Under co-sponsorship of the US Department of Energy and Hilcorp Alaska LLC the first ever polymer field pilot commenced on 8/28/2018 in the Schrader Bluff heavy oil reservoir at the Milne Point Field on Alaska North Slope (ANS). The primary objective of the pilot is to prove the efficacy of polymer Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) to unlock the vast heavy oil resources on ANS. More than two and half years after startup, the polymer injection, supporting laboratory experiments and simulation studies steadily continue. The pilot started injecting hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM), at a concentration of 1,750 ppm to achieve a target viscosity of 45 cP, into the two horizontal injectors in the flood pattern. Production is monitored in the two horizontal producers. Based on laboratory measurements of polymer viscosity at reservoir conditions, the team decided to reduce polymer concentration to 1,200 ppm since July 2020 in an effort to control injection pressure and optimize polymer utilization. Quality control (QC) on the field ensures uniform polymer solution properties. Representative rock and fluid systems and test conditions are utilized in the corefloods on polymer retention, effect of injection water salinity, polymer loading, and their combinations on oil recovery. A history matched reservoir simulation model for forecasting oil recovery was developed on the basis of all the available field data. Field concerns related to the post-polymer breakthrough impact on flow assurance is addressed via specialized laboratory tests.
Notwithstanding early operational disruptions and hydration issues, continuous polymer injection in both injectors has been achieved. To date, 950,000 lbs of polymer or 2 million barrels of polymer solution, equating to 13% of total pore volume (PV), has been placed in the flood pattern, serving as an effective indicator of adequate polymer injectivity. So far, the success of polymer EOR is evident from drastically reduced water cut in the producers, an estimated incremental 1,000 bopd over waterflood, and a favorable polymer utilization of 1.7 lbs/barrel of incremental oil. Polymer breakthrough was observed 26 months after the start of polymer injection. Main observations from corefloods are unusually high polymer retention values in some cases and a positive response to low salinity water. Although the heterogeneity in the flood pattern and exceptionally low water cut pose some challenges, persistent novel and justifiable simulation approaches have resulted in a robust history matched model. Experimental results on produced fluids treatment provide operational guidance for improved oil-water separation and mitigation of heater tube fouling.