Peter Colonomos
Chief Technical Officer
NorthPoint Group
View from the Top

Steam Injection for Heavy Oil Production

Tue, 01/22/2013 - 15:12

Q: What are the roots of NorthPoint Systems, and which production solutions are you implementing in the Mexican market?

A: NorthPoint is a relatively young company comprised of personnel with long careers in the oil and gas sector. While the company was originally founded in the United States, NorthPoint currently operates in various countries, including Canada, Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico. Experts within the company have devoted their time to designing advanced solutions for steam injection and other enhanced oil recovery technologies, as well as the development and manufacturing of patented technologies for more efficient hydrocarbon production. Since 2009, NorthPoint Systems has been working closely with Pemex on developing a cyclic steam injection project in the Samaria Neogono field, which belongs to the Samaria Luna asset in the southern region.

Q: How does cyclic steam injection work and where is it being employed successfully?

A: Steam injection allows for the production of heavy and extra-heavy crude oil through the injection of high temperature steam directly into the reservoirs where the resources are confined through specialized high temperature completion tools. Steam is created on the surface by running softened water through high capacity gas or diesel-powered boilers. The steam itself acts merely as an efficient mechanism for delivering large quantities of energy (enthalpy) into the reservoir, which serves to reduce the viscosity of this tar-like crude and increase both production and recovery rates. Thermal EOR has proven to be an effective and often inexpensive mechanism to increase oil recovery factors, particularly in places with easy access to water and natural gas supplies. Widely used in Venezuela, Canada, California, and Oman, thermal EOR projects have shown rates of recovery well above 25% of original oil in place (OOIP). This has driven the technology to become broadly accepted when producing oil of 12°API and below.

Q: How has NorthPoint implemented its steam injection project in Samaria Luna?

A: Our biggest eachievement has been the development of well-completion systems for high-temperature thermal wells and the information network that supports activity management in the cyclic steam injection technique. Samaria Neogeno cyclic steam injection was designed in its early stages using similar projects in different countries as a technical foundation and operational reference guide. NorthPoint supplied the thermal completion tools requested by Pemex for the pilot wells and closely monitored their proper installation and performance. We later worked with personnel from the Samaria Luna asset to modify the initial completion designs with the objective of optimizing injection and production, as well as designing a tailored data-capturing and monitoring system that enables an in- depth efficiency analysis of the process. These completions and data acquisition technologies resulted in the sustained productivity of wells through long periods of time. The pilot project yielded positive results, proving that cyclic steam stimulation was a suitable method of production for extra- heavy oil in the Samaria field. After the encouraging initial results from the pilot project the process of commercial proliferation of cyclic steam began throughout the reservoir.

The specific geological characteristics of Samaria – including the challenging depths, high pressures, and high temperatures that characterize the field – led NorthPoint to develop custom-designed completion systems, operational procedures, and monitoring tools that are able to compensate for these atypical circumstances and drive heavy and extra-heavy oil production up. This is not achieved through a constant formula that can be applied anywhere. This open philosophy has been the main driver behind our rapid growth in diverse markets.

During the proliferation of cyclic steam injection in Samaria, starting in 2011, Pemex has been able to drill a large number of wells with innovative designs, which have included changes in artificial lift systems and the implementation of selective injection systems. This has been made possible by an in-depth understanding of each reservoir’s specific requirements in combination with the use of new knowledge and technologies. The joint efforts of Pemex with integrated service companies allowed for the identification of opportunities to improve and the use of these pioneering technologies in the Samaria field.