An Experimental Study of Emulsion Flow in Alkaline/Solvent Coinjection with Steam for Heavy-Oil/Bitumen Recovery
- Kai Sheng (University of Texas at Austin) | Francisco J. Argüelles-Vivas (University of Texas at Austin) | Kwang Hoon Baek (University of Texas at Austin) | Ryosuke Okuno (University of Texas at Austin)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering
- Publication Date
- May 2020
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 402 - 413
- 2020.Society of Petroleum Engineers
- steam-assisted gravity drainage, amine, natural surfactants, bitumen, emulsion
- 20 in the last 30 days
- 90 since 2007
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Water is the dominant component in steam-injection processes, such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). The central hypothesis in this research is that in-situ oil transport can be enhanced by generating oil-in-water emulsion, where the water-continuous phase acts as an effective oil carrier. As part of the research project, this paper presents an experimental study of how oil-in-water emulsion can improve oil transport in porous media at elevated temperatures.
Diethylamine (DEA) was selected as the organic alkali that generates oil-in-water emulsions with Athabasca bitumen at a 1,000-ppm NaCl brine and a 0.5-wt% alkali concentration. This aqueous composition had been confirmed to be an optimum in terms of oil content in the water-external emulsion phase at a wide range of temperatures. Then, flow experiments with a glass-bead pack were conducted to measure the effective viscosities of emulsion samples at shear rates from 5 to 29 seconds–1 at 35 bar and temperatures from 373 to 443 K.
Results show that the oil-in-water emulsions were more than 15 times less viscous than the original bitumen at temperatures from 373 to 443 K. At the shear rate of 5 seconds–1, for example, the emulsion viscosity was 12 cp at 373 K, at which the bitumen viscosity was 206 cp. The efficiency of in-situ bitumen transport was evaluated by calculating the bitumen molar flow rate under gravity drainage with the new experimental data. Results show that oil-in-water emulsion can enhance the in-situ molar flow of bitumen by a factor of 273 at 403 K and 345 at 373 K, in comparison with the two-phase flow of oil and water in conventional SAGD. At 443 K, only a fraction of bitumen is emulsified in water, but the bitumen transport by both oil-in-water emulsion and an excess oil phase in DEA-SAGD can enhance the molar flow of bitumen by a factor of 19 in comparison to SAGD. This is mainly because the mobility of the bitumen-containing phase is enhanced by the reduced viscosity and increased effective permeability. A marked difference between alkaline solvents and conventional hydrocarbon solvents is that only a small amount of an alkaline solvent enables enhancing the in-situ transport of bitumen.
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