After implications of hydraulic fracturing operations, the commercial production of tight formations and shale plays were successfully achieved in past decades. Due to the rapid decline rate after primary depletion of fractured reservoirs, extracting the remaining liquid hydrocarbon from the nano-Darcy permeability matrix becomes the next step.

Previously conducted laboratory experiments demonstrated promising results by successfully recovering liquid hydrocarbon from preserved and unfractured sidewall unconventional core plugs. However, what are the driving forces behind this observed result was not well understood. In other words, is the hydrocarbon recovery associated with commonly known recovery mechanisms during CO2 EOR processes, such as viscous displacement, oil volume expansion, viscosity reduction and vaporization of lighter hydrocarbon components? Or, is it driven by other mechanisms that are frequently considered insignificant during conventional CO2 EOR processes?

This study utilizes a commercial compositional simulator to investigate the oil production mechanisms from the matrix into the fractures. The process includes constructing a fine grid 3D model to simulate the previously conducted laboratory experiment, performing systematic sensitivity analysis, and evaluating the mechanisms that could potentially contribute to the oil recovery observed during the experiments. With laboratory scale modeling, the dominating mass transfer mechanism between the matrix and fractures, which in turn translates into oil recovery mechanism, is concluded to be diffusion. The work provided in this study can be used to enhance the accuracy for upscaled field simulations. However, whether CO2 EOR will unlock the unconventional liquid reservoir potential and make significant economic impacts at field scale needs to be carefully evaluated on a case by case basis.


For the past few decades, due to the increasing demand of energy and the advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies, the industry reallocated its resources into exploring ways to produce oil from the previously unprofitable shale plays.

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