Permeable Tar Mat Formation Described Within Context Of Novel Asphaltene Science

Mishra, Vinay Kumar (Schlumberger) | Zuo, Julian Youxiang (Schlumberger) | Dumont, Hadrien (Schlumberger) | Mullins, Oliver C. (Schlumberger)



Tar mats at the oil-water contact (OWC tar mats) in oilfield reservoirs can have enormous, pernicious effects on production due to possibly preventing of any natural water drive and precluding any effectiveness of water injectors into aquifers. In spite of this potentially huge impact, tar mat formation is only now being resolved and integrated within advanced asphaltene science. Herein, we describe a very different type of tar mat which we refer to as a "rapid-destabilization tar mat??; it is the asphaltenes that undergo rapid destabilization. To our knowledge, this is the first paper to describe such rapid-destabilization tar mats at least in this context. Rapid-destabilization tar mats can be formed at the crest of the reservoir, generally not at the OWC and can introduce their own set of problems in production. Most importantly, rapid-destabilization tar mats can be porous and permeable, unlike the OWC tar mats. The rapid-destabilization tar mat can undergo plastic flow under standard production conditions rather unlike the OWC tar mat. As its name implies, the rapid-destabilization tar mat can form in very young reservoirs in which thermodynamic disequilibrium in the oil column prevails, while the OWC tar mats generally take longer (geologic) time to form and are often associated with thermodynamically equilibrated oil columns. Here, we describe extensive data sets on rapid-destabilization tar mats in two adjacent reservoirs. The surprising properties of these rapid-destabilization tar mats are redundantly confirmed in many different ways. All components of the processes forming rapid-destabilization tar mats are shown to be consistent with powerful new developments in asphaltene science, specifically with the development of the first equation of state for asphaltene gradients, the Flory-Huggins-Zuo Equation, which has been enabled by the resolution of asphaltene nanostructures in crude oil codified in the Yen-Mullins Model. Rapid-destabilization tar mats represent one extreme while the OWC tar mats represent the polar opposite extreme. In the future, occurrences of tar in reservoirs can be better understood within the context of these two end members tar mats. In addition, two reservoirs in the same minibasin show the same behavior. This important observation allows fluid analysis in wells in one reservoir to indicate likely issues in other reservoirs in the same basin.