Molecular diffusion coefficient is an important parameter in modeling mass-transfer based reservoir processes. However, experimentally measured diffusivities for heavy oil systems are relatively scarce and no standardized method exists for measurements of this important parameter. The available measurement techniques are tedious, expensive and often not very reliable. There is an obvious need for developing improved methods for measuring diffusivity of gases in heavy oils.
It is well known that as a gas dissolves into heavy oil, the oil viscosity drops considerably and this affects the diffusivity. The objective of this work is to measure the diffusivity of highly soluble gaseous solvents in heavy oils at different concentration levels. We have developed a modified pressure decay method that maintains constant concentration at the gas-liquid interface and measures the amount of gas transferred to the liquid as a function of time. An analytical solution has been developed for finding diffusion coefficient and the equilibrium solubility of gas in the oil at the test pressure. To study the concentration dependence of diffusivity, a stepwise increase in pressure is used starting from a low pressure. Through this stepwise procedure, a diffusion coefficient is measured for each gas saturation pressure (concentration), going from low pressure to near gas dew point pressure in 5 to 6 steps. The bitumen height in our cell is updated at each pressure to account for bitumen swelling. Propane was used as vapor solvents and diffusion cell was kept at constant temperature.