Petrobank initiates third well pair at Whitesands

Petrobank Energy & Resources Ltd., Calgary, has begun air injection into its third well pair in the Whitesands pilot project in the oil sands region of Alberta.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, June 19 -- Petrobank Energy & Resources Ltd., Calgary, has begun air injection into its third well pair in the Whitesands pilot project in the oil sands region of Alberta. The company is using its "Thai" in situ combustion technology for recovery of the bitumen and heavy oil.

The company also has initiated a debottlenecking and expansion project that involves drilling three additional well pairs later this year.

Through the implementation of additional development phases, Petrobank said it expects to achieve an ultimate production level of 100,000 b/d from its existing Whitesands leases.

Petrobank's proprietary Thai technology is a new combustion process that uses a vertical air injection well combined with a horizontal production well. The process allows a portion of the oil in the reservoir to be burned, generating heat that reduces the oil's viscosity for easier flow through the production well. This method recovers an estimated 80% of OOIP while partially upgrading the crude oil in situ, Petrobank said.

Air injection in the first well pair began in late July 2006 and in the second well pair in early January 2007.

Mechanical problems with the temporary steam generator used in late December 2006 for the preignition heating cycle delayed air injection in the third well pair for 6 weeks, but Petrobank said that composition of produced gas indicates that combustion from the third well pair has been initiated and early gross fluid production capability is similar to that of the first two well pairs. Each well pair is capable of producing up to 2,000 b/d of fluid. During the first quarter, oil cuts in the wells rose to more than 50%.

Higher-than-anticipated sand production volumes required the use of a very low choke setting on the wells, but Petrobank installed a test sand knockout vessel on the first well pair that removed sand from produced fluids.

Petrobank since has designed a larger vessel that will allow the wells to be produced at their demonstrated capacity. The company expects to begin installing these units for each well pair early in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, the additional wells planned in the company's expansion project are expected to be 200 m longer than the existing 500 m well pairs. They will incorporate Petrobank's "Capri" technology, which allows a catalyst bed to be added around the outside of the horizontal production well bore to enhance the upgrading of the oil in situ.

The company also plans to implement a modified downhole completion to reduce sand production. It said it will incorporate lessons learned from the current project into the design of the three-well expansion, as well as the design of its first 10,000 b/d project—its initial full-scale development beyond current operations.

Petrobank expects to file application for this project by yearend.

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