Shale oil reservoirs such as Bakken, Niobrara, and Eagle Ford have become the main target for oil and gas investors as conventional formations started to be depleted and diminished in number. These unconventional plays have a huge oil potential; however, the predicted primary oil recovery is still low as an average of 7.5 %. Injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) to enhance oil recovery in these poor-quality formations is still a debatable issue among investigators. In this study, three steps of research have been integrated to investigate the parameters which control the success of CO2 huff-n-puff process in the field scale of shale oil reservoirs. Firstly, a numerical simulation study was conducted to upscale the reported experimental studies outcomes to the field conditions. The second step was to validate these numerical models with the field data from some of CO2-EOR pilots which were performed in Bakken formation, in North Dakota and Montana regions. Finally, statistical methods for Design of Experiments (DOE) have been used to rank the most important parameters affecting CO2-EOR performance in these unconventional reservoirs.
The Design of Experiments approved that the intensity of natural fractures (the number of natural fractures per length unit in each direction, I-direction, J direction, and K direction) and the conductivity of oil pathways (the average conductivity for the entire oil molecules path, from its storage (matrix) to the wellbore) are the two main factors controlling CO2-EOR success in shale oil reservoirs. However, the fracture intensity has a positive effect on CO2-EOR while the later has a negative effect. Furthermore, this study found that the porosity and the permeability of natural fractures in shale reservoirs are clearly changeable with the production time, which in turn, led to a clear gap between CO2 performances in the lab conditions versus to what happened in the field pilots. This work reported that the molecular diffusion mechanism is the key mechanism for CO2 to enhance oil recovery in shale oil reservoirs. However, the conditions of the candidate field and the production well criteria can enhance or downgrade this mechanism in the field scale. Accordingly, the operating parameters for managing CO2-EOR huff-n-puff process should be tuned according to the candidate reservoir and well conditions. Moreover, general guidelines have been provided from this work to perform successful CO2 projects in these complex plays.