Recovering oil from oil-wet matrix in fractured carbonate rocks is highly challenging. Recent experiments have indicated that ultra-low-interfacial-tension (ULIFT) foam flood could significantly boost the oil recovery from such rocks. However, there is limited information available about the foam and the microemulsion transport in the fractured system to extract the oil from low permeability matrix. Adaptation of this technology in the field would not be possible without a good understanding of the process.

The aim of this work is to model and history match the ULIFT foam flood in fractured carbonate cores for further gaining insight into the complex four-phase flow. The model was set up based on a group of experiments using cores split lengthwise to simulate axially confined fractures. Pre-generated foam was tested in this system due to the lack of in-situ generation of foam in the straight fracture at the core scale. Various foam coalescence mechanisms, with/without oil, were modeled, and a dynamic-texture population-balance foam model was developed for this purpose.

Our model incorporates the effects of oil and permeability as well as the coexistence of foam and microemulsion on the foam apparent viscosity. The model is able to reasonably well history match both the oil recoveries and the total pressure drops of the ULIFT foam floods in fractured carbonate cores. More impressively, the modeling results agree very well with the pressure gradient of each section of the core, indicating that the spatial variation and distribution of the foam texture are largely captured. The simulation results also show that the pre-generated foam greatly resists the fluid flow in the fracture close to the injector side and enhances the diversion of injected fluids into the matrix layers, leading to improved oil displacement. The resulting oil crossflow from the matrix to the fracture destabilizes the foam at the foam front thereby slowing the transportation of foam in the fracture. Additional case studies suggest that significantly more oil can be recovered if the foam destabilization by oil could be reduced/mitigated.

Test results disclosed in this paper demonstrate for the first time the successful modeling and history-match of ULIFT foam floods in fractured rocks. Valuable insight into this complex process has been gained through this innovative research. This is of great value with respect to the further optimization of the corefloods, the design of the surfactant formulation, and the feasibility of applying this new technology to the field scale.

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