An inflow control device (ICD) incorporates either a restrictive or a tortuous flow path to impose an artificial pressure drop across the device. ICDs can offer a solution to the imbalance in heat transfer often seen along the wellbore and promote better conformance in steam chamber growth because they are able to re-distribute energy more evenly during steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operations. ICDs can be applied in conventional and unconventional resources, but the main focus of this paper is unconventional applications, specifically bitumen production by SAGD. An outcome of efforts in 2008, the ICD’s first application was to mitigate flow conformance issues that were seen along the producer and injector wells; these issues were caused by various geologic and operational factors as well as backflow effects. The effectiveness of that first application has been well recognized in the form of higher bitumen production with better energy efficiency (Stalder, 2012). The conceived benefits of ICDs extend beyond production increases. One of the leading operators in the Athabasca oil deposits, who adopted ICDs in the early stage of their SAGD wells, confirmed ICD applications enabled them to produce bitumen even during the start-up circulation period and to realize a production increase of up to 80% at conversion to SAGD (Morgan, 2016). As more ICD success stories have circulated within the industry, SAGD operators’ interest in ICDs has grown steadily. On the basis of reviews of historical ICD performance, this paper provides lessons learned and suggested design improvements that will hopefully lead to more efficient ICD configurations in SAGD operations.

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