reached 10 × 106 tons per year. From then on, the annual heavy oil production has kept the level of 10~13 × 106 tons for more than 10 years.

The development manners of heavy oil reservoir are cyclic steam stimulation (CSS), steamflooding, waterflooding. CSS is the major manner, widely used in traditional-heavy, extra-heavy and super-heavy oil reservoir in China with the annual production more than 85% of total heavy oil production. CSS has become a mature industry technology, which includes high-efficient steam injection, artificial lifting, sand controlling, re-entry drilling, steam surveillance and so on. Steamflooding is successful in developing shallow heavy oil reservoir such as Karamy oil reservoir, including high-temperature profile conformance, surveying and steam measurement technologies.

This paper reviews the distribution of heavy oil resources, status of heavy oil development, trends and also the challenges faced in improving utilization of the resources in China.

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