ABSTRACT

We have investigated the use of electric and electromagnetic (EM) methods to monitor the growth of steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) steam chambers. SAGD has proven to be a successful method for extracting bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada. However, complexity and heterogeneity within the reservoir could impede steam chamber growth, thereby limiting oil recovery and increase production costs. Using seismic data collected over an existing SAGD project, we have generated a synthetic steam chamber and modeled it as a conductive body within the bitumen-rich McMurray Formation. Simulated data from standard crosswell electrical surveys, when inverted in three dimensions, show existence of the chamber but lack the resolution necessary to determine the shape and size. By expanding to EM surveys, our ability to recover and resolve the steam chamber is significantly enhanced. We use a simplified survey design procedure to design a variety of field surveys that include surface and borehole transmitters operating in the frequency or time domain. Each survey is inverted in three dimensions, and the results are compared. Importantly, despite the shielding effects of the highly conductive cap rock over the McMurray Formation, we have determined that it is possible to electromagnetically excite the steam chamber using a large-loop surface transmitter. This motivates a synthetic example, constructed using the geology and resistivity logging data of a future SAGD site, where we simulate data from single and multiple surface loop transmitters. We have found that even when measurements are restricted to the vertical component of the electric field in standard observation wells, if multiple transmitters are used, the inversion recovers three steam chambers and discerns an area of limited steam growth that results from a blockage in the reservoir. The effectiveness of the survey shows that this EM methodology is worthy of future investigation and field deployment.

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