Effect of Steam on Permeabilities of Water-Sensitive Formations
- D.M. Waldorf (Union Oil Co. Of California, Brea, Calif.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- October 1965
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,219 - 1,222
- 1965. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 3 in the last 30 days
- 270 since 2007
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Steam permeability measurements have been made in the laboratory on several samples of natural reservoir materials. The steam temperatures and pressures were selected to simulate conditions which might exist in a reservoir during the injection of steam. For each sample tested, the experimental permeability to superheated steam was comparable to that measured with air and no evidence of plugging was detected.
Some samples were exposed to water at various temperatures and plugging was found to occur in materials which contained significant quantities of montmorillonite clay. Temperature had little effect on the degree of plugging between 75 and 325 F. The measured permeabilities tended to increase slightly with temperature, but the changes were small compared with the initial loss of permeability on wetting.
Sequential permeability measurements were made on two samples using air, water, steam, water and air, in that order. Both samples were water-sensitive and plugged extensively after the initial injection of water. Upon exposure to superheated steam, the samples dehydrated and their permeabilities to superheated steam were comparable to those initially measured with air. The remaining measurements with water and air confirmed that the water plugging was reversible and that the samples were not seriously damaged during the tests.
The swelling of water-sensitive clays during water floods has long been recognized as a potential source of reservoir damage. The recent extensive application of steam injection and stimulation has compounded this problem since both hot water and steam (as well as fresh water at reservoir temperatures) are, at some time, in contact with the producing zone adjacent to the bore of a steam injection well.
The purpose of this paper is to present data which compare the sensitivity of some natural sedimentary rock samples to water at various temperatures, and to superheated steam. Some properties of montmorillonite clay are briefly reviewed, and comparisons are drawn between empirical data and the predicted behavior of the montmorillonite known to be present in the samples.
PROPERTIES OF MONTMORILLONITE CLAY
Water initially adsorbs on dry Na-montmorillonite clay in discrete layers in the interlaminar space between clay platelets. The platelet spacing, which is 9.6 A (angstroms) for a dehydrated clay, has been observed to expand in discrete steps to 12.4, 15.5, 18.4 and 21.4 A spacings, indicating the formation of four discrete layers of regularly oriented water molecules.1 The first two layers are easily formed by hydrating a dry sample to equilibrium in an atmosphere with carefully controlled humidity. The formation of the higher layers is more difficult. The usual X-ray diffraction patterns of the more highly hydrated samples indicate a gradual increase in the average spacing between 15.5 and 19.2 A, followed by a discontinuous expansion to 31 A when the weight ratio of water to dry clay is between 0.5 and 1.2.2 Platelet expansion above 31 A proceeds monotonically as the moisture is increased and no regular arrangement of the platelets is observed. Water-sensitivity in sedimentary rocks is usually associated with Na-montmorillonite clay when it is in the noncrystalline state.
Mering3 found that the average lattice spacing of sodium montmorillonite hydrated at 68 F and 70 per cent relative humidity was 15.5 A, and that the spacing. at 92 per cent humidity was 16.5 A. The water adsorbed at the higher humidity has the same free energy as liquid water at 65.6 F.
Kolaian and Low4 used a tensiometer to measure the thermodynamic properties of water in diffuse suspensions of montmorillonite clays relative to pure water. They observed that water in suspensions as dilute as 6 per cent clay became partially oriented when left undisturbed. The bonding associated with this orientation was not extensive because the free energy difference between the water in suspension and pure water was only a few millicalories per mole. They also found that the measured free energy difference decreased rapidly with temperature and became negligible above 100 F.
This evidence indicates that montmorillonites contained in sedimentary rocks would dehydrate to a crystalline structure when exposed to superheated steam, and that the rock permeability measured with steam would be equivalent to that measured with air.
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