SAGD has been implemented through a variety of different operating schemes. Determining the optimum and cost-effective strategy poses the greatest challenge to any SAGD reservoir. In addition to average rock quality, reservoir heterogeneities have a deep impact in steam chamber development and the overall volumetric sweep. This paper examines two well pairs in the Surmont pilot project. From this analysis and general experience, the following critical factors must be considered when optimizing SAGD operating strategies:

  1. Getting enough heat close to the producer

  2. Accounting for areal (lateral) heterogeneity

  3. Identifying shale extent and its effect in partially retarding steam chamber height growth

  4. Determining the effect of water saturation and assumed irreducible water saturation

  5. Understanding that permeability is often higher than air permeability most likely due to dilation effects

This paper also addresses potential geological risk through analogy and the amount of heterogeneity that must be accounted for when developing a representative simulation.

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