This paper examines the potential of polymer flooding reservoirs with viscous oils. Higher oil prices, modest polymer prices, increased use of horizontal wells, and controlled injection above the formation parting pressure all help considerably to extend the applicability of polymer flooding in reservoirs with viscous oils. The high mobile oil saturation, degree of heterogeneity, and relatively free potential for crossflow in our target North Slope reservoirs also promote the potential for polymer flooding. For existing EOR polymers, viscosity increases roughly with the square of polymer concentration—a fact that aids the economics for polymer flooding of viscous oils. The key limitation for polymer flood application is not the chemical cost of viscous polymer solutions; instead reduced injectivity is the primary concern. For practical conditions during polymer floods, the vertical sweep efficiency using shear-thinning fluids is not expected to be dramatically different from that for Newtonian or shear-thickening fluids. The overall viscosity (resistance factor) of the polymer solution is of far greater relevance than the rheology.

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