During the past decade, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) by CO2 in shale oils has received substantial attention. In shale oil reservoirs, CO2 diffusion into the resident oil has been considered as the dominant interaction between the CO2 in fractures and the oil in the matrices. CO2 diffusion will lead to oil swelling and improvement in oil viscosity. However, despite two-way mass transfer during CO2 EOR in conventional oil reservoirs, one-way mass transfer into shale oils saturated with live oils is controlled by an additional transport mechanism, which is the liberation of light oil components in the form of a gaseous new-phase. This in-situ gas formation could generate considerable swelling, which could improve the oil recovery significantly. This mechanism has been largely overlooked in the past. This study is aimed to better understand the role of this evolving gas phase in improving hydrocarbon recovery.
Taking account of Bakken shale oil reservoir data, numerical simulations were performed to identify efficiencies of EOR by CO2 at the laboratory and field scales. Equation of state parameters between CO2 and oil components were adjusted to optimize the calculations and a sensitivity analysis was performed to identify the role of gas formation and consequent EOR efficiencies. At the laboratory scale, in-situ gas formation can increase oil recovery by 20% depending on the amount of gas saturation. Also, the CO2 storage capacity of the shale matrix can be enhanced by 25%, due to CO2 trapping in the gas phase. At the field scale, an additional oil recovery of 9.1% could be attained, which is notably higher than previous studies where this gas evolution mechanism was ignored. Furthermore, the results suggest that a six-weeks huff period would be sufficient to achieve substantial EOR if this new mechanism is incorporated. On the other hand, the produced fluid in the early period was primarily composed of CO2, which would make it available for subsequent cycles. The produced gas of the well under CO2 EOR was used in an adjacent well, which resulted in similar additional oil recovery and hence, impurities in CO2 injection stream would not undermine efficiency of this EOR method. The results of this study, therefore, could potentially be used to substantially improve the evaluations of CO2 EOR in liquid-rich shale reservoirs.