Foam has been used to improve the efficiency of steam injection since the late 1970s and the process has been applied successfully in several fields in particular in California but interest sagged at the end of the 1990s due to low oil prices and little activity took place for several years. The topic has however become more popular in the recent years due to higher oil prices. Foam is generated by the introduction of surfactant along with the steam into the reservoir and reduces its mobility, thus improving the sweep efficiency and reducing heat losses.
There has been no review of the process since the classical work by Hirasaki (Hirasaki 1989) and this paper proposes to remedy the situation and present a state of the art of the process.
The paper will revisit the field tests from the 1980 and then focus on the recent developments in the laboratory where researchers are attempting to develop new workflows and improved surfactant formulations for better performances; in the field with some recent pilot tests; and in terms of reservoir simulations.
This paper will allow engineers to get a complete and up to date understanding of the characteristics and limitations of the process and some guidance as to whether foam could help improve the performances of their steam injection projects.