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Senlac, The Forgotten SAGD Project

Eric Delamaide, IFP Technologies Canada Inc., The EOR Alliance

Copyright 2017, Society of Petroleum Engineers

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Middle East Oil & Gas Show and Conference held in Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain, 6-9 March 2017.

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The Senlac SAGD (Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage) project is Saskatchewan, Canada, does not have the
same name recognition as its much bigger brothers in the Alberta Oil Sands but it certainly deserves to be
known better. Senlac was the first industrial SAGD project in Canada back in 1997 and since then it has
been the site for other technological innovations such as the use of solvent in addition with steam to increase
recovery and reduce the Steam Oil Ratio, as well as the testing of wedge wells – wells drilled between
SAGD well pairs to benefit from the heat remaining in the reservoir.
The reservoir in Senlac is the Dina-Cummings of Lower Cretaceous age and is much smaller than the
McMurray formation which is the site of most of the large-scale oil sands project but the oil is only 5,000
cp thus it is mobile at reservoir temperature. This is a significant difference which allows well pairs to
achieve excellent production and recovery even though reservoir thickness is only 8-16 m, well below the
standard cut-off for SAGD. The presence of bottom water under parts of the field is an added challenge
to the operations.
The paper will present the field characteristics and production performances as well as the main
technological developments such as the Solvent Added Process and the use of wedge wells.
The paper will present a complete case study of a SAGD project in a heavy oil reservoir where oil is
mobile. Most SAGD project so far have been conducted in bitumen but the paper will show the potential
for this technology in thinner and smaller reservoirs.

The SAGD (Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage) recovery process invented by Roger Butler (Butler, McNab,
& Lo, 1979) in the 1970s when he was with Imperial Oil (Esso) has become one of the most efficient methods
to recover heavy oil. SAGD has been described in numerous papers (for instance in (Butler R., 1994) and
the concept is presented in Figure 1. Two horizontal wells are drilled on top of each other, and steam is
injected in the top well while oil, condensed steam and formation water drain down and are produced from
the bottom well. As the name indicates, the process relies on gravity as the driving force. For more details
the reader is referred to a very good review of the SAGD process presented a few years ago by Albahlani
and Babadagli (Albahlani & Babadagli, 2008).
2 SPE-183721-MS

Figure 1—Illustration of the SAGD concept (modified from (Tavallali, Maini, Harding, & Busahmin, 2012))

SAGD has been applied extensively in Canada in particular in the Fort McMurray area in Alberta (the
Athabasca oil sands). However, outside of this region only a few pilots have been successful and there has
been no large scale SAGD expansion; Alvarez et al. briefly summarized some of the projects and pilots in
Canada and elsewhere (Alvarez, Moreno, & Sawatzky, 2014) and were led to wonder whether "SAGD can
be exported". Similarly, Farouq Ali remarked – somewhat ungrammatically – in a recent paper (Farouq Ali,
2016) that "…there were 18 SAGD projects in Alberta, and none anywhere." Maybe as a result, SAGD is
mostly associated with the oil sands and seen as a process adapted solely to the recovery of bitumen. While
there is no doubt that SAGD can work wonders in this type of reservoirs, the purpose of this paper is to
present a field case in a heavy oil reservoir with oil mobile at reservoir conditions, with thinner pay than
in the oil sands and with bottom water in some areas.
Another consequence of the oil sands focus is that screening criteria have mostly been established for
this type of reservoirs. Thus Alvarez et al. (Alvarez, Moreno, & Sawatzky, 2014), Jimenez in his review
of SAGD projects (Jimenez, 2008), Shin and Polikar (Shin & Polikar, 2007), Dickson and co-workers
(Dickson, Leahy-Dios, & Wylie, 2010) and Edmunds and Chhina (Edmunds & Chhina, 2001) suggest that
pay thickness should be greater than 15 m for the process to be economic. Singhal et al. (Singhal, Ito, &
Kasraie, 1998) who studied SAGD application in heavy oil reservoirs suggested that a minimum net pay
thickness of 15 m was indicated for a 10,000 cp oil and "could be even less for lighter oil". On the contrary,
McCormack (McCormack, 2001) suggested a cut-off of 12 m for net pay. One of the aims of the present
paper is to evaluate the effect of net pay on process performances in a heavy oil – as opposed to an oil
sands – reservoir.
The title of the paper – "Senlac, the Forgotten SAGD Project" – refers to the fact that Senlac is often
omitted from reviews of SAGD projects – even though it was one of the first ever commercial projects; it is
not mentioned by Farouq Ali (Farouq Ali, 2016), Albahlani (Albahlani & Babadagli, 2008), or McCormack
(McCormack, 2001). It is cited by Alvarez and co-workers (Alvarez, Moreno, & Sawatzky, 2014) and a
brief review of the first years of operations appears in Tavallali (Tavallali, Maini, Harding, & Busahmin,
2012). Butler also mentioned it in his review (Butler, 2001) and called it a "pioneering project". Of course,
in terms of size, the Senlac field cannot compete with the multi-billion barrels oil sands reservoirs. However,
its characteristics and performances make it a worthwhile SAGD field case.
SPE-183721-MS 3

