Performance predictions of In-Situ Combustion (ISC) process is a challenge as it involves complicated chemical reactions, fluids movement, phase changes, and heat and mass transfer. This study investigates how the aquathermolysis reactions and their chemical products can affect the ISC performance through combination of combustion tube and Thermogravimetric Analysis and Differential Scanning Calorimetry (TGA/DSC) experiments.

Combustion tube experiments were conducted with two different crude oil without water (Swi=0%) and with the presence of water (Swi=34%). Experimental conditions were kept constant (3 L/min air injection rate and 100 psig pack pressure) for all four experiments conducted with two different oil samples. To determine the chemical reactions occurred during combustion tube experiments, the initial crude oil samples and their Saturates, Aromatics, Resins, and Asphaltenes (SARA) fractions were subjected to TGA/DSC experiments under air injection at two constant heating rates with and without water addition. Because during combustion tube experiments, two heating rates were observed, 5°C/min was used to represent the slow heating region (Steam Plateau and Evaporation & Visbreaking) and 20°C/min was used to mimic the rapid heating region (Cracking Region and Combustion Zone). To better understand the complicated mutual interactions of functional groups in crude oil, TGA/DSC experiments were repeated on normal-decane (an alkane), decanal (an aldehyde), decanone (a ketone), and decanol (an alcohol) which may represent the low temperature oxidation (LTO) products. Note that these chemicals have constant carbon number (C10).

The combustion tube experiments showed that Oil1 was able to burn for both conditions (with and without water), while Oil2 could only sustain combustion with water. To study the reason for this difference in burning behavior, the burning behavior of the crude oils and their individual SARA fractions with and without water addition was studied through TGA/DSC experiments. At high heating rate (20°C/min), heat generation does not vary for both crude oil. However, in low heating rates (5°C/min), Oil1 generates higher amount of energy at high temperature oxidation (HTO) zone. We have observed similarities between the decanone (a ketone) burning behaviors with aromatics fractions for Oil1 which may indicate that aromatics fraction may contain ketone functional groups as LTO products Because upon burning, ketones generate higher energy than any LTO products, Oil1 may have functional groups in its structure more like ketones which promotes its combustion more than Oil2. While presence of water does not change the burning behavior of Oil1, we observed that aromatics fraction of Oil2 in the presence of water generates components similar to decanol (an alcohols) burning behavior. Note that alcohols generate more heat than aldehydes upon burning which explains the enhancement of Oil2 burning behavior in the presence of water, however, produced less energy than ketones, hence, combustion performance of Oil2 was poorer than Oil1. Our results suggest that the chemical structure of aromatics fraction is critical for the success of ISC. Water and aromatics fraction interaction at elevated temperature favors ISC reactions.

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