Newly Developed Flow Control Device For Steam Injection Improves SAGD Operations

Effective steam injection is a key component of steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) development. When deploying outflow control devices (OCDs) as part of SAGD operations, steam injection effectiveness can be measured in operation time, number of on-site personnel required during operations and confirmation of OCDs shifting open — all three areas improved by the introduction of a new ball-activated OCD during field trials in Alberta’s oil sands.

Most OCD designs incorporate a sliding sleeve which is run in the closed position to allow for steam to be circulated through the well. Post circulation, the sliding sleeves traditionally require coiled-tubing intervention to shift the sleeves open, activating the OCD.

The Packers Plus Inferno ball-activated steam valve is an OCD that is opened using degradable balls pumped from surface. Once landed in the OCD, the tubing is pressured up until the sleeve shifts open. The ball then disengages from the seat and continues to the end of the tubing string. This process is repeated with progressively larger balls for all the installed OCDs.  

During field trials of the Inferno ball-activated steam valve, this innovative tool was compared to coiled tubing shiftable OCDs on three main criteria: job efficiency, confirmation of shift, and environmental, health, and safety (EHS) considerations. The Inferno ball-activated steam valve proved effective in all areas.

To compare both OCD shifting methods, a total of six wells were included in the field trial: three wells using coiled tubing shiftable OCDs and three wells using the Inferno ball-activated steam valve.

Job Efficiency

To evaluate job efficiency, the operational duration is broken into the following categories: well preparation, shifting operations and well handover.

For well preparation, the Inferno ball-activated steam valve only requires a pressure truck to deploy, so the rig up is significantly faster. For shifting, the ball can be pumped to its seat in 10-15 minutes, pumping at a rate of 1.0 m3/min so shifts can be conducted more efficiently. The well handover in all trials was similar in duration.

On average, the total duration to conduct the shifting operation of the ball-activated OCDs was 45 per cent less.

  • Duration of OCD shifting operations and total fluid pumped.

Confirmation of Shift

Confirmation of shift is evaluated using different techniques based on the OCD used: pump and acoustic charting for the Inferno ball-activated steam valve, and shifting tool latch/release for the coiled tubing shiftable OCD.

Pressure, rate, and acoustic data were recorded for all ball-activated OCD shifts using a wellhead mounted pressure sensor and acoustic geophones, and a flowmeter on the pump equipment. These methods were successful in confirming the Inferno ball-activated steam valve sleeve shift in all instances.

For the coiled tubing OCD, a tension response can be interpreted by reading off the coiled tubing injector pressures while shifting the sliding sleeve. Another indicator of positive shift is the disengagement of the shifting keys from the sliding sleeve profile. Multiple passes were required to either successfully latch or release from the sliding sleeve in all coiled tubing shiftable OCDs during the field trial. In only one trial the tool successfully latched and released, indicating a high confidence of shift.

EHS Considerations

To assess the EHS impacts, two main considerations were investigated: total equipment required and total personnel required.

By looking at the total equipment required, and what type of equipment is required, a qualitative assessment can be made regarding the complexity and risk of the operation. An assessment of the total personnel required and their job scope is used to determine the likelihood of having an EHS incident.

The Inferno ball-activated steam valve shifting can be completed with less equipment and personnel, with the most significant piece of equipment removed being the coiled tubing unit and picker to support the coiled tubing injector.


The Inferno ball-activated steam valve for use in SAGD injector wells is an effective tool for improving operational efficiency and project economics. This new OCD utilizes a dissolvable ball dropped from surface to activate a sliding sleeve downhole using hydraulic pressure, which eliminates the need to use coiled tubing to shift the OCDs when converting the injection well to SAGD.

For more information regarding the Inferno ball-activated OCD, visit:

This information was presented at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 2 October 2019 (SPE-195877-MS) © 2019 Society of Petroleum Engineers.


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