Oil sand characterization tests are essential for the selection and evaluation of sand control devices. Current approaches for screen selection and evaluation usually rely on Particle Size Distribution (PSD) and neglect the effect of important parameters such as porosity, grain shape and frictional properties. One aim of this study is to characterize oil sand's mechanical, geometrical and size characteristics that should be considered in the completion design. Another objective is to determine if natural mixture of oil sand could be reasonably replicated with commercial sands for large-scale sand control evaluation tests.

In this paper we present the results of a comprehensive image analysis and laser sieve analysis on oil sand samples from the McMurray Formation to quantify geometrical grain characteristics (sphericity, aspect ratio, convexity and angularity) of the sand grains and establish the PSD of the samples. Direct shear tests were performed to assess the frictional characteristics of different oil sands around the liner under variable stress conditions during the SAGD well lifecycle.

Image analysis, PSD, and direct shear tests showed that natural mixture of oil sand could be successfully simulated with commercial sands in terms of size and shape of grains and mechanical properties. This conclusion is significant to those performing large-scale sand control evaluation tests that usually require large quantities of sands that are not readily available and require significant preparation.

This paper provides the first comprehensive investigation of the granular, and geomechanical characteristics of oil sand from the McMurray Formation. The paper discusses the missing parameters in the design of sand control device, and evaluates test methods that measure those parameters. The proposed testing program could be used as a benchmark for oil sand characterization in relation to the design and evaluation of sand control device.

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