On the feasibility of time-lapse superconducting gravimetry for reservoir monitoring
Elliott, E. Judith
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The feasibility of monitoring fluid flow subsurface processes that result in density changes, using the iGrav superconducting gravimeter, is investigated. Practical targets include steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) bitumen depletion and water pumping from aquifers, for which there is currently a void in low-impact, inexpensive monitoring techniques. This study demonstrates that the iGrav has the potential to be applied to multi-scale and diverse reservoirs. Gravity and gravity gradient signals are forward modeled for a real SAGD reservoir at two time steps, and for surface-fed and groundwater-fed aquifer pumping models, to estimate signal strength and directional dependency of water flow. Time-lapse gravimetry on small-scale reservoirs exhibits two obstacles, namely, a µgal sensitivity requirement and high noise levels in the vicinity of the reservoir. In this study, both limitations are overcome by proposing (i) a portable superconducting gravimeter, and (ii) a pair of instruments under various baseline geometries. This results in improved spatial resolution for locating depletion zones, as well as the cancellation of noise common in both instruments. Results indicate that a pair of iGrav superconducting gravimeters meet the sensitivity requirements and the spatial focusing desired to monitor SAGD bitumen migration at the reservoir scales. For SAGD reservoirs, the well pair separation, reservoir depth, and survey sampling determine the resolvability of individual well pair depletion patterns during the steam chamber rising phase, and general reservoir depletion patterns during the steam chamber spreading phase. Results show that monitoring water table elevation changes due to pumping and tracking whether groundwater or surface water is being extracted are feasible.