Calculations are reported on the differential sensitivity of the updip invasion of oil strata of varying permeability to the driving pressure differential. It is assumed that the water-oil interfaces advance with sharp fronts, or that the microscopic displacement efficiency is independent of rate and capillary pressure effects. It is found that, under such conditions, limitations of withdrawal rates will not greatly inhibit the "fingering" and bypassing tendency through high permeability strata unless the differential fluid head across the original oil column is of the order of or exceeds about 80 per cent of the driving pressure differential. In practice, such restrictions will be feasible only for oil reservoirs and aquifers of high permeability and dip, but may develop automatically under combined gas injection and water drive operations.
A commonly expressed view regarding the intrusion of edgewaters into oil producing formations is that the geometry of such advance is rate sensitive. Specifically, it has been suggested that high rates of advance, stimulated by rapid withdrawals, will lead to "fingering" and an irregular type of invasion, whereas at low withdrawal rates the water encroachment will be more uniform. Two factors tend to support this view. One is the resultant effect of capillary pressure and gravity gradients in the displacement processes involved in water intrusion, which are magnified at low rates of flow so as to improve the recovery efficiency. The other is the direct retarding effect of the rising water head as it advances upslope into the producing area.
Capillary pressure forces give rise to a rate sensitivity of the oil recovery by water displacement in uniform strata as well as differential effects in non-uniform formations. These are basically independent of the effect of gravity and would also occur in horizontal beds or when the oil and water have the same density.