Fellows, CA – March 6, 2019 – RGL liner-deployed flow control devices (FCDs) are being installed by Chevron in Kern County this year, embracing new steam efficiency technology in wells nearly 60 years old.
Chevron technology engineers have partnered with RGL Reservoir Management Inc. (parent company of Pacific Perforating based in California) to design a tubing-deployed FCD that can place steam in precise locations along a 1,000-ft horizontal well.
“We have worked with Chevron for many years on flow control engineering, design, and testing, of which we are extremely pleased with the progress and results to date,” said RGL’s VP of Business Development, Brent Fermaniuk. “We look forward to continuing to expand our business relationship with Chevron into the future. Combining forces with RGL’s global sand and flow control experts and Chevron’s engineering experts in thermal applications has been a very fruitful relationship. We are excited to see the next step in California’s thermal heavy-oil completions with tubing deployed flow control devices. The goal is better steam distribution and enhanced production.”
Why Steam Extraction
Managing steam is important because extracting heavy oil out of the ground requires two processes. First, steam must be injected into the ground to reduce the viscosity of the tar sands and allow the heavy oil and water to flow. Second, the wells are put on production and the fluid is pumped to the surface through downhole filtered liners.
“The reason we are installing flow control devices in Kern River thermal oil wells is simple,” said Chevron Technology Engineer Tim Gorham. “Economics is the driver.”
By drilling a vertical hole to 1,800 ft and then drilling horizontally another 800 ft, steam is injected laterally to a greater distance than the standard vertical method. By doing so, one well can replace several large diameter wells that cost three times as much. Chevron expects three of these expensive wells would be needed to achieve equivalent results of one well with an FCD.
“Drilling larger holes raises cost exponentially,” said Gorham. “Not only does it take longer, but the costs of casing and cementing these wells with larger pipe can more than double the cost of smaller diameter holes.”
Chevron’s Steam Technology team of Gorham, Scott Buell, Mike Wells, and Jack Simms combined their expertise with Calgary, Canada-based RGL’s engineering group to design and test the tools.
Innovation with RGL
What makes these wells innovative is that along the lateral hole liner, three FCDs have been installed with precise flow valves that can be opened and closed to direct steam from the heel to the toe of the well.
“We have placed flow control tools in horizontal wells before,” said Gorham. “What makes this technology exciting is we can activate and shut down these devices, directing steam precisely where we want it.”
The devices were installed early January with the first and second stages (heel and middle) open. In April, additional FCDs will be deployed and in August, the heel device will be closed, and the currently closed toe will be opened.
“This is one of the most important steps forward since steam was introduced back in the early 1960s,” said RGL’s US Sales Director Roger Miller. “The RGL design will allow users to receive maximum results from the steam and redirect that steam when required. Producers will not need the services of a production rig to deploy the devices. A coiled tubing rig can shift the flow control device and the work can be done in a day.”
Both Chevron and RGL teams agreed that any tool that allows greater oil extraction at less cost is of benefit to the local economy.
Steamflooding in Kern County
When steamflooding was introduced to the shallow oil wells of Kern County in the early 1960s, it immediately enhanced heavy-oil production. Prior to the use of steam, Kern County’s oil wells operated on “cold primary production.” Using this process, most of the easily accessible oil was removed from the field. Enhanced production technologies, such as steamflooding, have made it possible to extract much of the oil once considered unfeasible to recover.
“Oil companies ordered some steam generators and started putting them in the field,” said Miller. “A well that had been producing 5 B/D was injected with steam for several days, allowed to soak, then brought back on production. That same 5-bbl well increased to as much as 50 bbls.”
Today’s modern oil field would not exist without steam injection. Neither would the jobs associated with oil production. To keep that oilfield producing and these jobs viable, steam injection methods are being analyzed and improvements are being developed. Getting that steam to the most desirable areas of the formation is critical to increasing production.
RGL Reservoir Management
RGL engineers and manufactures sand control and flow control products for highly challenging reservoirs. We use innovation and technology to build value for our customers by understanding their reservoirs and providing the right solution for long-term performance.