Chapter 23: Using Time-lapse Seismic to Monitor the Toe-to-Heel-Air-Injection (THAI™) Heavy-oil Production Process
Rob Kendall, 2010. "Using Time-lapse Seismic to Monitor the Toe-to-Heel-Air-Injection (THAI™) Heavy-oil Production Process", Heavy Oils: Reservoir Characterization and Production Monitoring, Satinder Chopra, Laurence R. Lines, Douglas R. Schmitt, Michael L. Batzle
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The Whitesands project is located in the Athabasca Oil Sands near Conklin, Alberta (Figure 1). Toe-to-Heel-Air-Injection (THAITM) is an in situ controlled combustion process that cracks, upgrades, and mobilizes heavy oil. The Whitesands pilot project is designed around three well pairs producing from a central facility. Air injection commenced on the first well pair in July 2006. Air injection on the second well pair was initiated in January 2007 and on the third pair in June 2007. The project’s first THAI and CAPRITM well was drilled in the second quarter of 2008, which also incorporated a revised completion design to improve downhole sand control.
The position and progress of the combustion front is being monitored using tilt meters, passive seismic, and active 4D seismic. Each of the three methods identifies the combustion zone, but the active 4D seismic method provides the most reliable and detailed information.
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Heavy oil is an important global resource with reserves comparable to those of conventional oil. As conventional resources get thinner, attention is being focused on heavy oil and bitumen, which hold the promise of becoming useful fuels. Already more than 1 million barrels of oil are being produced from the oil sands in Canada; heavy oil represents half of California’s crude oil production in the United States and is a major production in Mexico. With demand for global energy soaring, heavy oil will undoubtedly be an important resource to be exploited in a big way in the near future.
The SEG Development and Production Committee held its Heavy Oil Forum in Edmonton, Alberta, in July 2007. This was a joint research forum cosponsored by the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG) and SEG and hosted by the University of Alberta. Preceding the forum, a field trip took the participants to the vast Athabasca Oil Sands region where they observed the outcrops, open pit mining, and steam injection operations, followed by a tour of the steam-assisted gravity drainage projects. Topics of the well-attended forum included the definition of heavy oil; where is heavy oil found; how it is produced; heavy-oil reservoir characterization; fluid and rock properties; electrical, tilt, and gravity techniques; borehole, surface seismic measurements; and microseismicity.