Understanding the heterogeneity is critical for a successful water injection in a carbonate reservoir. Thief zone is one of the most obvious forms of heterogeneity, which indicates the thin layer with higher permeability compared to the average reservoir permeability. The existence of thief zone results in earlier water breakthrough and faster water cut increase, which then lead to lower sweep efficiency and smaller recovery factor. Therefore, determining the distribution of thief zone and its impact towards production, and proposing a corresponding development plan are very important.

In this paper, a novel method is established to determine the thief zone distribution based on dynamic surveillance data. A new index is proposed as the relative contribution index to characterize the relative contribution of a certain layer, which is fundamental for thief zone determination. In addition, effect on water flooding development of thief zone's location is studied by experimental and theoretical analysis. The changes of water cut and production rate are analyzed under different conditions such as location of the thief zone, injection rate, and variogram. Finally, optimized development strategy is proposed to deal with the existence of thief zone.

Distribution of thief zone is characterized based on the proposed method, which indicates that thief zone development has intimate relationship with depositional facies and diagenesis. Experimental and theoretical analysis results show that the present model considering stratified water-flood is consistent with the experimental results. The water displacement effect is the best when the thief zone is located in the upper reservoir. This paper also points out the optimal adjustment period for water shutoff and profile control of the reservoir with thief zones. In addition, the greater the injection rate, the faster the water cut increase. Furthermore, the smaller the variogram, the slower the water cut increase, and the later the water breakthrough time.

This study provides a method to characterize thief zone, which can be used as a reference for similar oilfield development. In addition, it provides a quick and reasonable guide in the later adjustment of water flooding development of carbonate reservoirs with thief zones.

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