Cyclic Steam Operations

The Workflow

Steam injection is widely used in heavy oil reservoirs to improve production. One type is cyclic steam injection, where the same wellbore is used alternately to inject steam and produce oil. To help optimize operations, OVS has worked with several clients to develop a “Steam Picker.” The Steam Picker was one of the early tools in the OVS Workflow Library. It has been refined over the years and still has a great impact for operators that use it. The OVS Steam Picker was featured in a presentation from Pacific Coast Energy Corporation at the OMC15 conference, April 2015

The Challenge

The costs to lift heavy oil are simply higher than other oils. One reason is the cost of steam generation. In a cyclic steam operation, switching wells from steaming to soaking, soaking to production, and production back to steaming is a constant assessment. When is the right time? What impact does the switch have on the facility? Would other wells make more sense to switch instead? Optimizing when to switch a well’s mode is key to keeping production on target and steam generation costs low. Operational constraints must also be considered. A well may be identified as needing a status change however, limits on the number of wells taking steam may prevent the change even though the analytics suggest a change.  In some areas, there may be other considerations, like subsidence, emission controls, or steam temperature that affect the operation.

The Solution

One early OVS client identified optimized steam operations as a key value improvement area. This tool is a rule-based system for ranking actions that should be implemented in the cyclic operation. The system looks at certain key performance indicators like temperature, production rates, steam quality and downtime, as well as operational constraints to build a ranked list of actions. For instance, a well may decline to a point where the business rules suggest switching to steam, however the steam manifold cannot accommodate another steam injector. This well would be ranked as a low priority for switching to steam. On the other hand, another well on a different manifold may potentially take precedence in this situation.

Each day the system generates a ranked list of actions to be taken. This automated tool helps to streamline operations by reducing the amount of routine and manual evaluation that must take place. It also avoids over emphasis of some parameters or attention to certain wells because of any unintentional human biases. The tool has been used to help reduce the overall steam volumes generated in the field and to increase the number of wells that an operational team can manage.

The Steam Picker has been deployed at several locations. Each field has unique circumstances, so the tool has been designed for quick implementation and configuration.

More Information

The Steam Picker is built for a specific type of operation. The same rule-based methodology (with different rules) has been applied to other applications, like well test ranking or to oilfield coordination. If you would like to explore OVS’ Cyclic Steam Operation workflows or any other workflows from our library, please contact OVS Group.


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