The majority of the world's petroleum resources are contained in heavy oil and oil sand reservoirs. Average recoveries from heavy oil and oil sand reservoirs are typically low ranging from 5 to 15 percent for cold heavy oil production and from 30 to 85 percent for steam-based in situ processes. There are two reasons for this: first, geological heterogeneity in the form of variable porosity and permeability properties and secondly, fluid heterogeneities in the form of variable saturations, fluid compositions and thus viscosity. Geological heterogeneities refer to spatial variations of porosity, permeability, relative-permeability curves, shale and mud layers, etc. Fluid heterogeneities refer to spatial variations of the fluid composition and properties such as viscosity and density. Given that the permeability often varies by less than an order of magnitude whereas the oil viscosity varies by up to two orders of magnitude in a bitumen reservoir, the controlling variable on recovery of these resources is often fluid compositional variations. Due to the large viscosity contrast between oil and water at native reservoir conditions water is often the most mobile phase within a bitumen reservoir. This research identifies preconditioning techniques that can be used to alter reservoir or fluid (oil or water) properties prior to thermal recovery reducing adverse reservoir factors and improving recovery, environmental impact and process economics. We describe here a simulation study of one application related to modifying the variation of oil viscosity in the reservoir prior to steam injection. The methods make use of mobile water within the reservoir, to distribute viscosity-reducing agents before steam injection, and represent another means of geotailoring recovery processes to the features of the reservoir. The main benefit is that recovery process performance, both in terms of oil production rate and thermal efficiency, is improved.

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