A number of mature waterflooded fields, such as Brent in the North Sea and others elsewhere are undergoing tertiary recovery by depressurisation Pressure depletion is achieved by stopping water injection and by producing from the aquifer as well as the hydrocarbon bearing strata. Previously bypassed oil rims and trapped oil and gas are then released. This paper discusses how mineral scale deposition is affected by the change in reservoir conditions that occur during blow down.
Pressure maintenance by waterflooding may prevent reservoir fluids from dropping below the CO2 bubble point until they are in the production string. However, as a result of depressurisation, the CO2 bubble point will move down the tubing and into the formation. Calcite scales form as a result of the increase in pH that occurs when CO2 is evolved, and thus the calcite scaling problem will migrate into the near production well formation during depressurisation. The balance of oil-water and gas-oil capillary pressures changes with pressure depletion, resulting in the mobilisation of previously trapped formation brines. Waterflooding also results in large volumes of seawater being injected into the oil bearing strata. During depressurisation, this seawater is back produced through the former injectors. Depending on the strength of the aquifer, formation brine may also be produced. If these brines are incompatible, then mixing in the wellbore or near well formation will result in sulphate scale damage. Calculations demonstrate that co-production of aquifer and injected brines may occur for more extensive periods at the critical mixing ratios than would be typical of conventional production scenarios. Former injection wells will produce at near 100% watercuts, with the result that large volumes of water need to be protected. Calculations of reservoir temp eratures and the scaling potentials show that the problem is exacerbated by the fact that during water injection these zones will have been cooled.