Conditioning Polymer Solutions for Injection into Tight Reservoir Rocks

Driver, Jonathan W. (Ultimate EOR Services and University of Texas) | Britton, Chris (Ultimate EOR Services) | Hernandez, Richard (Ultimate EOR Services) | Glushko, Danylo (Ultimate EOR Services) | Pope, Gary A. (University of Texas) | Delshad, Mojdeh (Ultimate EOR Services)



Water soluble polymers have been used for decades as mobility control agents for tertiary recovery processes. Viscosity is conferred by the large hydrated size of the individual high molecular weight polymer molecules; their single-molecule hydrated size is so large that it can rival the diameters of the pore throats conducting the fluid, and it is widely understood that there are permeability limits below which solutions of such polymers cannot transport well. Delineating exactly where these limits are remains challenging, and operators are left to use whatever anecdotal evidence is available to decide whether to inject polymer, and, if so, what type and molecular weight to use. A rule of thumb is that when the permeability of a rock falls below 100 millidarcys, transport can be problematic.

We have developed processing techniques for laboratory tests to condition polymer solutions for injection into reservoir carbonate cores with permeabilities below 10 millidarcys and median pore radii below one micron. Shearing and tight filtration were used to reduce the maximum size of polymers in solution while retaining as much viscosity as possible. Subsequent filtration was used to quantitatively assess the plugging behavior of the product solution across a range of pore sizes smaller than those which conduct in the rock sample. Coreflood injectivity tests revealed the onset of face plugging as a function of average polymer size. Co-solvent was shown to dramatically improve the transport of sulfonated polyacrylamides when face plugging did not occur, and those improvements were mirrored in benchtop filtration data. This improvement came despite equal-or-better viscosity in the polymer solution, demonstrating that the co-solvent did not reduce the polymer's hydrated size and therefore most likely weakens inter-molecular associations in solution. In sum, the data indicate that permeability loss occurred by two mechanisms: simple mechanical plugging and progressive adsorption, likely mediated by inter-molecular entanglements. These two permeability reduction mechanisms should be rectified by different means.