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Introduction

Heavy oil has recently become an important resource as conventional oil reservoirs have limited production and oil prices rise. More than 6 trillion barrels of oil in place have been attributed to the world's heaviest hydrocarbons (Curtis et al., 2002). Therefore, heavy-oil reserves account for more than 3 times the amount of combined world reserves of conventional oil and gas. Of particular interest are the large heavy-oil deposits of Canada and Venezuela, which together may account for approximately 55%–65% of the known less than 20° American Petroleum Institute (API) gravity oil deposits in the world (Curtis et al., 2002).

Heavy oils cover a large range of API gravities, from 22° for the lightest heavy oils to less than 10° for extra-heavy oils. This wide range of values means that heavy oils vary greatly in their physical properties. Thus, extensive research is required before the properties of heavy oil can be properly understood. Several prevailing issues are seen repeatedly in various fields around the world, including how to make measurements on unconsolidated sandstone cores, production of sand with oil and its effect on formation, exsolution gas drive of heavy oil, understanding the control of viscosity and other physical properties of heavy oils, and monitoring of steam recovery processes. Simply, the high viscosity of heavy oils limits its extraction by traditional methods

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