Polymer flooding has been widely used to improve oil recovery. However, its effectiveness would be diminished when channels (e.g., fractures, fracture-like channels, void-space conduits) are present in a reservoir. In this study, we designed a series of particular sandwich-like channel models and tested the effectiveness and applicable conditions of micrometer-sized preformed particle gels (PPGs, or microgels) in improving the polymer-flooding efficiency. We studied the selective penetration and placement of the microgel particles, and their abilities for fluid diversion and oil-recovery improvement. The results suggest that polymer flooding alone would be inefficient to achieve a satisfactory oil recovery as the heterogeneity of the reservoir becomes more serious (e.g., permeability contrast kc/km > 50). The polymer solution would vainly flow through the channels and leave the majority of oil in the matrices behind. Additional conformance-treatment efforts are required. We tried to inject microgels in an attempt to shut off the channels. After the microgel treatment, impressive improvement of the polymer-flooding performance was observed in some of our experiments. The water cut could be reduced significantly by as high as nearly 40%, and the sweep efficiency and overall oil recovery of the polymer flood were improved. The conditions under which the microgel-treatment strategy was effective were further explored. We observed that the microgels form an external impermeable cake at the very beginning of microgel injection and prevent the gel particles from entering the matrices. Instead, the microgel particles could selectively penetrate and shut off the superpermeable channels under proper conditions. Our results suggest that the 260-µm microgel particles tested in this study are effective to attack the excessive-water-production problem and improve the oil recovery when the channel has a high permeability (>50 darcies). The gels are unlikely to be effective for channels that are less than 30 darcies because of the penetration/transport difficulties. After the gels effectively penetrate and shut off the superpermeable channel, the subsequent polymer solution is diverted to the matrices (i.e., the unswept oil zones) to displace the bypassed oil. Overall, this study provides important insights to help achieve successful polymer-flooding applications in reservoirs with superpermeable channels.

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