Simulation studies of three thermal recovery processes used in Athabasca reservoirs have been carried out for a 10-year production period. The recovery processes studied are Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD), Fast-SAGD, and Expanding Solvent-SAGD (ES-SAGD). Normal pentane (n-C5) was the solvent of choice used in ES-SAGD simulations with its molar concentration varied from 2% to 5.9%. The main objective of this study is to conduct an economic analysis of the three recovery processes with the goal of determining the most economically viable process. The economic indicator that will be assessed to ascertain the most viable recovery process is their Net Present Value (NPV.)
2D simulation studies based on homogeneous Athabasca reservoirs have been performed. Results obtained show that of the three recovery processes, Fast-SAGD had the lowest cumulative oil produced, followed by SAGD and ES-SAGD, the highest. The cumulative oil produced also increased with increasing molar concentration of n-C5. Furthermore, it was shown that as expected, the CSOR of ES-SAGD was the lowest of them while that of Fast-SAGD was the highest. The CSOR of the ES-SAGD processes reduced as the concentration of the n-C5 increased.
The economic analysis showed that of the three recovery processes, ES-SAGD is the most economically viable process. Furthermore, the effect of solvent on the viability of ES-SAGD over the other recovery processes is dependent on the price regime of pentane. In this analysis, two extreme price regimes were chosen and the result showed that for a low price regime, varying the molar ratios of n-C5 had a significant effect on the NPV up to a point before its effect diminishes. In fact, increasing the molar concentration of n-C5 from 2% to 3.76% significantly increased the NPV while further increasing it from 3.76% to 4% and thereafter to 5.9% had no noticeable effect. However, it seems that increasing it from 3.76% to 5.9% had a diminishing effect especially after the 3-year period. Nevertheless, the significant NPV improvement ES-SAGD has over SAGD and Fast-SAGD diminishes once the price regime of pentane is more than 3 times that of oil. In fact, this high price regime showed that 5.9% molar concentration of n-C5 is no longer more viable than the SAGD counterpart. There is still some benefit up till about 4% molar concentration of n-C5 but this benefit is greatly diminished.
In conclusion, ES-SAGD has been shown to be the best recovery process for Athabasca reservoirs based on economics but further research is needed to evaluate the molar concentration that will provide the most economic benefit for a real Athabasca reservoir.