Understanding the Heat-Transfer Mechanism in the Steam-Assisted Gravity-Drainage (SAGD) Process and Comparing the Conduction and Convection Flux in Bitumen Reservoirs
- Mazda Irani (RPS Energy) | Sahar Ghannadi (University of Alberta)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Journal
- Publication Date
- January 2013
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 134 - 145
- 2013. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5.4.6 Thermal Methods, 5.2.1 Phase Behavior and PVT Measurements, 1.10.1 Drill string components and drilling tools (tubulars, jars, subs, stabilisers, reamers, etc), 5.3.9 Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage
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SAGD is one successful thermal recovery technique applied in the Athabasca and Peace River reservoirs in central and northern Alberta, Canada. In SAGD, steam is injected into a horizontal injection well and is forced outward, losing its latent heat when it comes into contact with the cold bitumen at the edge of a depletion chamber. As a consequence, the viscosity of the bitumen falls several orders of magnitude, its mobility rises several orders of magnitude, and then it flows under gravity toward a horizontal production well located several meters below and parallel to the injection well. Heat-transfer mechanisms are pivotal to the SAGD process. Though heat energy is transferred from steam to reservoir by conduction and convection, heat transfer by convection is not considered in the classic SAGD mathematical models such as Butler?s. Researchers such as Butler and Stephens (1981), Reis (1992), Akin (2005), Liang (2005), Nukhaev et al. (2006), and Azad and Chalaturnyk (2010) considered conduction from steam to cold reservoir to be the only heat-transfer component. However, because the heat capacity of water is typically two to five times that of bitumen, convection caused by the mobile condensate flow in the reservoir may contradict these studies. Farouq-Ali (1997) was the first to criticize the assumption that there is only a thermal conduction mechanism in the SAGD process. He pointed out that with so much condensate flowing, convection would be expected to be the dominant heat-transfer mechanism, which can be plausible at high temperatures. In response, Edmunds (1999a) stated that on the basis of the associated change in enthalpy, the heat transfer into a cold reservoir because of convection is probably less than 5% of that because of conduction. Ito (1999) challenged Edmunds (1999a) statement, on the basis of Ito and Suzuki (1996, 1999) and Ito et al. (1998), pointing out that "this number, 5%; i.e., ratio between convection to conduction presented by Edmunds (1999a) is unrealistically low, (and) it should be in the range of 50%." This study examined the relative roles of convective and conductive heat transfer at the edge of SAGD steam chambers. In summary, the mathematical model developed in this study considered both conduction and convection, and the resultant output from the model is reasonably consistent with published field data. This study supports the idea that although convection can dominate near the chamber edge in high-water-saturation reservoirs, in bitumen-rich reservoirs, its contribution to heat transfer is less than 1% and can be neglected.
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