Summary

Unconventional plays pose a challenging set of operational conditions, including high temperature, high salinity, low permeability, and fracture networks. Aggressive development of these plays and the low primary recovery factors present an opportunity for using enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods. This work presents a laboratory investigation of miscible ethane (C2H6) foam for gas EOR conformance in low‐permeability, heterogeneous, harsh environments [<15 md, 136,000 ppm total dissolved solids (TDS) with divalent ions, 165°F]. The use of C2H6 as an alternative to carbon dioxide (CO2) offers several operational and availability strengths, which might expand gas EOR applications to depleted or shallower wells. Coupling gas conformance also helps improve displacement efficiencies and maximize overall recovery. Minimum miscibility pressure (MMP) displacement tests were performed for dead crude oil from the Wolfcamp Spraberry Trend area using C2H6 and CO2. Aqueous stability, salinity scan, and static foam tests were performed to identify a formulation. Subsequent foam quality and coreflood displacement tests in heterogeneous carbonate outcrop cores were conducted to compare the recovery efficiencies of three processes: gravity‐unstable, miscible C2H6 foam; gravity‐stable, miscible C2H6; and gravity‐unstable, miscible C2H6 processes. Slimtube tests comparing C2H6 to CO2 resulted in a lower MMP value for C2H6. We identified a stable surfactant blend capable of Type I microemulsion and persistent foams in the presence of oil. Corefloods conducted with gravity‐unstable miscible C2H6 foam, gravity‐stable miscible C2H6, and gravity‐unstable miscible C2H6 recovered 98.4, 61.9, and 42.6% oil originally in place, respectively. Our work shows that miscible C2H6 injection processes achieved significant recoveries even under gravity‐unstable conditions. The addition of foam provides better conformance control, enhancing overall recovery at the laboratory scale, showing promise for field applications.

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