Single-well chemical tracer (SWCT) is the most commonly used field method to determine oil or water saturation in one-well enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) pilots. Because hydrolysis of an ester, which is the main part of the method, leads to forming acid as well as alcohol, the equilibrium state of the reservoir is disturbed, and thus the pH changes. It is generally accepted that the hydrolysis-reaction rate is mainly dependent on the pH and temperature. Therefore, it is required to know the extent to which this dependency might affect the shape of the product-tracer profiles and the numerical interpretation of the field-test data for computing residual oil saturation (Sor). In this study, this notion has been investigated by coupling a multiphase-flow simulator to the geochemistry package PHREEQC (Parkhust and Appelo 2013).
In this study, the PHREEQC geochemical simulator has been used to illustrate the extent to which different parameters might affect the pH variation during the test. The PHREEQC database has been modified to take the ester-hydrolysis reaction into account by adding the ester, alcohol, and acid-product species. The hydrolysis-reaction mechanisms of ester have also been programmed to account for the dependency of the hydrolysis reaction on the pH.
Also, because ester partitions into the oil phase and travels behind the water phase (i.e., Darcy velocity), performing two-phase flow would be necessary to highlight the significance of the pH dependency of the hydrolysis-reaction rate on the tracer profiles. For doing that, a multiphase Buckley-Leverett (BL) flow simulation is coupled with IPhreeqc, which is an open-source module of the PHREEQC geochemical package. Then, a California Turbidite SWCT test has been re-evaluated to verify the approach. At the end, the geochemistry of a reservoir with an almost weak resistance (high temperature and weak buffer capacity) against pH variation in the SWCT test has been studied using the geochemical-based approach. The results show that the variation of the hydrolysis rate with pH could affect mainly the tail edge of the predicted tracer profiles, and it could marginally affect the apex of the profiles; however, it might affect the interpreted value of the Sor measurement as the resistance against pH variation becomes weaker. In these conditions, adapting the SWCT-test designs (i.e., shut-in time and injecting lower concentration of ester) could diminish the pH variation.
The pH dependency of the hydrolysis-reaction rate is recommended for the numerical interpretation of the field SWCT-test data. The results of this study can be used to minimize the uncertainties of the SWCT tests and to improve the reliability of the Sor measurements.