Combustion Assisted Gravity Drainage (CAGD): An In-Situ Combustion Method to Recover Heavy Oil and Bitumen from Geologic Formations using a Horizontal Injector/Producer Pair



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Combustion assisted gravity drainage (CAGD) is an integrated horizontal well air injection process for recovery and upgrading of heavy oil and bitumen from tar sands. Short-distance air injection and direct mobilized oil production are the main features of this process that lead to stable sweep and high oil recovery. These characteristics identify the CAGD process as a high-potential oil recovery method either in primary production or as a follow-up process in reservoirs that have been partially depleted. The CAGD process combines the advantages of both gravity drainage and conventional in-situ combustion (ISC). A combustion chamber develops in a wide area in the reservoir around the horizontal injector and consists of flue gases, injected air, and mobilized oil. Gravity drainage is the main mechanism for mobilized oil production and extraction of flue gases from the reservoir.

A 3D laboratory cell with dimensions of 0.62 m, 0.41 m, and 0.15 m was designed and constructed to study the CAGD process. The combustion cell was fitted with 48 thermocouples. A horizontal producer was placed near the base of the model and a parallel horizontal injector in the upper part at a distance of 0.13 m. Peace River heavy oil and Athabasca bitumen were used in these experiments. Experimental results showed that oil displacement occurs mainly by gravity drainage. Vigorous oxidation reactions were observed at the early stages near the heel of the injection well, where peak temperatures of about 550?C to 690?C were recorded. Produced oil from CAGD was upgraded by 6 and 2?API for Peace River heavy oil and Athabasca bitumen respectively. Steady O2 consumption for both oil samples confirmed the stability of the process. Experimental data showed that the distance between horizontal injection and production wells is very critical. Close vertical spacing has negative effect on the process as coke deposits plug the production well and stop the process prematurely.

CAGD was also laboratory tested as a follow-up process. For this reason, air was injected through dual parallel wells in a mature steam chamber. Laboratory results showed that the process can effectively create self-sustained combustion front in the previously steam-operated porous media. A maximum temperature of 617?C was recorded, with cumulative oil recovery of 12% of original oil in place (OOIP). Post-experiment sand pack analysis indicated that in addition to sweeping the residual oil in the steam chamber, the combustion process created a hard coke shell around the boundaries. This hard shell isolated the steam chamber from the surrounding porous media and reduced the steam leakage.

A thermal simulator was used for history matching the laboratory data while capturing the main production mechanisms. Numerical analysis showed very good agreement between predicted and experimental results in terms of fluid production rate, combustion temperature and produced gas composition. The validated simulation model was used to compare the performance of the CAGD process to other practiced thermal recovery methods like steam assistance gravity drainage (SAGD) and toe to heel air injection (THAI). Laboratory results showed that CAGD has the lowest cumulative energy-to-oil ratio while its oil production rate is comparable to SAGD.