Mixtures of oil with solvent gas can exhibit three-hydrocarbon-phase behavior at reservoir conditions, where the solvent-rich liquid (L2) phase coexists with the gaseous (V) and oleic (L1) phases. Three-hydrocarbon-phase behavior has been studied in the literature for CO2 floods and enriched gas floods at relatively low temperatures. Prior research on heavy-oil displacement with enriched gas presented that displacement efficiency at a given throughput can be non-monotonic with respect to gas enrichment. Slim-tube experiments for such displacements showed that oil recovery increased first, then decreased, and increased again with increasing gas enrichment. An optimum displacement with a high efficiency of more than 90% was observed when three-hydrocarbon-phase flow was present. However, detailed mechanisms for such an optimum displacement with three phases have not been explained in the literature.
In this research, we investigate mass transfer on multiphase transitions between two and three phases for three-hydrocarbon-phase displacements. Simple conditions are derived for the multiphase transitions that yield high local displacement efficiency by three hydrocarbon phases. The derivation is based on the generalized jump conditions for a multiphase transition shock from analytical theory of one-dimensional gas injection. The conditions derived are applied to explain non-monotonic oil recovery in quaternary displacements and the West Sak oil displacements.
Oil recovery at a given throughput can be non-monotonic with respect to pressure or gas enrichment. Such a non-monotonic trend can occur when local oil displacement by three hydrocarbon phases becomes more efficient, but slower, with decreasing pressure or decreasing gas enrichment. An optimum pressure or enrichment can occur as a consequence of the balance between the local displacement efficiency and the propagation rate of three hydrocarbon phases. The West Sak oil displacement with enriched gas studied in this research yields a high displacement efficiency of more than 90% at 1.5 hydrocarbon-pore-volumes injected at 53% methane dilution.