Abstract

There have been numerous laboratory experimental studies and field tests on ASP flooding. Most of the laboratory experiments focused mainly on the effect of the ultra-low oilwater interfacial tension on oil recovery. The relationship between the viscosity of ASP solution and oil recovery efficiency of ASP flooding has not been well understood.

In this paper, the relationship between the viscosity of ASP solution and oil recovery in heterogeneous porous models was studied. More than 50 ASP flood tests were conducted using artificial models. These models were made to have different permeability variation coefficients so that ASP floods in homogeneous and heterogeneous reservoirs could be simulated. Sixteen ASP solutions were prepared and used in ASP flood tests. Based on the results of ASP flood tests, the effects on tertiary oil recovery of NaOH concentration and of the balance between the IFT reduction and viscosity increase were discussed. For heterogeneous models, it was found that there existed a minimum viscosity value of ASP solution for ultra-low IFT system to fully function in improving residual oil recovery. This minimum viscosity is defined as critical displacement viscosity in this study. When the viscosity of a ASP solution is lower than the critical displacement viscosity, the oil recovery efficiency of ASP flooding is dominated by the viscosity of the ASP solution; the reduction in interfacial tension to an ultralow level contributed little to oil recovery. When the viscosity is higher than the critical displacement viscosity, both the viscosity and ultra-low IFT contributed to oil recovery. This critical displacement viscosity should be one of the important parameters which can be used to optimize the chemical formula of a ASP flood for a target reservoir.

Introduction

As a relatively new technology of tertiary oil recovery, alkaline/surfactant/polymer (ASP) flooding has been studied extensively in the last two decades. [1–9] ASP flooding enhances oil recovery through two major mechanisms: increasing the viscosity of displacing solution to improve the sweep efficiency by using polymer and reducing oil-water interfacial tension (IFT) to a very low value (∼10–3 mN/m) to improve the pore level displacement efficiency through the synergetic effect of surfactant and alkaline. [10].Field tests and laboratory studies have shown that ASP flooding is more efficient than any single component flooding, such as alkaline, surfactant, or polymer flooding. [6–8] At present, it is a promising tertiary recovery method and is getting increasingly more attention.

Seven field ASP floods have been implemented in Daqing oilfield, China. It was found that in the early stage of some tests high alkaline concentrations could cause alkaline scale problems in the oil formation and the wellbore [8,9,11]. In addition, high alkaline concentration could weaken the efficiency of polymer in increasing the viscosity of the ASP solution. Therefore, the polymer concentration in some field tests was increased from 1,200mg/L to 1,800mg/L, and then to 2,300 mg/L in order to ensure that the viscosity of ASP solution was not lower than 30mPa.s. It was predicted that, with this level of viscosity of the displacing fluid, the oil recovery of ASP flooding could be as high as 20% original oil-in-place (OOIP).

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