Developing a Methodology to Characterize Formation Damage (Pore Plugging) due to Fines Migration in Sand Control Tests

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Stand-alone screens (SAS) have been widely used in steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD)
    operations. Although many researchers investigated the flow performance of SAS through sand
    control tests, the formation damage (pore plugging) due to fines migration has not been
    characterized under multi-phase flow conditions. In this study, a methodology is developed to
    quantify and characterize the fines migration under multi-phase flow sand control testing
    A large-scale sand retention test (SRT) facility is used to investigate the flow performance of
    SAS. Duplicated sand samples with similar particle size distribution (PSD), shape, and
    mineralogy properties to the McMurray Formation oil sands are obtained by mixing different
    types of commercial sands, silts, and clays. Oil and brine are simultaneously injected into the
    sand-pack at different water-cut levels and liquid rates to emulate the changing inflow conditions
    in SAGD operations. The saturation levels in each flow stage are measured to determine the
    relative permeability values. Next, the relative permeability curves of the duplicated sand-pack
    sample are measured following the steady-state method. Finally, the pressure data obtained from
    the SRT in each flow stage are coupled with the relative permeability values to calculate the
    retained permeability as the indicator of flow performance of SAS’.
    Generally, testing results show that single-phase oil flow generates minor and negligible
    permeability impairments in the near-screen zone of the sand-pack. An evident permeability
    reduction is observed once the water breakthrough happens, indicating that the wetting-phase
    fluid significantly mobilizes fine particles and causes pore plugging. Also, with the increase of
    flow rate and water cut, a further reduction in permeability is found as a result of the higher drag
    force and greater exposure area of fines to brine.
    The proposed methodology presented in this study allows quantitative characterization of the
    formation damage under multi-phase flow condition and provides a practical and straightforward
    method for the evaluation of the SAS’s flow performance.

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    Article (Draft / Submitted)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International