Ultralow-Interfacial-Tension Foam Injection Strategy Investigation in High Temperature Ultra-High Salinity Fractured Carbonate Reservoirs

Dong, Pengfei (Rice University) | Puerto, Maura (Rice University) | Ma, Kun (Total) | Mateen, Khalid (Total) | Ren, Guangwei (Total) | Bourdarot, Gilles (Total) | Morel, Danielle (Total) | Biswal, Sibani Lisa (Rice University) | Hirasaki, George (Rice University)



Oil recovery in many carbonate reservoirs is challenging due to unfavorable conditions such as oil-wet surface wettability, high reservoir heterogeneity and high brine salinity. We present the feasibility and injection strategy investigation of ultralow-interfacial-tension (ultralow-IFT) foam in a high temperature (above 80°C), ultra-high formation salinity (above 23% TDS) fractured carbonate reservoir.

Because a salinity gradient is generated between injection sea water (4.2% TDS) and formation brine (23% TDS), a frontal-dilution map was created to simulate frontal displacement processes and thereafter used to optimize surfactant formulations. IFT measurements and bulk foam tests were also conducted to study the salinity gradient effect to ultralow-IFT foam performance. Ultralow-IFT foam injection strategies were investigated through a series of core flood experiments in both homogenous and fractured core systems with initial two-phase saturation. The representative fractured system included a well-defined fracture by splitting core sample lengthwise and controllable initial oil/brine saturation in the matrix by closing the fracture with a rubber sheet at high confining pressure.

The surfactant formulation showed ultra-low IFT (10-2-10-3 mN/m magnitude) at the displacement front and good foamability at under-optimum conditions. Both ultralow-IFT and foamability properties were found to be sensitive to the salinity gradient. Ultralow-IFT foam flooding achieved over 60% incremental oil recovery compared to water flooding in oil-wet fractured systems due to the selective diversion of ultralow-IFT foam. This effect resulted in crossflow near foam front, with surfactant solution (or weak foam) primarily diverted from the fracture into the matrix before the foam front, and oil/high-salinity brine flowed back to the fracture ahead of the front. The crossflow of oil/high-salinity brine from the matrix to the fracture was found to make it challenging for foam propagation in the fractured system by forming Winsor II condition near foam front and hence killing the existing foam.

Results in this work demonstrated the feasibility of ultralow-IFT foam in high temperature, ultra-high salinity fractured carbonate reservoirs and investigated the injection strategy to enhance the low-IFT foam performance. The ultralow-IFT formulation helped mobilize the residual oil for better displacement efficiency. The selective diversion of foam makes it a good candidate as a mobility control agent in fractured system for better sweep efficiency.