Reservoir description
The Senlac field (sometimes called "East Senlac" to distinguish it from another pool further to the south) is
located in the Lloydminster area in south-western Saskatchewan, close to the border with Alberta (Figure
2), rather than in the Fort McMurray area (northern Alberta) where most of the oil sands deposits lie.
The reservoir is the Lower Cretaceous Dina-Cummings formation (Lower Mannville Group) which lies
unconformably (Figure 3) over the Devonian Duperow formation (Zaitlin & Shultz, 1990). It is overlain
by the Lloydminster shale.

Figure 2—Map of the Saskatchewan-Alberta border showing the location of Senlac field (Southern Pacific Resources, 2010).

Figure 3—Regional stratigraphy (modified from Zaitlin and Shultz (Zaitlin

& Shultz, 1990)). The red oval marks the location of the field on the map.
4 SPE-183721-MS

The field was delineated by vertical wells as well as 3D and 4D seismic surveys (Dequirez, Fournier,
Blanchet, Feuchtwanger, & Torriero, 1995), (Rokosh & Schmitt, 2004).

Reservoir properties
The reservoir is a high quality, highly porous and permeable massive sand found at an approximate depth
of 750 m. The depositional environment is a fluvial-dominated valley fill consisting of an upward-fining
sequence. Figure 4 shows a type log of a well in the channel.

Figure 4—Type-log of the Dina-Cummings reservoir in Senlac showing

a channel with a fining-upward character and a water-oil contact.

In total, the reservoir covers parts of 3 sections (1 section = 1 square mile) – sections 11 and 12, Township
40 Range 26 W3 and section 7 Township 40 Range 25 W3.
Figure 5 presents a net pay map from the reservoir created from well data obtained from public sources
(all log data is public in Canada). As in any interpretation there is no unique solution and in particular the
cut-off for the net pay at the top of the reservoir could be subject to debate. Although the shalier part of the
reservoir is still permeable and oil-bearing, it is of much lower quality than the main part of the reservoir
and was thus not considered in the net pay. Thus, both the net pay and the corresponding OOIP could be
underestimated by 1-2 m. The top of the pay for the well in Figure 4 is indicated by a green line as an
SPE-183721-MS 5

Figure 5—Net pay map. Green dots with numbers correspond to net pay (meters). Each square is 1 mile × 1 mile.

A water-oil contact (WOC) evident in Figure 4 and corresponding to a limited downdip aquifer can be
mapped over parts of the field at a depth of -83mSS (Figure 6).

Figure 6—Water leg thickness map (meters). Each square is 1 mile × 1 mile.

A porosity-permeability cross plot (Figure 7) using available public core data suggests that porosity over
35% and up to 40% can be observed while permeability can reach as high as 10,000 mD in the best sand
6 SPE-183721-MS

Figure 7—Porosity-permeability cross plot. Each symbol/color corresponds to a different well.

There is no data available on the vertical permeability; typically, this is not something that can be
measured at the core scale because it depends on the presence of horizontal shale (or tight) baffles in the
reservoir. In the present case, due to the high reservoir quality vertical permeability is expected to be high.

