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The key goal is to modify existing processes for extracting heavy oil, in oil sands reservoirs. Minor changes in operating process design will yield benefits such as reduced CO2emissions, less energy used to extract oil, and reduced water input.
Professor Ian Gates and his team will analyze major CO2 emission sources from existing thermal bitumen recovery processes, and then identify carbon reduction targets. Integrated fluids and reservoir characterization, multi-well control algorithms and injection strategies will then be utilized to reduce carbon emissions in existing processes. Essentially, existing infrastructure will be controlled in an intelligent, automated manner taking all monitored data into account to improve steam conformance in the reservoir. This automated approach is called a Reservoir Production Machine. In turn, well injection and production pressures and rates are altered dynamically to optimize the recovery, efficiency, and carbon intensity of the processes. To date, there has been no research focused on controlling the reservoir with automation. Computer automation will result in ~20-25% more efficiency at the reservoir.
$350,000 / 3 years; Awarded in 2010
Alberta has been a leader in oil sands production following the invention of steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) for oil sands reservoirs. SAGD and CSS are the two currently commercial oil sands technologies for producing heavy oils and bitumen, and other parts of the world are using these technologies. Currently, more focus has been placed on high volume oil extraction rather than reduction of CO2 emissions and water injection. Reservoir production machines (RPM) would allow Canada to be leaders in automated, controlled, more environmentally friendly SAGD and CSS production. Canada could also be a leader in exporting new technologies.
This technology can be applied to any oil field technology using injectants, not merely SAGD. RPMs can be used to monitor and control these current technologies with minor changes in operational style. RPMs can result in large cumulative savings in CO2, energy, and water. There are also reduced operating costs through reduced energy input. This technology will also help to reduce carbon emissions.
There are two industrial project partners on the Gates project. The Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and ConocoPhillips have both donated field data.
The key goal is to use all monitored data and automated control algorithms to improve steam conformance of SAGD and CSS projects – these algorithms will provide control strategies with reduced human input to meet both short and long term goals of the operation. Automated RPMs will make SAGD projects on par with normal oil production, since CO2 emissions will be reduced to this level. The idea of control by an automated, reservoir production machine (rather than by human operation) is revolutionary to the field and has not been applied to oil sands recovery processes. Incremental changes in operation are easily adoptable by industry, and will be very effective in the long run.
The Gates team has collected SAGD well performance data including steam injection, oil and water production, log and core data, injection pressures, and other reservoir properties. This database was analyzed to determine thermal efficiency and carbon intensity, in relation to reservoir properties. To date, reservoir field data, geological modeling, and a reservoir simulation model have been collected and created. This injection and production data has been converted into field history format files for history matching. Control algorithms and history matching make the research highly realistic; this provides a good baseline in which the reservoir model is finely tuned to the field data. Computer automated optimization will then be utilized to improve production from the model using only monitored variables, via an RPM. In the next few months, the researchers hope to demonstrate that when an RPM is operating in the field, there are significant savings in steam-oil ratio injected in/per unit oil out, comparable to their modeling.
It has been demonstrated that RPMs can result in a 20-25% reduction in water use and CO2 emissions. SAGD is currently more CO2 intensive; about 20-25% more CO2 emissions as compared to conventional oil production. Essentially, RPM permits SAGD projects to be competitive with conventional oil production. CO2 emissions are drastically reduced, in addition to reduced water used per amount oil extracted.
Dr. Ian Gates Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Schulich School of Engineering University of Calgary Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4
T: 1 403 220 5752