Abstract

Low primary recovery percentages (usually 10% or less) in unconventional reservoirs, such as the Three Forks Formation in the Williston Basin, mean that potentially billions of barrels of oil are left behind in the reservoirs. Gas enhanced oil recovery (EOR) pilot studies that were performed in the Three Forks Formation suggest that cyclic gas injection is a viable approach for enhancing oil recovery in unconventional reservoirs. Due to limited knowledge of the cyclic gas injection mechanisms and the interaction between the injected gases and Three Forks reservoir fluids, additional investigations are mandatory despite of the pilot studies and the published findings in the Three Forks Formation. This paper conducts a series of experiments on core samples from the Upper Three Forks (UTF) and Middle Three Forks (MTF) under different constraints. The parameters that affect the performance of the cyclic gas injection during the Huff and Puff (HnP) technique are analyzed, including soaking time in miscible and immiscible conditions, injection pressure, vapor-supercritical states, density change, gas type (CO2), Ethane (C2H6), Propane (C3H8), within these formations (Upper Three Forks, and Middle Three Forks), and the microscopic pore distribution effect on hydrocarbon transport for the production using the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) approach. The findings indicated that the soaking time improved recovery factors significantly below and close to the CO2's minimum miscibility pressure (MMP), but its effectiveness decreased for the injection pressures over the MMP. At low injection pressures, propane (C3H8) was shown to be the most effective gas, followed by ethane (C2H6) and then carbon dioxide (CO2). Due to a significant shift in density, ethane (C2H6) and carbon dioxide (CO2) both performed better during increasing pressure. In contrast, increasing the injection pressure of propane (C3H8) above 6.89 MPa did not affect the performance since the density of propane at 6.89 MPa caused a negligible density change. Additionally, the NMR measurements conducted at the UTF indicated that in the first cycle of HnP, oil extraction was dominated by micropores, mesopores, and less by small pores. Increasing the HnP cycles, micropores will be the dominant source of oil production. However, in MTF, the mesopores were the dominant pore distributions, followed by small pores, which affect the micro oil mobilization during the HnP process. This work provides a new insight into understanding the mechanisms of gas HnP enhanced recovery in the Three Forks formation, which is of great significance for the efficient hydrocarbon exploitation and greenhouse gas utilization in the Three Forks.

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