Models for steam or hot-water injection into a fractured diatomite or shale reservoir are developed from existing analytic models of energy transport and countercurrent imbibition.
Radial convective heat flow through a horizontal fracture system is modeled with conductive heat flow into the low-permeability matrix. The flow geometry approximates hot-fluid injection into a five-spot pattern. Recovery mechanisms accounted for in the models include capillary imbibition and thermal expansion. Temperature dependence of viscosity and interfacial tension (IFT) are included in the imbibition estimate. Laboratory data are needed to quantify the magnitude of the imbibition mechanism, which is usually the primary contributor to oil recovery. Reservoir properties representative of either the Belridge Diatomite or the Antelope Shale, two giant fractured oil reservoirs, are used for the model forecasts. Currently, however, only temperature-dependent imbibition data for diatomite reservoirs are available.
The steamflood model has been partially validated against a large-scale project in the Belridge Diatomite. By use of public-domain information, a reasonable comparison was obtained between the model and the field project during a 4-year injection period. Comparison with conventional thermal simulation was also performed, and it indicated reasonable agreement with the steamflood analytical model.
The models have been used to determine the key factors determining the success of thermal recovery in fractured, low-permeability reservoirs. Steam injection is shown to be superior to hot-water injection in heating the matrix. Key factors enhancing recovery include reduced fracture spacing, increased matrix permeability, and increased injection temperature. Model results indicate that steamflood recoveries of more than 40% of the original oil in place (OOIP) may be achieved by injection in diatomite containing light oil. Application to diatomites containing heavy oil also shows good performance. Successful application in diatomite reservoirs is forecast to be possible in the current low oil-price environment. Economic application in fractured shales, assuming similar imbibition behavior as in diatomites, would require a higher oil price because of the higher well costs and lower oil content relative to diatomite projects.
Because of the significant volumes of remaining oil in place (OIP) in both the diatomite and shale reservoirs, the application of thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to these resources represents the logical next step in steamflood development.