Downhole electric heating of heavy-oil wells

  • John Karanikas Salamander Solutions Inc.
  • Guillermo Pastor Salamander Solutions Inc.
  • Scott Penny Petrospec Engineering Inc.
Keywords: downhole electric heating, heavy oil, Enhanced Oil Recovery, CO2 emissions


Downhole electric heating has historically been unreliable or limited to short, often vertical, well sections. Technology improvements over the past several years now allow for reliable, long length, relatively high-powered, downhole electric heating suitable for extended-reach horizontal wells. The application of this downhole electric heating technology in a horizontal cold-producing heavy oil well in Alberta, Canada is presented in this paper.

The field case demonstrates the benefits and efficacy of applying downhole electric heating, especially if it is applied early in the production life of the well. Early production data showed 4X-6X higher oil rates from the heated well than from a cold-producing benchmark well in the same reservoir. In fact, after a few weeks of operation, it was no longer possible to operate the benchmark well in pure cold-production mode as it watered out, whereas the heated well has been producing for twenty (20) months without any increase in water rate. The energy ratio, defined as the heating value of the incremental produced oil to the injected heat, is over 20.0, resulting in a carbon-dioxide footprint of less than 40 kgCO2/bbl, which is lower than the greenhouse gas intensity of the average crude oil consumed in the US.

A numerical simulation model that includes reactions that account for the foamy nature of the produced oil and the downhole injection of heat, has been developed and calibrated against field data.  The model can be used to prescribe the range of optimal reservoir and fluid properties to select the most promising targets (fields, wells) for downhole electric heating as a production optimization method. The same model can also be used during the execution of the project to explore optimal operating conditions and operating procedures.

Downhole electric heating in long horizontal wells is now a commercially available technology that can be reliably applied as a production optimization recovery scheme in heavy oil reservoirs. Understanding the optimum reservoir conditions where the application of downhole electric heating maximizes economic benefits will assist in identifying areas of opportunity to meaningfully increase reserves and production in heavy oil reservoirs around the world.


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How to Cite
Karanikas, J. ., Pastor, G., & Penny, S. (2020). Downhole electric heating of heavy-oil wells. CT&F - Ciencia, Tecnología Y Futuro, 10(2), 61–72.


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