Heavy Oil and Oil Sands Development

Overview

The Heavy Oil team at InnoTech Alberta is focused on solving challenges associated with the application of heavy oil and bitumen recovery field processes. We have knowledge and expertise in a wide variety of recovery processes including:

  • Thermal processes (SAGD, steam/solvent hybrids, CSS, steam additives, in situ combustion)
  • Gas and solvent processes (VAPEX, cyclic solvent, hot solvent)
  • Enhanced heavy oil waterflooding (polymer, surfactant-polymer, ASP)
  • Primary and post-primary processes
  • Parameter measurement (PVT, relative permeability, geochemistry, geomechanics)
  • Custom designed experiments (pore, lab and semi-field scale)
  • Reservoir simulation

Imaging

Insight into pore scale flow and mass transfer mechanisms in porous media under recovery process conditions with a CT scanner.

Applications include:

  • Waterflood and imbibition
  • Steam flood and gravity processes
  • Solvent transport
  • Vapour-liquid equilibrium measurements
  • Diffusivity measurements

Aquathermolysis

  • Quantification of in situ acidic gas production
  • Assessment of chemical changes of bitumen
  • Evaluation of water composition changes
  • Predictive field scale numerical modelling

Laboratory Experimentation

Mechanistic and parametric experimental studies performed at InnoTech’s specialized laboratory facilities provide insight into the impact of operating parameters on the performance of recovery processes. The studies help to define field operating strategies including:

  • Selection of solvent
  • Optimal steam to solvent ratios tailor made for the reservoir conditions
  • Evaluation of the impact of reservoir heterogeneity on oil recovery

Reservoir Fluid Characterization

Measurement of the phase behavior and viscosity of the solvent bitumen mixtures under recovery process conditions including compositional analysis of fluid samples

Numerical simulation combined with experimental results

Experiments provide property data for simulations as well as detailed, well-controlled results for model validation.

Numerical studies to:

  • Provide analysis of process mechanisms,
  • Extrapolate and forecast field behavior
  • Provide field support /evaluation

Improved Waterflooding Heavy Oils

During waterflooding heavy oils, significant amount of oil is bypassed due to the poor sweep efficiency caused by the unfavorable mobility ratio between the displacing (water) and displaced (oil) phases. By applying the chemical EOR process, the use of polymer to viscosify the injected water improves the mobility ratio and sweep efficiency while the addition of surfactant and/or alkali reduces interfacial tension and improves oil displacement efficiency. Our research team has been actively involved in many successfully-implemented field projects on chemical EOR processes in western Canada and internationally. A Joint Industry Program on polymer flooding heavy oils, with members from both operating companies and chemical vendors, has been ongoing for 10 years. The research topics range from basic mechanistic investigation to field–related operational challenges.

Steam Additives (STEADi) Joint Industry Program

Steam additives have the potential to improve the performance of SAGD applications by reducing the SOR while keeping SAGD-like rates of bitumen production.  In the reservoir, the steam additives enhance production by increasing mobilization of the oil and enabling condensed water to carry a higher loading of oil.