One of the more important problems to be solved in designing a miscible flood is related to the size of the solvent bank used. Size of the bank may be critical to economic success. Too large a bank loses money; too small a bank may deteriorate and fail to maintain the miscibility needed for high recovery.
An important factor is deterioration of a small bank is permeability channeling. In a highly stratified reservoir, solvent speeds ahead in the more permeable zones and mixes laterally with fluids bypassed in adjacent, low-permeability strata. Numerical solutions have been obtained for the differential equations that describe the movement of a slug through a two-layer system in which mixing occurs both in the direction of flow and transversely. The solvent slug is assumed to have the same density and viscosity as the resident fluid and the pushing fluid. These solutions have been verified by comparing them with similar concentration profiles obtained in the laboratory in a 36-ft stratified model packed with glass beads.
The theoretical study revealed that when the dominant mechanism causing a bank to fail is lateral mixing the bank size needed for a given recovery may increase with length rather than decreasing as the square root of reservoir length, as suggested by one-dimensional mixing theory. From a comprehensive examination of the variables, a generalized correlation is developed that relates strata thicknesses, bank size, fluid velocity, mixing coefficients, system length and simple solvent-resident fluid phase behavior to the area miscibly swept.
Miscible displacement, or solvent flooding, continues to receive widespread attention as a method for increasing oil recovery over that possible in conventional gas-drive or water-drive projects. A basic economic requirement in the application of such processes is the use of as little solvent as possible. A basic physical requirement is that enough solvent be used to maintain miscibility. Economics places an upper limit on the size of a solvent slug, and physical considerations establish a lower limit. Consequently, the practicality of any given miscible process requires that the economic limit be greater than the lower limit imposed by physical requirements. Procedures exist for determining the economic limit; however, procedures for determining realistic minimum bank sizes exist for only special reservoir situations.
In the past, bank size has usually been selected on the assumption of a piston-like displacement for which only longitudinal mixing is important. This assumption leads to the favorable conclusion that bank size, expressed as per cent of pore volume, is inversely proportional to the square root of length. Collins considered the problem of transverse mixing of solvent with fluids in bypassed zones with the assumptions that no favored mixing occurs and that the concentration is uniform in the permeable stratum of interest.1 Lauwerier considered a mathematically similar problem in thermal recovery operations.2 Their work suggests the much less favorable conclusion that bank size could be directly proportional to the length or even higher powers of the length.