This research presents a mechanistic analysis of expanding-solvent steam-assisted gravity drainage (ES-SAGD) for heterogeneous reservoirs in terms of cumulative steam-oil ratio (SOR) as a function of cumulative bitumen production. Simulation case studies for SAGD and ES-SAGD with normal hexane at 35 bars are conducted for geostatistical realizations of two types of heterogeneous Athabasca-bitumen reservoirs. For the first type, low-permeability mudstone barriers are oriented horizontally. For the second type, they are inclined and more representative of the middle McMurray member. The solubility of water in the oleic phase at elevated temperatures is properly modeled to ensure reliable comparison between steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and ES-SAGD. Simulation results show that ES-SAGD is less sensitive to heterogeneity than SAGD in terms of cumulative SOR. On average, the reduction in SOR due to steam-solvent coinjection is simulated to be greater under heterogeneity. The reduction in SOR is greater for reservoir models with inclined mudstone barriers than in those with horizontal mudstone barriers. Analysis of simulation results indicates that the injected solvent tends to accumulate more significantly under heterogeneity, which enhances the mechanisms of ES-SAGD, such as dilution of bitumen by solvent and reduced thermal losses to the overburden. Tortuous hydraulic paths and slower gravity drainage under heterogeneity enhance the mixing between solvent and bitumen in the transverse direction along the edge of a steam chamber. Then, a larger amount of the accumulated solvent tends to facilitate lower temperatures near the chamber edge.

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