Reservoir fluids
The reservoir contains a viscous, 12-13 API oil with a dead oil viscosity of 3,000 – 5,000 cp at reservoir
temperature (29ºC). Initial reservoir pressure was 5,200 kPa (Chakrabarty, Renard, Fossey, & Gadelle,
1998), (Boyle, Gittins, & Chakrabarty, 2003).
Original Oil In Place in the pool was estimated at approximately 110 MMbbl (Edmunds & Suggett, 1995).
The main reservoir properties are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1—Senlac main reservoir properties

Average depth (m TVD) 750

Initial reservoir temperature (°C) 29
Initial reservoir pressure (kPa) 5,200
Oil gravity (API) 12 - 13
Dead oil viscosity at reservoir temperature
3,000 – 5,000
Porosity (%) 33-40
Permeability (mD) 1,000 – 10,000
Net pay thickness (m) 0-19
Average oil saturation (%) 85
Depth of WOC (mSS) -83
Bottom water leg thickness (m) 0-5
OOIP MMbb 110
SPE-183721-MS 7

Field development
Early development
The field was discovered in 1968 by well 01/10-12-040-26W3 which was put on production in 1975 but
produced less than 16,000 bbl of oil at low rate (less than 10 bopd) and 73,000 bbl of water. A second
well (21/15-12-040-26W3) fared a little better, producing over 52,000 bbl of oil at rates up to 30 bopd. No
further development was attempted until 1993 when a horizontal well (91/08-11-040-26W3/0) was drilled
to the south; it produced only 15,000 bbl of oil and almost 68,000 bbl of water. Later from 2000 on, longer
horizontal wells were drilled and achieved higher cumulative oil production (up to 217,000 bbl) but no well
achieved peak oil rate of more than 250 bopd.

SAGD project
Project description. In 1992 junior Calgary operator CS Resources started the preliminary studies for the
delineation of the resources including drilling and 3D seismic acquisition and processing; seismic inversion
was used to map reservoir quality (Chakrabarty, Renard, Fossey, & Gadelle, 1998), (Dequirez, Fournier,
Blanchet, Feuchtwanger, & Torriero, 1995). In 1995 CS Resources undertook the construction of a 5,000
bopd thermal facility, planning to use SAGD as the recovery method (Edmunds & Suggett, 1995). At the
time, SAGD had only been piloted in the UTF (Underground Test Facility) so Senlac was one of the first
SAGD field project using exclusively horizontal well (Butler R., 1998), (Renard, Morgan, Delamaide, &
Fossey, 1997).
According to Edmunds et al. (Edmunds & Suggett, 1995), a total of 8 to 21 well pairs were initially
planned over the life of the project; expected recovery was 20 MMbbl corresponding to 65% of the Original
Oil In Place in the SAGD area.
Surface facilities. The surface facilities are described in details in Edmunds et al. (Edmunds & Suggett,
1995) and Chakrabarty et al. (Chakrabarty, Renard, Fossey, & Gadelle, 1998) and a schematic is reproduced
in Figure 8. The process is standard and is composed of water softening, steam generation and oil/water
separation facilities.

Figure 8—Schematic of surface facilities (Chakrabarty, Renard, Fossey, & Gadelle, 1998)

Steam is generated by three 50 MMBtu/hr boilers capable of delivering approximately 12,250 bbl/d of
80% quality steam. The water fraction in the steam is removed at the outlet of the boiler to improve thermal
8 SPE-183721-MS

efficiency in the reservoir. Water is supplied from the Judith River aquifer by six water source wells and is
softened before entering the steam generators. Gas is used as fuel for steam generation.
Produced fluids go through a gravity separator and a flash treater and clean oil is then evacuated by
pipeline. Produced water and process water are disposed of into the Duperow formation below the Dina/
Cummings. Figure 9 shows an aerial view of the facilities.

Figure 9—Aerial view of Senlac facilities (Southern Pacific Resource Corporation, 2009)

