Steam flooding is the most widely used thermal enhance oil recovery (EOR) process to recover bitumen and heavy oil. This process has been proven to be reliable, thus, establishing itself as a favorite among other thermal EORs. However, the excessive water usage to generate steam causes environmental concerns such as air and water pollution. Thus, a noble idea to reduce the sole dependency on steam alone is to co-inject solvent with steam. Solvent will aid the oil recovery process by improving miscibility aside from the oil displacement mechanisms from steam itself.
Three core flooding experiments were conducted on a heavy oil sample from Texas; namely, steam flooding (E1), CO2 -steam flooding (E2), and CO2 - MS- steam flooding (E3). MS is a corn based environmentally friendly solvent which is tested for the first time for heavy oil extraction via solvent-steam injection process. Because CO2 is known as asphaltene insoluble solvent, asphaltene precipitation was also investigated on spent rock samples to determine the formation damage occurring during the process. An ASTM method was used to determine the amount of asphaltenes in initial oil sample, on produced oil samples, and on residual oil samples. Another flow assurance problem is emulsion formation which occurs widely in any steam processes. Hence, the emulsions formed during solvent-steam and steam experiments and the role of asphaltenes on emulsion formation are investigated.
It has been observed that CO2 enhances the asphaltene precipitation and results in consolidation of core samples which reduced significantly the oil production. The use of asphaltene insoluble solvent CO2 with an asphaltene soluble solvent (MS) enhanced the oil production, increased the sweep efficiency and decreased the water-in-oil formation.
With this study for the first time asphaltene soluble and insoluble solvents co-injected together with steam to recover a heavy oil from Texas. We also analyzed the oil displacement mechanism through asphaltene precipitation and emulsion formation.