Suncor's Firebag Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) project has been in operation since 2004 and a total capacity of 215 mbbls/d of bitumen.1  It is Suncor's largest in situ operation, with approximately 600 wells. Maximizing the value of the capital investment and operating cost requires a focused effort on reservoir management. This study focused on reservoir management and optimization at Firebag. With steam being the energy delivery system to the reservoir, it is imperative that it is distributed in a manner that optimizes usage and results in the lowest feasible Steam to Oil Ratio (SOR). A systematic and repeatable approach to reservoir management and optimization for SAGD thermal operation has been developed with two decades of experience. The primary concepts include chamber pressure optimization/management, mass, and energy balance, steam, and fluid leak-off management among well pads, non-condensable gas (NCG) co-injection, and energy recovery for late-life SAGD.

For the Firebag site, reservoir management translates to determining optimum rates and pressures for over 250 injection wells in various stages of maturity. Since NCG is often added to the steam, it is critical to also determine when and what quantities can result in the best performance. The decision-making process for the operation has been significantly improved and streamlined by using a data-informed approach. A very large data set for analysis along with advanced sector and field scale reservoir simulation have been proven to be very effective in creating optimum parameters for operation. Capitalizing on operational experience and using leading digital tools, a comprehensive software platform has been developed to assist in monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This instrument is being further enhanced to provide and implement real-time operating parameters. With fixed steam generation assets, it is imperative to maintain or lower field SOR to accommodate new pad development while preserving nameplate production volumes and meeting greenhouse gas objectives. While maturing pads generally require less steam over time, incremental initiatives are necessary to offset more challenging reservoir quality. Optimizing pressure and/or introducing NCG in mature pads are examples of two approaches to recovering a significant amount of energy and achieving sustainable operation at a lower steam rate.

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