It has been demonstrated in both laboratory measurements and field applications that tertiary polymer flooding can enhance oil recovery from heterogeneous reservoirs, primarily through macroscopic sweep (conformance). This study quantifies the effect of layering on tertiary polymer flooding as a function of layer-permeability contrast, the timing of polymer flooding, the oil/water-viscosity ratio, and the oil/polymer-viscosity ratio. This is achieved by analyzing the results from fine-grid numerical simulations of waterflooding and tertiary polymer flooding in simple layered models.

We find that there is a permeability contrast between the layers of the reservoir at which maximum incremental oil recovery is obtained, and this permeability contrast depends on the oil/water-viscosity ratio, polymer/water-viscosity ratio, and onset time for the polymer flood. Building on an earlier formulation that describes whether a displacement is understable or overstable, we present a linear correlation to estimate this permeability contrast. The accuracy of the newly proposed formulation is demonstrated by reproducing and predicting the permeability contrast from existing flow simulations and further flow simulations that have not been used to formulate the correlation.

This correlation will enable reservoir engineers to estimate the combination of permeability contrast, water/oil-viscosity ratio, and polymer/water-viscosity ratio that will give the maximum incremental oil recovery from tertiary polymer flooding in layered reservoirs regardless of the timing of the start of polymer flooding. This could be a useful screening tool to use before starting a full-scale simulation study of polymer flooding in each reservoir.

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