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Research Papers: Heat Exchangers

Insights on Heat Transfer at the Top of Steam Chambers in SAGD

[+] Author and Article Information
Helen Pinto

Department of Geomatics Engineering,
Schulich School of Engineering,
University of Calgary,
2500 University Drive NW,
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
e-mail: helen.pinto2@ucalgary.ca

Xin Wang

Associate Professor
Department of Geomatics Engineering,
Schulich School of Engineering,
University of Calgary,
2500 University Drive NW,
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
e-mail: xcwang@ucalgary.ca

Ian D. Gates

Professor
Department of Chemical
and Petroleum Engineering,
Schulich School of Engineering,
University of Calgary,
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
e-mail: ian.gates@ucalgary.ca

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Heat Transfer Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF HEAT TRANSFER. Manuscript received June 29, 2016; final manuscript received November 18, 2016; published online January 24, 2017. Assoc. Editor: Amy Fleischer.

J. Heat Transfer 139(4), 041801 (Jan 24, 2017) (10 pages) Paper No: HT-16-1430; doi: 10.1115/1.4035322 History: Received June 29, 2016; Revised November 18, 2016

Steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) is the method of choice for producing oil from oil sands reservoirs. In this method, steam is injected into the formation and the oil, upon heating, is mobilized and driven under gravity to a production well. The accumulation of steam within the reservoir is referred to as the steam chamber. One of the critical issues confronting SAGD operators is the thermal efficiency, measured by the steam-to-oil ratio, of their operations since it directly ties to process costs. Using thermocouple profiles from observation wells on three SAGD fields in Alberta, we use error function fits to estimate the thermal conductivity of the shale above the oil formation (found to be from 0.33 to 3.81 W/mK), heat flux at the top of the steam chamber, vertical height of the steam/gas zone above the steam chamber, and accumulated gas volume present. A gas material balance is then derived to estimate the volume of gas that might be generated through in situ chemical processes. The results of the heat transfer analysis performed on the thermocouple data reveal that the gas co-injection during SAGD operations studied did not directly affect the heat transfer rate at the top of the steam chamber since the gas volume added was small. The results also show that a sufficiently large accumulation of gas at the top of the chamber lowers the heat flux at the edge of the chamber.

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Figures

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Cross section of a SAGD well pair. The injection and production wells are horizontal wells that go into the page.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Temperature profiles from one observation well at Christina Lake SAGD field (data sourced from Ref. [24]). Depth is relative to the Kelly Bushing (KB) on the drill rig.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Error function fit without and with gas accumulation at top of SAGD depletion chamber

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Flowchart of analysis tasks

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Example of profiles of temperature, gas fraction, and heat flux derived from sequenced thermocouple profiles with superposed error function fits

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 9

Graphical depiction of significant correlations

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