A Review of Improved-Oil-Recovery Methods in North American Unconventional Reservoirs
- Chris Carpenter (JPT Technology Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 2018
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 42 - 44
- 2017. Society of Petroleum Engineers
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This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights of paper SPE 185640, “IOR Methods in Unconventional Reservoirs of North America: Comprehensive Review,” by Dheiaa Alfarge, Iraq Ministry of Oil and Missouri University of Science and Technology, and Mingzhen Wei and Baojun Bai, Missouri University of Science and Technology, prepared for the 2017 SPE Western Regional Meeting, Bakersfield, California, USA, 23–27 April. The paper has not been peer reviewed.
In the complete paper, three stages of review have been combined to find out the applicability of the most-feasible improved-oil-recovery (IOR) methods in North American unconventional reservoirs. The study found that the integration of experimental, simulation, and pilot-test tools is the proper technique to accurately diagnose the most-feasible IOR methods in these reservoirs; these methods, as indicated by the research, include carbon dioxide (CO2), surfactant, and natural-gas injection.
Review of Potential IOR Methods
The ultratight matrix and high conductivity of natural fractures might be the two most important factors that impair success of conventional IOR methods. The authors conducted a critical review of more than 70 studies aiming to find applicability of different IOR methods in unconventional reservoirs.
Chemical Methods. Generally, this category includes three methods: surfactant, polymer, and alkaline injection. Surfactant injection has the most-promising potential to improve oil recovery in North American unconventional reservoirs. These reservoirs are well-known as intermediate-wet to oil-wet; this type of rock affinity would prevent the aqueous phase from invading the matrix to displace the oil in place. Therefore, changing wettability and enhancing water imbibition through surfactant injection would be a good strategy to improve oil recovery.
To the authors’ knowledge, there has been no study conducted to investigate the applicability of polymer- and alkaline-injection methods in these types of unconventional reservoirs. It is believed that injectivity problems are the primary reason that no investigation has been conducted on applying polymer in these reservoirs, although conformance problems are more dominant in the reported pilot tests. Also, injecting polymer into these reservoirs would plug the pore throats, which are very small in these plays. Investigation of alkaline potential in these reservoirs has also not been conducted by reported studies. This could be because there is no compatibility between this chemical agent and the mineral-composition complexity of these reservoirs.
Smart-Waterflooding Technique. Recently, intensive studies have been conducted to investigate the effect on oil recovery of flooding with low-salinity water (LSW). It has been reported in different studies that maximum oil recovery can occur at optimal concentrations of salt for brine injected in cores (laboratory work) or in the field (simulation work). Wettability alteration and interfacial tension might be the main mechanisms behind the increment in oil recovery resulting from injection of LSW. However, the underlying mechanisms for wettability alteration are still controversial. Double-layer expansion and multicomponent ion exchange might be the main mechanisms behind wettability alteration because of the addition of salt. However, most of the reviewed studies focused on conventional reservoirs with high permeability.
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