Over the past decade, Canada's heavy oil industry has experienced a remarkable resurgence, much of which has been technologically driven. High cash flows and the forecasts of ever increasing oil prices resulted in a high level of activity in heavy oil and oil sands development in Canada in the early 80's. Much of this activity was temporarily shelved with the oil price crash in the middle of the decade. A large resource base combined with limited prospects for new light oil discoveries were the driving forces for renewed development. However, level oil prices necessitated reduced development and operating costs. This has been achieved through a concerted application of technology.

Horizontal wells, progressive cavity pumps, foamy oil/sand production, cyclic steam stimulation and steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) in a number of forms have all played a part. Of these, the advent of low cost, precision drilled, horizontal wells has had the greatest impact. Improved primary production, particularly in areas with bottom water, enhanced cyclic steam stimulation, steam assisted gravity drainage and horizontal well steam drive are some of the new or enhanced recovery processes made possible with horizontal wells.

Field activity in Canada has now reached an unprecedented level with new commercial and experimental projects being initiated on a regular basis. This paper describes a number of the technological advances made possible by horizontal wells and illustrates them with descriptions of field projects.

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