An onshore oil well in Japan, referred to as Well M‐1 in this paper, experienced a serious emulsion problem soon after the introduction of artificial lift using a hydraulic jet pump. Even though the problem was resolved after switching to a new demulsifier, it is possible that the operator could experience another emulsion problem as the production condition changes in the future and accordingly, the new demulsifier becomes less effective. Therefore, a laboratory case study was conducted to understand not only the cause of the emulsion problem encountered, but also the relative magnitude of several factors affecting emulsion stability. Knowing the conditions that lead to the emulsion problem helps in understanding how to remove the emulsion and in designing intervention treatments to restore long‐term well productivity.
At first, the oil and brine samples from Well M‐1 were mixed and agitated to form emulsion, and subsequently emulsion stability was evaluated. Subsequently, the mixing conditions were altered to investigate the individual impact on the emulsion stability: (1a) replace Well M‐1 oil with another field's oil, (1b) replace Well M‐1 brine with another field's brine, (2) change concentrations of asphaltene, (3) change concentrations of wax, (4) change concentrations of toluene insolubles, (5) vary temperature between 20 and 70°C, (6) vary shear stress (rotational speed between 3,500 and 15,000 rev/min), and (7) vary water cut between zero and 100%.
The result of the emulsion stability in every test was different. All the above factors showed some impact on emulsion stability, except for brine composition and toluene insolubles, which had little impact on emulsion stability in this study. Operationally speaking, because it was found that the emulsion was stabilized by multiple factors, multiple preventative approaches are required to sustain stable production, free of emulsion.