Polymer flooding has been commercially applied to a number of viscous oil fields in the past decade and gradually gained more popularity. Due to limited injectivity in viscous-oil reservoirs, a relatively low polymer viscosity is usually used to avoid excessive injection pressure. In such a case, mobility ratio of polymer solution to oil is much greater than one, which implies unstable flow and strong viscous fingering. Existing reservoir simulators lack the capability of modeling such a physical phenomenon. Since many viscous-oil reservoirs have high permeability contrast between layers, we are motivated to study, for the first time, the impact of crossflow between different layers considering the presence of viscous fingering.

Numerical modeling polymer floods with crossflow in a layered viscous-oil reservoir is difficult due to two major challenges: first is how to correctly allocate flow rates from the wellbore to multiple layers; and second is how to capture the viscous fingering effect without using excessively fine grids. To address the first issue, we developed an implicit well-rate-allocation model based on the potential method, which fully couples all the wellbore segments of each well with reservoir gridblocks to ensure a physical wellbore pressure. To deal with the second challenge, we implemented the effective fingering model, which is an upscaling model that lumps all the viscous fingers in a coarse grid block into one fictitious finger to allow for accurate estimation of fingering strength and growth during unstable flows. Both models were validated individually against the analytical solution or experimental data.

The integrative module including the two new capabilities was used to simulate a polymer flood following a waterflood in a layer-cake reservoir in North America with moderate oil viscosity. We observed the fast propagation of water fronts and small fingering fraction in high permeability layers during the waterflooding phase, indicating active channeling and viscous fingering. The subsequent polymer flooding minimized both factors of oil bypassing and led to stable flow and high sweep efficiency. Without the implicit well-rate-allocation model, crossflow was overestimated and wellbore pressures of different well blocks were not consistent. Without the effective-fingering model, oil recovery was overestimated due to the lack of accounting for viscous fingering. The simulation results indicated that polymer flooding improved both displacement and sweep efficiencies.

The model has shown comprehensive capabilities in reservoir simulations of polymer floods including unstable floods and crossflows between layers. This is a major significance to optimization of non-thermal viscous-oil EOR projects and also making more informed operational decisions for field developments.

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