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1. (WO1998050679) COMMUNICATING HORIZONTAL WELL NETWORK
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CLAIMS

We claim:

1. A method of and apparatus for producing fluids from a subterranean formation containing such fluids, comprising a network of conduits formed and operated according to the following steps:

a) forming a well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation;

b) completing and equipping the well-bore so that fluids contained in the formation can be produced from the formation through the well-bore;

c) producing fluids from the formation through the well-bore;

d) forming at least one additional well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation, such that the horizontal section of said at least one additional well-bore is oriented in the direction of the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), and is in fluid communication with the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), without intersecting with such well-bore; and

e) at least completing the at least one additional well-bore, to form a conduit within the formation to allow and cause fluids contained in the formation which drain or flow into such at least one additional well-bore to flow to and be produced from the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) above.

2. The method as set forth in claim 1 , where in performing step (d) fluid communication between the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) occurs during the forming of said at least one additional well-bore.

3. The method as set forth in claim 1 , where in performing step (d) the production of substances from the formation through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) continues.

4. The method as set forth in claim 1, where in performing step (d) said fluid communication is created by fracturing, perforation, washing away or removing a portion of the material comprising the reservoir lying between the horizontal section of the at least one additional well-bore and the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a).

5. The method as set forth in claim 1 , where such fluid communication is created is created by performing step (c).

6. The method as set forth in claim 1 , where in performing step (d) the horizontal section of the at least one additional well-bore is formed so that such section overlaps with or crosses over the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), without intersecting the horizontal section such well-bore.

7. The method as set forth in claim 1 , where in performing step (b) said well-bore is also equipped for the purpose of injecting substances into the formation and is used to inject substances into the formation.

8. The method as set forth in claim 1 , where in all well-bores formed pursuant to steps (a) and (d) are equipped to inject substances into the formation used to conduct a cyclic fluid injection and production process to produce fluids from the formation, comprising the following steps:

i) injecting a fluid into the formation, through the well-bore formed in step (a), to mobilize the fluids already contained in the formation;

ii) ceasing the injection of fluid and shutting the well network in for a period of time;

iii) producing fluids from the formation through the well-bore formed in step (a) of claim 1 ; and

iv) repeating steps (i), (ii) and (iii), in a continuous cycle until further production of fluids from the formation is no longer desirable;

9. The method as set forth in claim 8, where in performing step (i) said injected fluid comprises at least one of the group comprising a hydrocarbon, a solvent, water, steam, carbon dioxide, an acid, a base, a solution, a leaching fluid or a fluid containing a solid held in suspension, a liquid, a gas, a multiphase fluid or a mixture of two or more substances from within such group

10. The method as set forth in claim 8, where in said injected fluid is heated and injected into the formation at a temperature higher than the temperature of the formation.

11. The method set forth in claim 8, where in prior to performing step (i), the at least one additional well-bore is equipped to inject substances into the formation, and where in step (i) comprises simultaneously injecting a fluid into the formation, through the well-bore formed in step (a) of claim 1 and the at least one additional well-bore, to mobilize the fluids already contained in the formation

12. A method of and apparatus for producing fluids from a subterranean formation containing such fluids comprising the steps of: a) forming a well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation and completing and equipping the well-bore so that fluids contained in the formation can be produced from the formation through the well-bore;

b) producing fluids from the formation through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), and while producing such fluids, forming at least two or more additional well-bores each having a horizontal section that is located within the formation, such that the horizontal sections of both said at least two or more additional well-bores are oriented in the direction of the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), and are in fluid communication with the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), without intersecting with such well-bore; and

c) at least completing the at least two or more additional well-bores, and using such at least two or more additional well-bores as conduits within the formation to allow and cause fluids contained in the formation which drain or flow into such at least two or more additional well-bores to flow to and be produced the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) above.

13. The method as set forth in claim 12, where in performing step (c) the said at least two or more additional well-bores are formed sequentially and immediately one after the other.

14. The method as set forth in claim 12, where in performing step (c) the said at least two or more additional well-bores are formed sequentially, but not immediately one after the other.

15. The method as set forth in claim 12, where in performing step (b) said fluid communication is created by fracturing, perforation, washing away, or removing a portion of the material comprising the reservoir lying between the horizontal section of at least one of the at least two or more additional well-bores and the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a).

16. The method as set forth in claim 12, where in performing step (b) the horizontal section of the well-bore of at least one of the least two or more additional well-bores is formed so that such horizontal section overlaps with or crosses over the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), without intersecting the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a).

17. The method as set forth in claim 12, where in performing step (a) said well-bore is also equipped for the purpose of injecting substances into the formation and is used conduct a cyclic injection and production process.

18. The method of claim 17 where in the injection fluid is heated above the temperature of the formation prior to injection into the formation.

19. The method of claim 17 where in the injection fluid comprises at least one of the group comprising a hydrocarbon, a solvent, water, steam, carbon dioxide, an acid, a base, a solution, a leaching fluid or a fluid containing a solid held in suspension, a liquid, a gas, a multiphase fluid or a mixture of two or more substances from within such group.

