Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) is the key to the economic exploitation of over 40 billion barrels (6.35 × 109 m3) of bitumen from the McMurray formation. The SAGD technology has been proven in two stages of piloting and is ready for commercial application. Engineering and economic studies indicate that the SAGD technology can be applied at a unit cost that is substantially below the market price for bitumen which has been at an average often dollars per barrel at the field gate over the last few years.

Based upon the premise that SAGD recovery is feasible throughout the Athabasca area, in reservoirs whose quality equal or exceed that found at the SAGD pilot site, an evaluation study was undertaken. The objective of the study was to map projected bitumen recovery and steam oil ratio as determined for a conceptual commercial SAGD recovery scheme.

The study applied geological and engineering criteria based on current projections of SAGD performance and a conceptual commercial recovery scheme, to analytically derive predictions of cumulative steam oil ratio (CSOR) and bitumen recovery. The study involved evaluating models for estimating SAGD CSOR and bitumen recovery; applying the most suitable model to generate CSOR and bitumen recovery predictions using screened geological data from an Athabasca well data base; then plotting contour lines representing the predicted CSOR and recovery values on a surface map of the Athabasca deposit. The contoured maps outline areas where it is expected that a CSOR of 3.5 m3/m3 or less and a bitumen recovery of greater than 10,000 cubic meters (63,000 barrels) per hectare which is equivalent to an average bitumen production rate of 250 barrels (40 m3) per day over a five year well life from 800 meters long well pairs spaced 90 meters apart.

The maps highlight locations in Athabasca where the best reservoir performance would be expected and delineates the areas which should be studied in detail for commercial application of the SAGD technology,

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