Polymer flooding is an attractive option in hydrocarbon maturation plans. Several successful polymer floods and pilots have been implemented. One of the risks in polymer flooding is loss of injectivity. The consequences of loss of injectivity can be large. In conditions where matrix injection is required, reduction of injection rate may result in a much slower propagating polymer front and consequently later arrival of the anticipated oil bank eroding on the economic value of the EOR process. In extreme cases it can even lead to loss of the injector. Under fracturing conditions the loss of injectivity may be less noticeable, but it can lead to out of zone fracturing or fractures that grow too much in size and cause shortcuts to the producers or affect future infill well drilling.
Reduction of injectivity is a generic concern in conventional waterfloods and can play an even larger factor when adding polymer to the waterflood. The increased viscosity of the injected polymer solution is the most obvious reason for an anticipated decrease in injectivity, but also other mechanisms can have an impact. These mechanisms include excessive polymer adsorption and associated permeability reduction, filtration of impurities in the polymer solution, fluid incompatibilities or reduced water quality.
In this paper we will discuss the various causes for loss of injectivity and propose a structured approach for the associated prevention and mitigation options. Prevention includes (1) selection of the most appropriate polymer type; (2) best practices for preparation of the polymer solution; (3) safeguarding the water quality; and (4) enabling options for mitigation in case excessive injectivity loss is observed. The remediation step includes (1) the identification of the root-cause of an apparent injectivity problem; (2) the design of an appropriate clean-up treatment; (3) monitoring of the operation; and (4) implement measures to avoid repetition of the problem. We will include an overview of the preventive and mitigation options for the different causes of injectivity decline in polymer floods.