X-Ray CT Investigation of Displacement Mechanisms for Heavy Oil Recovery by Low Concentration HPAM Polymers
- Arne Skauge (University of Bergen) | Behruz Shaker Shiran (NORCE Energy) | Per Arne Ormehaug (NORCE Energy) | Enric Santanach Carreras (TOTAL E&P) | Alexandra Klimenko (TOTAL E&P) | David Levitt (TOTAL E&P)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Improved Oil Recovery Conference, 31 August - 4 September, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
- Publication Date
- Document Type
- Conference Paper
- 2020. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.3.4 Scale, 5.3.6 Chemical Flooding Methods (e.g., Polymer, Solvent, Nitrogen, Immiscible CO2, Surfactant, Vapex), 5.4 Improved and Enhanced Recovery, 5.4.1 Waterflooding, 1.6.9 Coring, Fishing, 5.4 Improved and Enhanced Recovery, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 5 Reservoir Desciption & Dynamics
- Heavy Oil, Polymer flooding, Fingering, Unstable displacement
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- 91 since 2007
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Polymer flooding has proved to be a successful EOR method in very heavy oil reservoirs, despite failure to achieve a favorable mobility ratio even with polymer, which was originally imagined to be a necessary criterion for success based upon fractional flow theory. In a previous study (Levitt et al. 2013), we demonstrated a surprisingly high oil recovery with low concentration (and viscosity) partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) polymer solutions of only 3 cP displacing a 2000 cP oil. Additional experiments with more viscous as well as non-elastic viscosifying agents demonstrated that recovery is not sensitive to viscosity, and thus cannot be understood through fractional flow theory. The scope of this paper is to understand where additional recovery comes from through visualization using CT imaging, in order to allow operative driving mechanisms to be optimized.
Two long core (30 cm) flooding experiments have been performed to understand oil recovery at adverse mobility ratio. The first experiment started with waterflooding followed with polymer flooding (3 cP), while the second experiment started with polymer flooding directly. In-situ saturations were obtained by a medical CT scanner operated at high energy level, and used two X-ray sources and two array detectors simultaneously. The procedure was to perform the waterflood or polymer flood direct in the CT scanner. That will give us the finger development from early stage until a well-established channel is developed. The frontal velocity was about 1 ft/day. The displacements were further analyzed through simulations and dynamic pore scale model to understand the changes in fluid flow.
CT imaging demonstrated that increased oil recovery with low-concentration HPAM solutions is correlated with an increase in finger width, rather than for instance an increase in finger density. This is in agreement with observed behavior of unstable displacements involving viscoelastic fluids in Hele-Shaw cells (Bonn et al., 1995). These results suggest that elasticity may be more significant than viscosity in optimizing oil recovery under highly unstable conditions, for example with oils of ~1000 cP or higher. Presence of fingering under both water and polymer flood was also confirmed, with dominant finger diameter on the order of 1 mm (under waterflood) to 2 mm (under polymer flood). Fingers grow in thickness and length, and near the inlet they start quickly to overlap. Fingers are formed mostly in the middle of the core and fewer fingers appear near the wall of the core. CT shows that the waterflood is dominated by viscous fingering.
Experimental CT data together with simulations and pore scale modelling have demonstrated that increased oil recovery with low-concentration HPAM solutions is correlated with an increase in finger width, rather than for instance an increase in finger density or stabilization of the displacement front. Among other things, these results demonstrate that the assumption of capillary equilibrium is inappropriate under these conditions, and thus that fractional flow theory is poorly suited to predicting or optimizing recovery.
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