According to the US Geological Survey, the world has over 430 billion barrels of technically recoverable heavy oil. There are several hurdles that hinder the large scale development of heavy oil. These include; high energy consumption for thermal recovery; poor recovery in cold production; environmental issues, transportation issues, refineries upgrade and high investment costs.
Over the past decade, multiphase pumping has emerged as a best practice in the many of the oil producing areas around the world. It has been used successfully in pumping both light and heavy crude oil. Multiphase pumping offers many advantages in heavy oil production. Multiphase pumps provide a single system for gas, steam and produced fluids. They reduce the back pressure or the well head flowing pressure, which results in higher production. Multiphase pumps have been used to recover annulus gas in cold oil production. Thermal vent energy is transferred to the produced fluids and thus reduces the overall energy consumption.
This paper presents an overview of the application of multiphase pumping technology in heavy oil production.