Ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) uses recursive updates for data assimilation and provides dependable uncertainty quantification. However, it requires high computing cost. On the contrary, ensemble smoother (ES) assimilates all available data simultaneously. It is simple and fast, but prone to showing two key limitations: overshooting and filter divergence. Since channel fields have non-Gaussian distributions, it is challenging to characterize them with conventional ensemble based history matching methods. In many cases, a large number of models should be employed to characterize channel fields, even if it is quite inefficient. This paper presents two novel schemes for characterizing various channel reservoirs. One is a new ensemble ranking method named initial ensemble selection scheme (IESS), which selects ensemble members based on relative errors of well oil production rates (WOPR). The other is covariance localization in ES, which uses drainage area as a localization function. The proposed method integrates these two schemes. IESS sorts initial models for ES and these selected are also utilized to calculate a localization function of ES for fast and reliable channel characterization. For comparison, four different channel fields are analyzed. A standard EnKF even using 400 models shows too large uncertainties and updated permeability fields lose channel continuity. However, the proposed method, ES with covariance localization assisted by IESS, characterizes channel fields reliably by utilizing good 50 models selected. It provides suitable uncertainty ranges with correct channel trends. In addition, the simulation time of the proposed method is only about 19% of the time required for the standard EnKF.

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