Polymer flooding offers the potential to recover more oil from reservoirs but requires significant investments which necessitate a robust analysis of economic upsides and downsides. Key uncertainties in designing a polymer flood are often reservoir geology and polymer degradation. The objective of this study is to understand the impact of geological uncertainties and history matching techniques on designing the optimal strategy and quantifying the economic risks of polymer flooding in a heterogeneous clastic reservoir.

We applied two different history matching techniques (adjoint-based and a stochastic algorithm) to match data from a prolonged waterflood in the Watt Field, a semi-synthetic reservoir that contains a wide range of geological and interpretational uncertainties. An ensemble of reservoir models is available for the Watt Field, and history matching was carried out for the entire ensemble using both techniques. Next, sensitivity studies were carried out to identify first-order parameters that impact the Net Present Value (NPV). These parameters were then deployed in an experimental design study using a Latin Hypercube to generate training runs from which a proxy model was created. The proxy model was constructed using polynomial regression and validated using further full-physics simulations. A particle swarm optimisation algorithm was then used to optimize the NPV for the polymer flood. The same approach was used to optimise a standard water flood for comparison. Optimisations of the polymer flood and water flood were performed for the history matched model ensemble and the original ensemble.

The sensitivity studies showed that polymer concentration, location of polymer injection wells and time to commence polymer injection are key to optimizing the polymer flood. The optimal strategy to deploy the polymer flood and maximize NPV varies based on the history matching technique. The average NPV is predicted to be higher in the stochastic history matching compared to the adjoint technique. The variance in NPV is also higher for the stochastic history matching technique. This is due to the ability of the stochastic algorithm to explore the parameter space more broadly, which created situations where the oil in place is shifted upwards, resulting in higher NPV. Optimizing a history matched ensemble leads to a narrow variance in absolute NPV compared to history matching the original ensemble. This is because the uncertainties associated with polymer degradation are not captured during history matching. The result of cross comparison, where an optimal polymer design strategy for one ensemble member is deployed to the other ensemble members, predicted a decline in NPV but surprisingly still shows that the overall NPV is higher than for an optimized water food. This indicates that a polymer flood could be beneficial compared to a water flood, even if geological uncertainties are not captured properly.

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