The distribution of the oil phase in Berea sandstone resulting from increasing and decreasing the water saturation by imbibition was investigated Three types of distribution were recognized: trapped, normal and lagging. The amount of oil in each of these distributions was determined as a function of saturation by carrying out a miscible displacement in the oil phase under steady-state conditions of saturation. These conditions were maintained by flowing water and oil simultaneously in given ratios and by using a displacing solvent having essentially the same density and viscosity as the oil.A correlation shows the amount of trapped oil at any saturation to be directly proportional to the conventional residual oil saturation Sir The factor of proportionality is related to the fractional permeability to the water phase. Part of the oil which was not trapped was displaced in a piston- like manner (normal part) and part was eluted gradually (lagging part). The observed phenomena are more than of mere academic importance. Oil which is trapped may well provide the fuel essential for forward combustion and thus be beneficial. On the contrary, in tertiary recovery operations, it is this trapped oil which seems to make current techniques uneconomic.
A typical oilfield may initially contain connate water and oil. After a period of primary production water often enters the field either from surrounding aquifers or from surface injection. During primary production evolution and establishment of a free gas saturation usually occurs. The effect and importance of this third phase is fully recognized. However, this investigation is limited to a two- phase system, one wetting phase (water) and one non-wetting phase (oil). The increase in water content of a water-wet system is termed imbibition. In a relative permeability-saturation diagram such as the one shown in Fig. 1, the initial conditions of the field would he represented by a point below a water saturation of about 35 per cent, i.e., where the imbibition and the drainage curves to the non-wetting phase nearly coincide. When water enters the field the relative permeability to oil decreases along the imbibition curve. At watered-out conditions the relative permeability to the oil becomes zero. At this point a considerable amount of oil, called residual oil, (about 35 per cent in Fig. 1) remains unrecovered. Any attempt to produce this oil will require that its saturation be increased. In Fig. 1 this would mean retracing the imbibition curve upwards. In addition, processes like alcohol and fire flooding, which can be employed at any stage of production, involve the complete displacement of connate water and an increase, or imbibition, of water saturation ahead of the displacing front. Thus, in several types of oil production it is the imbibition-relative permeability curve which rules the flow behavior. For this reason a knowledge of the distribution of the non-wetting phase, as obtained through imbibition, whether "coming down" or "going up" on the imbibition curve, is important.