Drilling and completion. As illustrated in Figure 1, the SAGD process uses horizontal wells drilled on
top of each other (injection well on top). The standard distance between injection and production wells is
5 m in Senlac (Boyle, Gittins, & Chakrabarty, 2003).
The first three well pairs of Phase A (see below for the description of the various phases) were
completed with wire-wrapped screen to prevent sand production. However, as reported by Chakrabarty et
al. (Chakrabarty, Renard, Fossey, & Gadelle, 1998) and Boyle et al. (Boyle, Gittins, & Chakrabarty, 2003)
severe sand production problems did in fact occur in all three well pairs with a negative effect on production.
In consequence, future completions used 7" slotted liners and significant efforts were devoted to designing
liner slots to prevent sand intrusion into the liner (Bennion, Gupta, Gittins, & Hollies, 2009). Eventually
an adequate design was achieved and the performances of later SAGD phases in the field confirmed the
efficiency of the new liner design. Both injection and production wells are equipped with slotted liners
although the size of their slots differs slightly (Boyle, Gittins, & Chakrabarty, 2003).
Given the relatively high steam temperature involved (approximately 267ºC at 5,200 kPa), gas lift was
initially used as a lifting method. However, in 2001 Edmunds and Chhina (Edmunds & Chhina, 2001)
outlined the advantages of operating SAGD at lower pressures. Operating at lower pressure reduces the
efficiency of gas-lift and reduces the steam temperature, thereby making the use of high temperature electric
submersible pumps (ESP) possible. EnCana (the operator of Senlac at the time) field tested high temperature
ESPs in their other SAGD operation in Foster Creek in 2002 and then started using them in Senlac (Solanki,
SPE-183721-MS 9

Karpuk, Bowman, & Rowatt, 2005). Phase D was the first phase to be equipped with ESPs from the
beginning but ESPs were also installed in wells in Phases B and C (Solanki, Karpuk, Bowman, & Rowatt,
2005). This allowed to operate at lower pressure and to reduce the Cumulative Steam Oil Ratio (CSOR).
Start-up. The aim of the start-up phase is to establish communication between the injection and production
well. Ideally the wellbores should be heated as uniformly as possible to prevent the creation of preferential
paths. The start-up process in Senlac is described in details in Boyle et al. (Boyle, Gittins, & Chakrabarty,
2003) and consists in alternated circulation of steam in the production and the injection wells, separated by
soaking time and production. Due to its relatively low viscosity the oil in Senlac is mobile and thus start-
up is much faster (a few weeks) than in oil sands where it can take several months.
Phases of development. The field has been developed in phases to keep the steam generation facilities as
close to full use as possible. In total, 10 phases have been drilled so far (Figure 10).

Figure 10—Phases of SAGD development

Figure 11 shows the historical oil and water production rates and steam injection for the project. The figure
shows that Phase D and the following phases were impacted by water influx into the reservoir, evidenced by
the difference between steam injection and produced water rates. This will be discussed further in the paper.

SAGD project performances

Performances of the successive phases
Oil rate, cumulative oil production and CSOR per phase can be found in Figure 12, Figure 13 and Figure
14 respectively and Table 2 presents a summary of the main characteristics of each phase. The data is from
public sources since production data is public in Canada.
10 SPE-183721-MS

Figure 11—Historical oil and water production rates and steam injection rate

Figure 12—Oil rate per phase. Refer to Table 2 for the number of well pairs by phase.
SPE-183721-MS 11

Figure 13—Cumulative oil production by phase. Refer to Table 2 for the number of well pairs by phase.

Figure 14—CSOR by phase

12 SPE-183721-MS

Table 2—Main characteristics of successive development phases

Number Average Cumulative Recovery
Start- well OOIP CSOR
Phase of well net pay oil production Factor Comments
up date length (Mbbl) (bbl/bbl)
pairs (m) (Mbbl) (%OOIP)

