Thermal recovery methods, in particular technology based on steam injection, are used extensively around the world for heavy oil and bitumen production. Because of the unconsolidated nature of the majority of such deposits, sand control is required. Design effectiveness of sand control depends on the reservoir type, production technology and operational practices. The industry is facing many challenges such as low oil prices, tight environmental regulations, the need to lower risks while assuring well integrity and longevity and project economics. All of that requires special technical solutions for thermal well design, including sand control.

The paper provides an overview of sand control for thermal heavy oil and bitumen production operations, factors affecting sand control design for thermal projects, sand control devices and industry trends. Laboratory observations and field data are discussed. The impact of steam on different quality heavy oil and bitumen deposits in relation to sand control is discussed in detail. Efficient sand control design for thermal production operations requires a multidisciplinary approach and is an integral part of the well longevity and project economics. Better understanding of the impact of reservoir quality, thermal formation damage and operational practices on well performance is required to assure success of a thermal project.

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