Oil sands bitumen deposits in western Canada represent the third largest hydrocarbon resource in the world and with most requiring in-situ recovery technology, the safe and environmentally-responsible development of this resource is a key opportunity for Canada and the energy industry. Shell Canada Energy has operated thermal wells in Alberta for over 50 years in a number of different, steam- or other energy-based, recovery projects. Facing an ever-increasing regulatory demand for thermal wells that will provide safe long-term operation and stable hydraulic isolation from the thermal zone after abandonment, while meeting Shell’s operating principles in protecting groundwater and air and a minimized surface footprint, the technical demands to achieve this continue to grow. The key to overall technical success and reliable well integrity has been a systematic understanding of the parameters that lead to an appropriate and safe casing design, despite the need to operate the well casing at above-yield conditions. Through a combination of controlled materials testing, evaluation of full-scale connection behaviour under dynamic live conditions, and well monitoring during the operating phase, Shell Canada has been able to develop a comprehensive knowledge base over the past years that has enabled it to achieve a near-zero well failure rate. This has been complemented by a comprehensive well integrity monitoring program that not only allows periodic confirmation of mechanical integrity of well components, but also detection of inter-well formation anomalies that may lead to well failure or loss of hydraulic isolation if left unidentified. The know-how will be leveraged in the Carmon Creek thermal development project which is currently in detailed engineering design and, if approved, will start with two back-to-back development phases, each with a nominal target oil production rate of 40,000BPD.


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