A Mar-96 3+1 500 12.8 1,491.6 4,512.1 33.4 4.4

B Feb-99 3 560 10.7 2,054.3 4,785.5 43.4 3.0

C Jul-01 2 725 15.8 2,302.7 5,460.8 42.6 2.1

D May-04 3 715 14.1 2,517.6 4,666.4 54.5 1.7

E Sep-05 3 730 16.6 4,392.1 4,977.9 89.1 1.8

F Dec-07 2 950 10.6 538.7 3,373.7 16.1 3.4

G Jun-09 3 810 14.0 2,833.8 4,164.5 68.7 2.6 Still producing

H Apr-11 2 1,055 12.5 1,462.7 1,741.5 84.8 2.9 Still producing

J Jan-12 3 1,100 10.9 1,481.6 3,294.6 45.4 4.4 Still producing

K Mar-13 3 Variable 13.1 322.6 4,074.4 8.0 5.2 Still producing

TOTAL 28 19,397.7 41,051.4 47.3

TOTAL excl. K 25 19,075.0 36,977.0 51.6

Phase A which consisted initially of three well pairs was the first phase drilled in 1995 and steam injection
started in 1996. Initial performances were good with one well achieving a production of close to 1,200 bopd
but operational problems due to sand production soon occurred and as a result overall performances were
poor, with lower than expected recovery and high CSOR. A fourth well pair was added in 1997 using a new
completion strategy (Boyle, Gittins, & Chakrabarty, 2003) with better results and no sand production issue.
Phase B started in 1999 with three well pairs. Results were marginally better than for Phase A with the
three producers achieving peak oil rates of 1,150 – 1,350 bopd but the presence of bottom water below
part of the well pairs created other operational issues. In particular, it was difficult to adjust the pressure to
prevent water influx (Boyle, Gittins, & Chakrabarty, 2003) while maintaining overall performances.
Phase C which started up in 2001 consisted of 2 well pairs and used a different sand control design (Boyle,
Gittins, & Chakrabarty, 2003); its performances were the best experienced to that point with much higher
production (peak oil rate of 2,915 and 2,650 bopd respectively) and lower CSOR. This is probably due to
the thick pay encountered in this area (Figure 5). The Solvent Added Process was also tested in this phase
in 2002 (Gupta, Gittins, & Picherack, 2005); this will be discussed later in the paper.
Phase D started in 2004 and also performed very well, exhibiting the lowest CSOR of all the phases:
1.7 bbl/bbl only. This is one of the best performances of any SAGD project. Electrical submersible pumps
operating at a lower pressure (2,500 kPa) than usual were also tested in this phase; this undoubtedly
contributed to the low CSOR in addition to the fact that net pay is very good in this part of the pool. The
wells achieved peak rates of 1,450 to 1,750 bopd.
Phase E initiated in 2005 achieved very good CSOR (1.8 bbl/bbl) and by far the best results in terms of
recovery (89.1% OOIP). The very high recovery is probably due to an underestimation of the net pay in
the area or to the production of oil from outside of the estimated drainage area but the wells undeniably
performed very well with peak oil rates of 1,700 to 1,850 bopd.
Phase F starting in 2007 featured the two longest well pairs but was disappointing compared to the
previous phases. It targeted a much thinner pay (Table 2) as well as an area previously partly depleted during
Phase A, which probably accounts for the poor results; bottom water is also present in the area (see below).
Peak oil rate was 1,200 bopd for one well pair and only 450 bopd in the second one, while CSOR was 3.0
and 4.4 bbl/bbl.
SPE-183721-MS 13

Phase G consisted in 3 well pairs starting production in 2009. This was a very good phase in terms of
oil rate (1,300 bopd to 1,550 bopd peak oil rate), recovery and CSOR (2.4 to 2.7 bbl/bbl). However peak
oil rates were not as high as in the previous phases probably because the effective length of the wells was
shorter due to the reservoir being eroded in a large part of the area (Figure 5 and Figure 15).

Figure 15—Gamma-ray readings with red representing low values (sand) and green representing high values (shale).

Phase H consisted in only 2 well pairs, each one over 1,000 m long, the longest of all phases so far.
However, as in Phase G the effective length of the wells was also reduced (to 400 m) due to the erosion
of the reservoir in the area. Recovery factor and CSOR were very good although not as good as the three
previous phases. Peak oil rate (1,200 – 1,300 bopd) was good but lower than phases D, E and F due to the
short effective length of the wells. The very high recovery factor is probably due to an underestimation of
the OOIP in that area.
Phase J was partly drilled over bottom water and in thinner pay; as a result the performances of the three
well pairs were disappointing with lower peak oil (less than 1,000 bopd) and especially high CSOR (3.5
to 8.2 bbl/bbl).
Phase K had the poorest performances of all the phases. This was partly due to a collapsed casing in
one of the wells (Southern Pacific Resources, 2013) but other factors are probably at play (see below).
Production is still ongoing so recovery factor is expected to increase but the peak oil rate for the three wells
was poor – 140 to 380 bopd only.
It is interesting to compare the original forecast from Edmunds and Sugget (Edmunds & Suggett, 1995)
to the current situation depicted in Table 2: expected recovery of 20 MMbbl for a recovery factor of 65%
with 21 well pairs vs. a recovery of 19.4MMbbl (recovery factor 47.3%) with 28 well pairs. Piloting new
technology is always challenging and the initial estimates for recovery factor were quite optimistic.

