Mutual Solvent Injection Doubles the Initial Oil Rate in Vaca Muerta Unconventional Shale Oil Pilot

Juri, Dr. Juan (YPF) | Georgiades, Diana (YPF) | Godino, Georgina (YPF) | Acosta, Matias (YPF) | Medina, Rodrigo (YPF)


Abstract Objectives/Scope

Initial rate and decline are the two main parameters defining the economics of unconventional shale oil development. To improve economics, companies drill longer horizontal wells with more than twenty equidistant stages, different completion strategies and various additives such as surfactants and nano surfactants. This procedure evolves to factory mode in which tasks are optimized in timing and performance without attention to the matrix aspects of improving the recovery. Here, we report the design of a mutual solvent injection pilot in the Vaca Muerta unconventional reservoir during the completion of four unconventional shale oil wells. Reducing viscosity, interfacial tension and changing wettability can enhance the pore network connectivity and improve in a factor of 10 the fluid flow transfer from matrix to hydraulic fracture.

Methods, Procedures, Process

Vaca Muerta has been long regarded as a water wet shale because of the limited water backflow post-fracking job. Alternating water injection was implementing assuming that the well productivity is driven by spontaneous imbibition, but this strategy has been unsuccessful as capillary pressure hysteresis drives this mechanism. We started studying Vaca Muerta from the rock microstructure using energy-dispersive spectrometry and focused gallium Ion Beam ablation FIB SEM images. The microstructure varied widely from millimeters in the same plug which could be expected because in shale rocks millimeters represent more years of deposition than in a conventional reservoir. We identified intercalations of massive water wet zones and strongly oil wet zones in the Vaca Muerta kitchen zone. The oil wet intercalations have high porosity and adsorption isotherm indicating 100 to 1000 times more permeability than the water wet zone. The water wet intercalations are highly saturated with water, and on the contrary, the oil wet intercalations are highly saturated with oil. The pilot designed consisted of four wells in which we will test different injection concentrations but keeping the total mass constant. In this manner, we will estimate the volume contacted by the solvent.

Results, Observations, Conclusions

The laboratory protocol indicates a large percentage of macro and meso-pores. We implemented the dimethyl-ether injection which changes the interfacial tension, viscosity and wettability and we obtained the modified relative permeabilities which were the injection of dimethyl ether at 30% concentration along with the hydraulic fracture stimulation stages doubled the initial oil production rate.

The pilot consisted of five wells in which we will test different injection concentrations but keeping the total mass constant. In this manner, using the numerical simulation, we will estimate the volume contacted by the solvent.

Novel/Additive Information

Intercalations of high porosity high permeabilities zones in which the injection of a mutual solvent that reduces viscosity and could change wettability in oil wet/water-wet Vaca Muerta improving matrix connectivity.