Polymer gels are frequently applied for conformance improvement in fractured reservoirs, where fluid channeling through fractures limits the success of waterflooding. Placement of polymer gel in fractures reduces fracture conductivity, thus increasing pressure gradients across matrix blocks during chase floods. A gel-filled fracture is re-opened to fluid flow if the injection pressure during chase floods exceeds the gel rupture pressure, thus channeling through the fractures resumes. The success of a polymer gel treatment therefore depends on the rupture pressure.

Swelling of gels, e.g. pre-formed particle gels, due to salinity differences between the gel network and surrounding water phase has recently been observed, but the effect has been less studied in conjunction with conventional polymer gels. Using core floods, this study demonstrates that low-salinity water can swell conventional Cr(III)-acetate HPAM gels, thereby improving gel blocking performance after gel rupture.

Formed polymer gel was placed in fractured core plugs and chase waterfloods were performed, using four different brine compositions of which three were low-salinity brines. The fluid flow rates through the matrix and differential pressures across the matrix and fracture were measured and shown to increase with decreasing salinity in the injected water phase. In some cores, the fractures were re-blocked during low-salinity waterfloods, and gel blocking capacity was increased above the initial level. Low-salinity water subsequently flooded the matrix during chase floods, which provided additional benefits to the waterflood. The improved blocking capacity of the gel was caused by a difference in salinity between the gel and injected water phase, which induced gel swelling. The results were reproducible through several experiments, and stable for long periods of time in both sandstone and carbonate outcrop core materials. Combining polymer gel placement in fractures with low-salinity chase floods is a promising approach in integrated EOR (IEOR).

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