Individual well pairs performances

The following section focuses on the performances of individual well pairs and the effect of net pay
Figure 16 presents a plot of peak oil rate vs. net pay thickness; although there is some scatter in the data,
there is a global trend of increasing rate with net pay. Operational issues (such as sand production during
Phase A) or reservoir issues such as the presence of bottom water obviously have an impact on the results.
14 SPE-183721-MS

Although the number of samples is small it is interesting to note that all the wells with a net pay of over
15 m have achieved peak oil rates in excess of 1,500 bopd. Things are not as clear at the other end of the
spectrum where the scatter is large and the presence of water and other factors seem to create the largest
uncertainty. However at least two wells have achieved peak oil rates of over 500 bopd with a net pay of
(approximately) 10 m.

Figure 16—Peak oil rate vs. Net pay thickness for individual well pairs

A reasonably good correlation (R2 = 0.696) can be obtained between cumulative oil production and net
pay (Figure 17), especially if the first 3 wells of Phase A and the wells of Phase K are removed from the data
set. As we will see later in the paper the poor performance of the Phase K wells was probably due to steam
losses and the presence of the water leg. With these exceptions, almost all the wells with a net thickness
above 10 m have produced in excess of 400 Mbbl, with the record (1,617 Mbbl) going to a well in Phase E.

Figure 17—Cumulative oil production vs. Net pay thickness for individual well pairs
SPE-183721-MS 15

Another reasonable correlation (R2 = 0.686) can be obtained between net pay and CSOR (Figure 18) if
Phases A and K are not considered. Figure 18 is particularly interesting because it allows to establish a cut-
off for net pay in Senlac. CSOR is usually the main parameter on which the economics of a SAGD project
are assessed (some authors disagree – see (Albahlani & Babadagli, 2008) for a discussion on the topic).
Although many economic parameters such as gas and oil prices have changed significantly these past few
years, a CSOR of 3 to 3.5 is usually used as a rule of thumb cut-off; for Senlac these values would correspond
to 11 to 12 m net pay. According to Figure 16 and Figure 17 that would correspond to approximately 1,000
bopd peak oil rate and cumulative productions of 600,000 to 800,000 bbl.

Figure 18—CSOR vs. Net pay thickness for individual well pairs

Figure 19 shows the relation between peak oil rate and CSOR; as expected better reservoir properties
usually translate into lower CSOR as well as higher peak oil rate.

Figure 19—CSOR vs. Peak oil rate for individual well pairs
16 SPE-183721-MS

Effect of bottom water on SAGD performances

As showed in Figure 6 and as mentioned above, a water leg is present in the southern part of the field and
some well pairs have been drilled partially above the water. Boyle et al. (Boyle, Gittins, & Chakrabarty,
2003) discussed briefly the issues caused by bottom water for Phase B i.e. the difficulty in the adjustment
of the operating pressure. The issue is particularly severe for Phases J and K, which have respectively 2 and
3 well pairs above water; in both phases, the southernmost well pair is completely over water.
Figure 20 compares the WOR for wells in Phase G where no bottom water is present and which is used as
a reference, and wells in Phases J and K, which are drilled over bottom water. For greater convenience, the
"hot" yellow, orange and red colors represent no bottom water while the blue colors indicate the presence
of bottom water. As can be observed from the figure, wells with bottom water usually produce at higher
WOR than when no bottom water is present.

Figure 20—Comparison of WOR for wells with and without bottom water. Blue colors represent wells with bottom water.

Figure 21 is a plot of CSOR vs. time on production for the same group of wells and using the same colors;
the figure clearly demonstrates that the wells with bottom water have poorer CSOR (sometimes drastically)
than wells without bottom water.
SPE-183721-MS 17

Figure 21—Comparison of CSOR for wells with and without bottom water. Blue colors represent wells with bottom water.

Figure 22 shows a plot of the ratio of cumulative water produced to injected steam (CWSR); this ratio is
usually around 1.0 for normal SAGD operations. Higher water production suggests higher water saturation
in the area or the influx of water from another source (aquifer) while lower than 1.0 ratio suggests that
steam is being lost away from the wells. The CWSR in Senlac is high for every phase starting from Phase
D (excluding Phase K – see later); this could be due to the influx of water from the aquifer to the south or to
the north or to the production of water from previous phases (for instance in the cases of Phases D, F and G).

Figure 22—Cumulative Water to Steam Ratio for each phase

18 SPE-183721-MS

Phase K exhibits a very low CWSR which suggests that part of the injected steam may be moving away
from the well pairs, which could explain the poor performances of the phase.

