2-D Visualisation of Unstable Waterflood and Polymer Flood for Displacement of Heavy Oil

Skauge, Arne (Ctr for Integrated Petr Research) | Ormehaug, Per Arne (CIPR) | Gurholt, Tiril (University of Bergen) | Vik, Bartek (U. of Bergen) | Bondino, Igor (Total EP) | Hamon, Gerald (Total S.A.)


Waterflooding and polymer assisted waterflood in heavy oil reservoirs has currently gaining great attention. Enhanced water injection schemes represent an alternative in cases where thermal methods are either impractical or uneconomic. This study describes and analyses the oil mobilization by imaging the oil displacement at adverse mobility by injection of brine and polymer. The objectives were to improve description of viscous instabilities, mechanisms for finger growth, water channeling at adverse mobility ratio, and oil mobilization by polymers.

Experiments have been made on 2D (30cmx30cm Bentheimer slabs) studying waterflooding and tertiary polymer injection in extra heavy oils (2000cp and 7000cp). The sandstone represents a relatively homogeneous and high permeability porous medium. The experiments utilize gamma and X-ray source for porosity and saturation measurements, and an X-ray imaging system to visualize displacements and thereby quantify the underlying flow mechanisms and oil recovery.

At water wet condition capillary smears the front and prevents viscous fingers even at high adverse viscosity ratio. Changes in wettability (aging the rock material) dampen the capillarity and fingers then become more pronounced. High microscopic recovery to waterfloods (up to 30% after 5 PV injected) were achieved, and most importantly a rather impressive further gain in oil recovery after polymer flooding reaching final recoveries of more than 60%. The waterflood creates multiple thin sharp fractal-like fingers that propagate in the Bentheimer sandstone material. The 2D X-ray imaging describes the finger formation, growth, and also the later water channels formed. Polymer injection gives a fast increase in oil production, and analysis from the imaging proves that the oil is mainly produced through the established water channels.

The 2-D experiments demonstrate the mechanisms of how heavy oil is mobilized by polymer injection. Saturation maps were accurately measured by means of X-ray scans and this enabled the visualization of flow instability, establishment of water channels and oil mobilization with high resolution.