The physics of multi-phase displacement processes in the individual pores of a connected pore-network of a rock ultimately controls how oil, gas and water move in reservoir rocks and how readily they can be produced. These pore scale processes, including piston-like displacement, snap off, film-flow and fluid redistribution have been studied traditionally in pore-network simulations as well as in 2D micro-model experiments. However, recent advances in X-ray computed micro-tomography (CT) techniques now enable us to visualize and monitor these processes in 3D during in-situ core flooding experiments at pore-scale resolution. This provides new information on the spatial and temporal evolution of oil and water phase clusters and films.
In this paper, we present results of a suite of two-phase fluid displacement experiments performed on a dolomite core plug. The experiments consist of a series of fluid injections and in-situ CT scans of the core in certain time steps during the drainage and imbibition displacement processes. The fluid phases are brine and a mineral oil. A simple, low-cost and highly X-ray transparent design for core flooding cells is introduced.
Our experiments and CT images allow us to visualize the 3D fluid structures of each phase during fluid displacements in carbonate rocks with excellent clarity. Piston-like displacement and snap off mechanisms have been captured clearly in 3D. In addition, the formation, collapse and reorganisation of brine films surrounding oil blobs in individual pores were clearly visualised. However, the formation of oil films, which could provide connectivity for the hydrocarbon phase at low saturations, could not be observed in these experiments. The observed displacement processes and the particular oil-water/rock configurations seen in the displacements suggest the rock is preferentially water wet.