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Heavy-oil reservoirs are an abundant resource, particularly in Canada, Venezuela, and Alaska. By some estimates, heavy oils represent as much as 6.3 trillion barrels of oil in place. This matches available quantities of conventional oil. More than 50% of Canada's oil production is now from heavy oil (Batzle et al., 2006). Much of the heavy-oil recovery in Western Canada involves steam injection, called “hot production.” An alternative to thermal heavy-oil production in the field is known as “cold production,” which is a primary nonthermal process in which reservoir temperature is not affected. The cold production process has been economically successful in several unconsolidated heavy-oil fields in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada (Sawatzky et al., 2002). During the cold production process, sand and oil are produced simultaneously by progressive cavity pumps, generating high-porosity channels termed “wormholes.” The development of wormholes causes reservoir pressure to fall below the bubble point, resulting in dissolved gas coming out of solution to form foamy oil. Foamy oil and wormholes are believed to be two key factors in the enhancement of oil recovery (Metwally et al., 1995; Maini, 2004).

The development of wormholes and the formation of foamy oil will disturb fluid properties in the reservoir during heavy-oil cold production. Batzle et al. (2006) showed that the bulk modulus of heavy oil drops to near zero very quickly from approximately 2.6 GPa after pressure is lower than the bubble point line at approximately 2 MPa. This disturbance will probably be detectable for seismic survey.

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