20. The method set forth in claim 12, comprising the additional step of equipping at least two or more of the well-bores formed pursuant to at least one of steps (a) and (b) for the injection of fluids into the formation and utilizing said well-bores to simultaneously inject fluids into the formation in the conduct of a cyclic injection and production process, using only the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) to produce fluids from the formation in the conduct of such process, and where in the injection fluid comprises at least one of the group comprising a hydrocarbon, a solvent, water, steam, carbon dioxide, an acid, a base, a solution, a leaching fluid or a fluid containing a solid held in suspension, a liquid, a gas, a multiphase fluid or a mixture of two or more substances from within such group, and the injection fluid may be heated above the temperature of the formation prior to injection into the formation.

21. A method of and apparatus for producing fluids from a subterranean formation containing such fluids comprising the steps of:

a) forming a well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation and completing and equipping the well-bore so that fluids contained in the formation can be produced from the formation through the well-bore;

b) producing fluids from the formation through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), and while producing such fluids, forming at least one additional well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation, such that the horizontal section of said at least one additional well-bore is oriented in the direction of the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), and is in fluid communication with the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), without intersecting with such well-bore; and

c) forming at least one further well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation, such that the horizontal section of said at least one additional well-bore is at least oriented in the direction of the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (b), and is at least in fluid communication with the well-bore formed pursuant to step (b), without intersecting with such well-bore or the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), and

d) at least completing the well-bores formed pursuant to steps (b) and (c), and using such well-bores as conduits within the formation to allow or cause fluids contained in the formation which drain or flow into such well-bores to flow to and be produced through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) above.

22. The method as set forth in claim 21 , where in the well-bores formed pursuant to steps (b) and (c), are formed immediately one after the other.

23. The method as set forth in claim 21 , where in the well-bores formed pursuant to steps (b) and (c), are formed sequentially as stated in claim 21 , but not immediately one after the other.

24. The method as set forth in claim 21 , where in the fluid communication referred to in at least one of steps (b) and (c) is created by producing fluids from the formation through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a).

25. The method as set forth in claim 21 , where in the fluid communication referred to in at least one of steps (b) and (c) is created by fracturing, perforation, washing away or removing a portion of the material comprising the reservoir lying between the horizontal section of at least one of the well-bores formed pursuant to such steps and the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a).

26. The method as set forth in claim 21 , where in the horizontal section of at least one of the well-bores formed pursuant to steps (a) and (b) , is formed so that such section overlaps with or crosses over the horizontal section of at least one other well-bore formed pursuant to such claim, without intersecting such horizontal section.

27. The method as set forth in claim 21 , where in at least one of the well-bores is also equipped for the purpose of injecting substances into the formation and all well-bores formed pursuant to such claim are used to conduct a cyclic injection and production process, whereby less than all such well-bores are used to produce fluids from the formation.

28. The method of claim 27 where in the injection fluid is heated above the temperature of the formation prior to injection into the formation.

29. The method of claim 27 where in the injection fluid comprises at least one of the group comprising a hydrocarbon, a solvent, water, steam, carbon dioxide, an acid, a base, a solution, a leaching fluid or a fluid containing a solid held in suspension, a liquid, a gas, a multiphase fluid or a mixture of two or more substances from within such group.

30. The method set forth in claim 21 , comprising the additional step of equipping at least two of the well-bores formed pursuant to steps (b) and (c) for the injection of fluids into the formation and utilizing said well-bores to simultaneously inject fluids into the formation in the conduct of a cyclic injection and production process, using only the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) of claim 21 to produce fluids from the formation in the conduct of such process, and where in the injection fluid comprises at least one of the group comprising a hydrocarbon, a solvent, water, steam, carbon dioxide, an acid, a base, a solution, a leaching fluid or a fluid containing a solid held in suspension, a liquid, a gas, a multiphase fluid or a mixture of two or more substances from within such group, and the injection fluid may be heated above the temperature of the formation prior to injection into the formation.

31. A method of and apparatus for producing fluids from a subterranean formation containing such fluids comprising the steps of:

a) forming a well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation and completing and equipping the well-bore so that fluids contained in the formation can be produced from the formation through the well-bore;

b) producing fluids from the formation through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), and while producing such fluids, forming at least one additional well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation, such that the horizontal section of the said at least one additional well-bore is oriented in the direction of the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), and is in fluid communication with the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), without intersecting with such well-bore; and

c) at least completing the at least one additional well-bore, and using such at least one additional well-bore as a conduit within the formation to allow and cause fluids contained in the formation which drain or flow into such at least one additional well-bores to flow to and be produced the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) above.

d) repeating steps (b) and (c) by forming, completing and utilizing further additional well-bores as conduits within the formation to allow and cause fluids contained in the formation which drain or flow into such further additional well-bores to flow to and be produced formed the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) above.

32. The method set forth in claim 31 , including the additional step of equipping all well-bores formed pursuant to such claim, for the injection of fluids into the formation and utilizing said well-bores to simultaneously inject fluids into the formation, in order to mobilize fluids contained in the formation, in the conduct of a cyclic injection and production process, using only the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) of such claim to produce fluids from the formation in the conduct of such process.

