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Francisco Javier Argüelles Vivas 

PhD (2015)

Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Texas

Research topic: Pore Scale Investigations on the Dynamics of SAGD Process and Residual Oil Saturation Development


Since its invention, steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) demonstrated to be a viable technology to recover heavy oil and bitumen from oil sands. However, the field experience over the last two decades indicated that, oil recovery factor is below the expected values determined from the scaled physical lab models. Knowing that the reduction of the high cost of steam is quite difficult, efforts should be made towards the improvement of the recovery factor (or reducing the residual oil saturation, Sor). Thus, the analysis of the development of Sor at the macro and micro scales turns out to be a critical problem. Sor is impacted by the dynamics of the SAGD process, reservoir properties and operational conditions.


The objective of this research  is to systematically investigate the physical reasons behind the formation of Sor at the micro scale focusing on the effects of the dynamics of SAGD and characteristics of the reservoir. This research begins with a study on Sor development in capillary tubes considering variable temperatures. Then, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) approach is used to investigate the development of Sor at temperature and pressure conditions that are difficult to reproduce through physical experiments. Using the observations through these analyses and data, the effects of a temperature gradient on the flow dynamics, oil recovery and relative permeabilities are investigated analytically for single and bundle of cylindrical capillaries.


Finally, the dynamics of the SAGD process and the development of Sor are studied through 2-D glass bead models visually. The results show that the Sor is a dynamic property that depends on the balance of the acting forces, the temperature and the temperature gradient. A detailed analysis is carried out starting from the physics in a pore. The displacement and trapping mechanisms during the formation of iii the steam chamber are elucidated and it is demonstrated how those affect the residual oil saturation development. It is also shown how the pore size, the heterogeneities and the wettability are responsible for low oil recovery factors to a great extent.



  1. Arguelles, F., Babadagli, T., Little, L., Romaniuk, N. and Ozum, B.: “High temperature density, viscosity, and interfacial tension measurements of bitumen-pentane-biodiesel and process water mixtures,” J. Chemical Eng. Data, vol. 57, no. 10, 2878-2889, 2012.

  2. Arguelles, F. and Babadagli, T.: “Drainage Type Oil and Heavy-Oil Displacement in Circular Capillary Tubes:   Two- and Three-Phase Flow Characteristics and Residual Oil Saturation Development in the Form of Film at Different Temperatures,” J. Petr. Sci. and Eng., vol. 118, 61-73, 2014.

  3. Arguelles, F. and Babadagli, T.: “Residual Liquids Saturation Development During Two and Three Phase Flow under Gravity in Square Capillaries at Different Temperatures,” Int. J. of Heat and Fluid Flow, vol. 52, 1-14, 2015.

  4. Arguelles, F. and Babadagli, T.: “A CFD Approach to Model Gas-Heavy Oil Displacement in Capillary Media at High Temperatures,” Chem. Eng. Sci., vol. 140, 299-308, 2016.

  5. Arguelles, F. and Babadagli, T.: “Analytical Solutions and Derivation of Relative Permeabilities  for Water–Heavy Oil Displacement and Gas–Heavy Oil Gravity Drainage Under Non-Isothermal Conditions,” SPE Res. Eval. and Eng., vol. 19, no. 1, 181-192, 2016.

  6. Arguelles, F. and Babadagli, T.: “Pore Scale Investigations on the Dynamics of Gravity Driven Steam Displacement Process for Heavy Oil Recovery and Development of Residual Oil Saturation:  A 2-D Visual Analysis,” accepted for publication in SPEJ, 2016.

  7. Arguelles, F. and Babadagli, T.: “Experimental and Analytical Modeling of Gravity Drainage Dominated Heavy-Oil Recovery Under Non-Isothermal Conditions: A Micro Scale Approach,” SPE 148872, 2011 CSUG/SPE Canadian Unconventional Resources Conf., Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 15-17 Nov. pp 14

  8. Arguelles, F. and Babadagli, T.: “Pore Scale Modeling of Gravity Drainage Dominated Flow under Isothermal and Non-Isothermal Conditions,” SPE 153591, 2012 SPE Latin American and Carib. Petr. Eng. Conf. (LACPEC), Mexico City, Mexico, April 16-18, pp.

  9. Romaniuk, N., Little, L., Arguelles, F., Babadagli, T., and Ozum, B.: “Effect of Bitumen Viscosity and Bitumen-Water Interfacial Tension on the Efficiency of Steam Assisted Bitumen Recovery Processes,” SPE165369, 2013 SPE Western Reg. and AAPG Pacific Section Meet. – Joint Tech. Conf., Monterey, CA, April 19-25.

  10. Little, L., Romaniuk, N., Feland, B., Arguelles, F.A., Babadagli, T., and Ozum, B.: “A Study on Energy Transfer during SAGD and Its Effects on Flow Characteristics,” SPE 165533, 2013 SPE Heavy Oil Conf., Calgary, AB, Canada, 11-13 June.

  11. Arguelles, F. and Babadagli, T.: “Pore Scale Analysis of Residual Oil Saturation Development during SAGD,” WHOC15-159, 2015 World Heavy Oil Congress, Edmonton, AB, Canada, 24-26 March.

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