Polymer flooding offers the potential to recover more oil from reservoirs but requires significant investments, which necessitate a robust analysis of economic upsides and downsides. Key uncertainties in designing a polymer flood are often reservoir geology and polymer degradation. The objective of this study is to understand the impact of geological uncertainties and history matching techniques on designing the optimal strategy for, and quantifying the economic risks of, polymer flooding in a heterogeneous clastic reservoir.

We applied two different history matching techniques (adjoint-based and a stochastic algorithm) to match data from a prolonged waterflood in the Watt Field, a semisynthetic reservoir that contains a wide range of geological and interpretational uncertainties. Next, sensitivity studies were carried out to identify first-order parameters that impact the net present value (NPV). These parameters were then deployed in an experimental design study using Latin hypercube sampling (LHS) to generate training runs from which a proxy model was created using polynomial regression. A particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm was employed to optimize the NPV for the polymer flood. The same approach was used to optimize a standard waterflood for comparison. Optimizations of the polymer flood and waterflood were performed for the history-matched model ensemble and the original ensemble.

The optimal strategy to deploy the polymer flood and maximize NPV varies based on the history matching technique. The average NPV and the variance are predicted to be higher in the stochastic history matching compared to the adjoint technique. This difference is due to the ability of the stochastic algorithm to explore the parameter space more broadly, which created situations in which the oil in place is shifted upward, resulting in a higher NPV. Optimizing a history-matched ensemble leads to a narrow range in absolute NPV compared to optimizing the original ensemble. This difference is because the uncertainties associated with polymer degradation are not captured during history matching. The result of cross comparison, in which an optimal polymer design strategy for one ensemble member is deployed to the other ensemble members, predicted a decline in NPV but surprisingly still showed that the overall NPV is higher than for an optimized waterflood, even for suboptimal polymer injection strategies. This observation indicates that a polymer flood could be beneficial compared to a waterflood, even if geological uncertainties are not captured properly.

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