Polymer flooding is a widely used commercial process with a low cost per barrel of produced oil, For this application, hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) polymers are the most widely used type of polymer. In an era of low cost oil, it is becoming even more essential to optimize the polymer flooding design under realistic reservoir conditions. The objective of this research was to better understand and predict the behavior of HPAM polymers and their effect on residual oil saturation, in order to improve the capability of optimizing field design and performance. The corefloods were performed under typical field conditions of low pressure gradients and low capillary numbers. The polymer floods of the viscous oils recovered much more oil than the water floods, with up to 24% lower oil saturation after the polymer flood than the water flood. The experimental data are in good agreement with the fractional flow analysis using the assumptions that the true residual oil saturations and end point relative permeabilities are the same for both water and polymer. This suggests that for more viscous oils, the oil saturation at the end of water flood (i.e. at greater than 99% water cut) is better described as ‘emaining’ oil saturation rather than the true ‘esidual’ oil saturation. This was true for all of the corefloods regardless of the core permeability and without the need for assuming a permeability reduction factor in the fractional flow analysis.
Water-based polymers are often used to improve oil recovery by increasing displacement sweep efficiency. However, recent laboratory and field work has suggested these polymers, which are often viscoelastic, may also reduce residual oil saturation. The objective of this work is to investigate the effect of viscoelastic polymers on residual oil saturation in Bentheimer sandstones and identify conditions and mechanisms for the improved recovery. Bentheimer sandstones were saturated with a heavy oil (120cp) and then waterflooded to residual oil saturation using brine followed by an inelastic Newtonian fluid (diluted glycerin). These floods were followed by injection of a viscoelastic polymer, hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM).
Significant reduction in residual oil was observed for all core floods performed at constant pressure drop when the polymer had significant elasticity (determined by the dimensionless Deborah number,