Polymer Progress

Success of associative polymer flood pilot could spread technique throughout Alberta

In the southeastern part of Alberta, Calgary-based oil producer Cenovus Energy Inc. has been successfully squeezing out oil using polymer floods for some
time now.

And now it’s preparing to tackle more challenging reservoirs in the Suffield, Alta., area, where a pilot project is set to kick off later this year. In April, Cenovus received Alberta government support for its Alkali
Surfactant Associative Polymer Flood project in the Suffield Main Sand conventional reservoir at Canadian Forces Base Suffield, near Medicine Hat, Alta.

This polymer flooding technique allows for increased recovery from Alberta’s challenging conventional oil reservoirs and is expected to encourage the conservation of fresh water in enhanced oil recovery. The polymer improves the flow by thickening and pushing the oil out of the pores of the reservoir, while the alkaline and surfactant work to further “scrub” the oil from the rock.

The company’s operations on the Suffield military base in southeastern Alberta date back more than 30 years. More than 9,000 oil and natural gas wells have been drilled in that area. Waterflood technology uses water to get additional oil out of a reservoir. Polymer is a gel material that is added to the water to increase viscosity and further improve results of the waterflood.

Brent Seib, senior staff engineer with Cenovus, says that the project will cost around $18 million overall, and the fraction Cenovus will get back from the government will amount to $5.37 million over the next four years.

“Typically, these pools are seven to 10 metres thick, in terms of the oil column,” he notes. “The trick with these particular pools that we’re targeting here is that they have a fairly significant bottom water aquifer.

“The bottom water influence that we have in these pools increases the water cut fairly quickly, and we risk diluting the chemicals that we are going to be injecting here,” Seib adds. “With this particular project, why it’s unique and why it’s special, is we’re using a different style of polymer than what has been used in the past.”

This particular polymer is known as an associative polymer. “That is just a different style of polymer where when you add the alkali and the surfactant to this associated polymer, it makes the polymer much more effective in the reservoir,” he adds. “What we are doing with this more effective as-
sociative polymer is we can target this particular pool and these types of pools that have bottom water, because the polymer is more effective. We feel we will be able to do a successful polymer flood pilot.”

The company is aiming to start the pilot in the second or third quarter of this year.

“It’s being built as we speak; it’s roughly 50 per cent complete in the field,” Seib says. “Likely in [the third quarter], it will be on injection.”

The project will start with two injection wells and then there will be 13 production wells associated with the pilot.

“We’ve been polymer flooding at Suffield since 2007,” he notes. “We targeted pools out there that were a lot easier; there was no bottom water in the pools that we started with back in 2007.”

The company proved up the technology in the simpler pools back then, and with the knowledge gained from those, Cenovus went to work in the lab running reservoir simulations with the associative polymer. “Based on that, we felt we could go to the pilot stage,” Seib says.

Could this be applied to other areas, if it’s successful here? From the Cenovus perspective, the pilot is very focused on this one region, but it has potential for expansion throughout Alberta.

“Province wide, a lot of the reservoirs, oil pools in the province have significant bottom water,” Seib says. “Our vision is if we can make it work down at Suffield, there would be lots of potential, not only within our own company, but in the province.”

The company, through the lab work, proved that the associative polymers are three to five times more effective than the regular polymers, he says.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate that in the lab repeatedly, so we’re fairly confident on that,” Seib adds. “When you go from the lab to the reservoir simulator, things were looking good, we were getting decent recoveries.”

Piloting in the field will take from two to four years.

Jessica Wilkinson
Cenovus Energy Inc.

Tel: 403-766-8990

Email: [email protected]

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