Mixing of injected seawater with formation brines may cause scale precipitation at production wells and surface facilities, but does not generally cause significant damage within the formation itself. Indeed, mixing within the reservoir may be beneficial, if the concentration of scaling ions is reduced due to ion stripping as the brine mixture approaches the production well1. One potential exception to this is when the availability of produced water for re-injection (PWRI) is insufficient to maintain voidage replacement, and must be supplemented with seawater. Under such circumstances, seawater and formation brine may be completely mixed before injection. This will not lead to a loss of injectivity if scale inhibitor chemicals are appropriately applied to the injected brine stream2.
However, scale inhibitors are retained by the reservoir rock as they are displaced away from the wellbore, resulting in the inhibitor front propagating more slowly than the saturation front - usually referred to as chemical retardation. As brine is displaced away from the injection well, the upshot is a growing zone of mixed brine with chemical concentration below the threshold required to inhibit the scaling reaction.
The question this paper considers that has not been addressed before is whether the ratio of produced water to seawater that is injected, the possibility of treating the injection brine mix with inhibitor, and field specific details such as the location of the injection wells relative to production wells and the aquifer can impact how this zone of unprotected mixed brine is displaced and reacts deep within the reservoir, away from both injection and production wells. If the scaling reaction can be limited to a region deep within the reservoir where the volume of rock is large compared with the potential mass of scale that may deposit, then the sulphate ions associated with seawater may be stripped from the brine mixture before the water is produced. Thus, by considered yet straightforward management of the PWRI scheme, it may be possible to protect the production wells from scale damage in a way that is not possible under conventional seawater injection. This hypothesis is tested using conventional reservoir simulators and reaction-transport modelling. Various conditions are considered, including brine reactions, extent of brine displacement through the oil leg or aquifer, as well as management of the PWRI wells. Prediction of scale damage potential at production wells is made for an example field system.
Produced Water Re-Injection (PWRI) is a method for maintaining reservoir pressure and sweeping hydrocarbons towards production wells in which water separated from hydrocarbons at the surface facilities is re-injected into the same or another hydrocarbon bearing formation. Optionally, produced water may be re-injected into a specially selected aquifer. The primary objective is generally to dispose of the produced water in a manner that causes minimum damage to the environment. In addition to the environmental benefits, there are other potential benefits including making cost, space and weight savings through the optimisation of water treatment facilities. The principal disadvantage is that usually the quality of the produced water (in terms of oil-in-water and solids content, etc) is lower than that of other potential sources of injection water, and hence damage to the rock matrix into which the water is being injected has to be considered.