Seright, Randall S. (New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology) | Wang, Dongmei (University of North Dakota) | Lerner, Nolan (Cona Resources Limited) | Nguyen, Ahn (Cona Resources Limited) | Sabid, Jason (Cona Resources Limited) | Tochor, Ron (Cona Resources Limited)
This paper examines oil displacement as a function of polymer-solution viscosity during laboratory studies in support of a polymer flood in Canada’s Cactus Lake Reservoir. When displacing 1,610-cp crude oil from field cores (at 27°C and 1 ft/D), oil-recovery efficiency increased with polymer-solution viscosity up to 25 cp (7.3 seconds-1). No significant benefit was noted from injecting polymer solutions more viscous than 25 cp. Much of this paper explores why this result occurred. Floods in field cores examined relative permeability for different saturation histories, including native state, cleaned/water-saturated first, and cleaned/oil-saturated first. In addition to the field cores and crude oil, studies were performed using hydrophobic (oil-wet) polyethylene cores and refined oils with viscosities ranging from 2.9 to 1,000 cp. In field cores, relative permeability to water (krw) remained low, less than 0.03 for most corefloods. After extended polymer flooding to water saturations up to 0.865, krw values were less than 0.04 for six of seven corefloods. Relative permeability to oil remained reasonably high (greater than 0.05) for most of the flooding process. These observations help explain why 25-cp polymer solutions were effective in recovering 1,610-cp oil. The low relative permeability to water allowed a 25-cp polymer solution to provide a nearly favorable mobility ratio. At a given water saturation, krw values for 1,000-cp crude oil were approximately 10 times lower than for 1,000-cp refined oil. In contrast to results found for the Daqing polymer flood (Wang et al. 2000, 2011), no evidence was found in our application that high-molecular-weight (MW) hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) solutions mobilized trapped residual oil. The results are discussed in light of ideas expressed in recent publications. The relevance of the results to field applications is also examined. Although 25-cp polymer solutions were effective in displacing oil during our corefloods, the choice of polymer viscosity for a field application must consider reservoir heterogeneity and the risk of channeling in a reservoir.