33. The method of claim 31 where in the injection fluid is heated above the temperature of the formation prior to injection into the formation.

34. The method of claim 31 where in the injection fluid at least one of the group comprising a hydrocarbon, a solvent, water, steam, carbon dioxide, an acid, a base, a solution, a leaching fluid or a fluid containing a solid held in suspension, a liquid, a gas, a multiphase fluid or a mixture of two or more substances from within such group.

35. The method as set forth in claim 31 , where in the well-bores formed pursuant to steps (b) and (d), are formed sequentially, but not immediately one after the other.

36. The method as set forth in claim 31 , where in all or some of the well-bores formed pursuant to steps (b) and (d), are formed simultaneously.

37. The method as set forth in claim 31 , where in where in performing at least one of steps (b) or (d) said fluid communication is created by fracturing, perforation, washing away or removing a portion of the material comprising the reservoir lying between the horizontal section of at least one of the well-bores formed pursuant to such steps and the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a).

38. The method as set forth in claim 31 , where in the horizontal section of at least one of the well-bores formed pursuant to steps (b) and (d) , is formed so that such section overlaps with or crosses over the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), without intersecting the horizontal section of such well-bore.

39. A method of and apparatus for producing mineral substances from a subterranean formation containing such substances comprising the steps of:

a) forming a well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation and completing and equipping the well-bore so that substances contained in the formation can be produced from the formation through the well-bore;

b) sequentially or simultaneously forming further additional well-bores each having a horizontal section that is located within the formation, such that the horizontal section of each said further additional well-bores is in direct or indirect fluid communication with the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), without intersecting with any other well-bore, where in such fluid communication is created by producing fluids from the formation through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) or by fracturing, perforation, washing away or removing a portion of the material comprising the reservoir lying between the horizontal section of at least one of such additional well-bores and the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a).; and c) at least completing the well-bores formed pursuant to step (b) and using such well-bores as conduits within the formation to allow and cause fluids contained in the formation which drain or flow into such well-bores to flow to and be produced through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) above, and producing fluids from the formation through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a).

40. The method of claim 39, where in at least one existing well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation, that was previously formed and at least completed, is used in place of or in addition to a well-bore formed pursuant to at least one of steps (a) and (b).

41. The method of claim 39, where in at least two, but less than all of the well-bores formed pursuant to such claim are equipped and used to produce fluids from the formation.

42. The method set forth in claim 39, including the additional step of equipping all well-bores, for the injection of one or more fluids into the formation and utilizing said well-bores to simultaneously inject one or more fluids from the group comprising a hydrocarbon, a solvent, water, steam, carbon dioxide, an acid, a base, a solution, a leaching fluid or a fluid containing a solid held in suspension, a liquid, a gas, a multiphase fluid or a mixture of two or more substances from within such group, into the formation, in order to mobilize substances contained in the formation, in the conduct of a cyclic injection and production process, using only at least one but less than all such well-bores to produce fluids from the formation in the conduct of such process.

43. The method of claim 42 where in the injection fluid is heated above the temperature of the formation prior to injection into the formation

44. The method of claim 42, where in the substance contained in the formation is a solid mineral and the fluid being injected dissolves such mineral or carries such mineral in suspension through a wash or leaching process.

45. A method of and apparatus for producing hydrocarbons from a subterranean formation containing such substances comprising the steps of:

a) forming a well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation and completing and equipping the well-bore so that substances contained in the formation can be produced from the formation through the well-bore;

b) sequentially or simultaneously forming further additional well-bores each having a horizontal section that is located within the formation, such that the horizontal section of each said further additional well-bores is in direct or indirect fluid communication with the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a), without intersecting with any other well-bore, where in such fluid communication is created by producing fluids from the formation through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) or by fracturing, perforation, washing away or removing a portion of the material comprising the reservoir lying between the horizontal section of at least one of such additional well-bores and the horizontal section of the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a).; and

c) at least completing the well-bores formed pursuant to step (b) and using such well-bores as conduits within the formation to allow and cause fluids contained in the formation which drain or flow into such well-bores to flow to and be produced through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a) above, and producing fluids from the formation through the well-bore formed pursuant to step (a).

46. The method of claim 45, where in at least one existing well-bore having a horizontal section that is located within the formation, that was previously at least completed, is used in place of or in addition to a well-bore formed pursuant to at least one of steps (a) and (b).

47. The method set forth in claim 45, including the additional step of equipping all well-bores, for the injection of one or more fluids into the formation and utilizing said well-bores to simultaneously inject one or more fluids from the group comprising a hydrocarbon, a solvent, water, steam, carbon dioxide, an acid, a base, a solution, a leaching fluid or a fluid containing a solid held in suspension, a liquid, a gas, a multiphase fluid or a mixture of two or more substances from within such group, into the formation, in order to mobilize fluids contained in the formation, in the conduct of a cyclic injection and production process, using only at least one but less than all such well-bores to produce fluids from the formation in- the conduct of such process.

48. The method of claim 47 where in the injection fluid is heated above the temperature of the formation prior to injection into the formation.

49. The method of claim 45, where in the hydrocarbons contained in the formation comprise one of the group of bitumen, crude oil and heavy oil.