Water management has always been an important part of production operation but for chemical EOR it becomes one of the critical elements as the whole water cycle needs to be analyzed and adapted to the process. In particular one key aspect that is generally neglected concerns the impact of EOR chemicals on the produced water cycle. After the chemical breakthrough, part of the EOR chemicals (polymers and/or surfactants) will be back-produced and can induce heat exchanger fouling and strongly impact oil/water separation and water treatment surface processes. All these drawbacks may lead to skewed forecasts on economic performance of EOR projects.

Some of the key challenges with produced water treatments, that facility engineers and operators will be facing when preparing a chemical EOR project, will be highlighted in this paper. A focus on some experimental results obtained within the DOLPHIN JIP – supported by 14 oil companies – will be presented. A specific laboratory methodology dedicated to the study of the impact of ASP-type chemicals on heat exchanger fouling, oil/water separation and water treatment efficiency and which mimic actual surface processes, was designed.

Results presented will illustrate the operational conditions that favor deposit on heat exchangers when polymer is back-produced. Impact of having polymers and/or surfactant within produced fluids on oil/water separation (kinetics of separation and quality of both oil and water phases) and water treatment processes efficiency (evaluated by monitoring the concentration of remaining oil in water as a function of time) will also be outlined.

This work emphasizes that water management is a major challenge for chemical EOR that needs an integrated approach and should be studied upfront. Laboratory workflows and procedures could help the de-risking of operations and try to mitigate separation issues that could advantageously be integrated into the design of chemical EOR project.

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