Combination of complex sedimentation environment and carbonates' diagenetic alterations render carbonate reservoirs to be very heterogeneous and often naturally fractured. Heavy oil trapped in carbonate reservoirs worldwide is estimated to be over 255 billion cubic meters. The drastic differences in flow and storage capacity of the fracture and matrix networks trigger the need for larger volumes of steam to be injected to produce one cubic meter of heavy oil production, making the application of thermal recovery processes in these reservoirs to be more economically challenging and highly energy intensive.
Recovery of heavy oil from naturally fractured reservoirs is weakly controlled by viscous forces and mostly controlled by capillary and gravity forces, in addition to convection and conduction heat transfer. This makes proper representation of fracture and matrix characteristics to be of paramount importance to the reliability of modeling thermal recovery processes.
This paper discusses the effect of variable fracture characteristics including fracture typing, spacing, and apertures on the performance of dual permeability models under different thermal recovery processes. Further, the paper demonstrates the necessity to characterize partially mineralized fractures and shows its effect on thermal conductivity from fractures to matrix blocks.
The effect of wettability on the recovery process is also discussed. Oil recovery in fractured reservoirs is highly influenced by imbibition process which is most effective under strong water wetness. The paper addresses the performance under water, oil and mixed wettability conditions. Furthermore, the paper shows that proper representation of capillary pressure hysteresis could cause considerable change in oil recovery performance. The modeling work in this paper helps to curtail any extra optimism that may originate from wrongly characterized dual permeability models. Finally, and in case reservoir characteristics are not well determined then forecasting based on uncertainties of reservoir characteristics should give operators a way to estimate the risk involved in the exploitation process of the carbonate resources.