Technical innovations
Despite the good performances of SAGD, operators are always looking for ways to improve the efficiency
and the economics of the process. Beside the use of low pressure and ESPs, two other technical innovations
have been tested in Senlac: the use of wedge wells and the use of solvent.

Wedge wells
In 2007 Cenovus Energy (then operator of Senlac) filed a patent (Canada Patent No. 2591498, 2007) for
the application of "Wedge wells" which consists in drilling a horizontal production well low in the reservoir
between two fully developed SAGD steam chambers to benefit from the heat remaining in the reservoir
and recover the undrained oil. Three wedge wells were drilled in Senlac, one in 2007 and two in 2010
(Figure 23).

Figure 23—Location of Wedge wells (blue: 2007, orange and green: 2010)

Figure 24 shows the oil rate and cumulative oil production for the 3 wedge wells. The first one was quite
poor but the second and third drilled in Phase G were very good, with the last well achieving a cumulative
production of almost 254,000 bbl. This is much higher than most of the primary wells in the area where
cumulative production averages 90,000 bbl.
SPE-183721-MS 19

Figure 24—Wedge wells production data. Colors correspond to Figure 23. Dashed lines correspond to cumulative production.

Solvent Added Process (SAP)

The Solvent Added Process is one among other solvent based processes (Ardali, Barrufet, Mamora, & Qiu,
2012); it was first described by Gupta et al. (Gupta, Gittins, & Picherack, 2004). It consists in combining
the benefits of SAGD and solvent by adding hydrocarbon solvents (propane, butane, pentane etc.) to the
steam late in the SAGD process. Expected benefits are (Gupta, Gittins, & Picherack, 2005):

• Acceleration of production;

• Reduction of SOR;

• Reduction of API gravity by precipitation of heavy fractions;

• Reduction of residual oil saturation and corresponding increase in recovery.

The process requires some facility modifications that will not be detailed here but are discussed further
by Gupta and co-workers (Gupta, Gittins, & Picherack, 2004).
A test of the process took place in Senlac in February 2002 in one of the Phase C well pairs (Boyle,
Gittins, & Chakrabarty, 2003), (Gupta, Gittins, & Picherack, 2005) with butane used as the solvent. Due to
the short duration of the test and the fact that public production data is only available on a monthly basis,
we use Figure 25 from Boyle et al. (Boyle, Gittins, & Chakrabarty, 2003) as an illustration.
20 SPE-183721-MS

Figure 25—Performances of SAP test (reproduced from (Boyle, Gittins,

& Chakrabarty, 2003)). The red line indicates the start of the test.

As can be seen from Figure 25, the oil rate increased significantly after the injection of solvent. In
addition, the Steam-Oil ratio decreased from 2.5 down to 1.5 (Gupta, Gittins, & Picherack, 2005). The API
gravity increased by approximately 1 degree and 70% of the solvent was recovered (Gupta & Gittins, 2006).
The results were judged encouraging by the authors who went on to test the process further in Christina Lake.

The paper has presented a very successful SAGD project in a relatively thin heavy oil reservoir in Western
Canada. Oil viscosity is 3,000 to 5,000 cp and net pay is 13 m on the average. High peak oil rates of 1,000
bopd up to almost 3,000 bopd per well pair have been achieved together with CSOR as low as 1.31 bbl/bbl;
most well pairs recovered 500,000 bbl up to 1.6 MMbbl of oil. This was one of the very first commercial
SAGD projects and although the results were not as good as anticipated initially, the project has been both
a technical and an economic success.
Based on these results, it is suggested that for heavy oil reservoirs, a minimum net pay cut-off of 11 to 12
m may be adequate for the application of SAGD, rather than the 15 m recommended by most authors for
bitumen reservoirs. This may open the door for application in reservoirs so far deemed too thin for SAGD,
both in Canada and elsewhere.
The paper also showed that even thin water legs can have a detrimental impact on the production
performances of SAGD in such thin heavy oil reservoirs, with high WOR and CSOR.
Finally, the paper presented some of the new technologies that were introduced or tested very early in
Senlac, such as high temperature ESPs, Wedge wells and Solvent Added Process.

The author wishes to thank Tristan Euzen for the geological interpretation and for preparing the maps and

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