Thermal recovery is becoming a main stream enhanced recovery method for heavy oil with unique challenges. The extreme nature of thermal recovery requires flexible and creative approach to address the unique challenges. One of the accepted recovery thermal methods is Cyclic Steam Stimulation (CSS). The thermal cycle starts with injection phase followed by soaking, and finally, production phase. Conversion from injection phase to production phase is considered a significant operational risk in addition to typical risks associated with oil production operations. The additional risk during the conversion to production from an injection cycle is due to the significant energy placement in the reservoir during steaming. If not controlled, high energy hydrocarbon fluids flowing back to surface can lead to loss of containment and harm to life or the environment.
Beam Pumps have been used predominantly in conjunction with insert down-hole pump and sucker rods. During injection phase, the well is operated as an injector without pumps or rods, and when the time comes to convert to a producer, rods and insert pumps are reinstalled. This conversion step from injector to producer is highest risk in the CSS well operation cycle.
After the injection cycle is completed, a significant energy is placed into the reservoir, the well is shut in for soaking period which is 1-3 days. Free flow is required after the shut in period to depressurize the well. Depressurization period extends in some cases to many weeks and would require killing the well where it's common that a well would not die off just by depressurization alone resulting in significant wait time. The amount of flow back and energy stored in the well is directly proportional to steam injection pressure and duration.
In many cases where well still retain some energy and pressure is still high for intervention, due to free flowing not subsiding, killing the well is utilized. Well killing procedures pose another set of challenges such as; pump start up challenges due to viscosity reduction, cost for brine mix and wrong pressure estimation leading to prolong interventions.
The challenges in CSS opened an opportunity for innovation where thermal wells could be attended for conversion with minimum rods taken out or rods added back in under high temperature and pressure. The new concept is a combination of dual rod Blow Out Preventer (BOP) and stripper seals set in series. A trial in November 2017 was conducted with positive results where the advantages of this innovation were clearly demonstrated. This paper is a summary of the design approach and the successful trial proving the concept.