This paper addresses two questions for polymer flooding. First, what polymer solution viscosity should be injected? A base-case reservoir-engineering method is present for making that decision, which focuses on waterflood mobility ratios and the permeability contrast in the reservoir. However, some current field applications use injected polymer viscosities that deviate substantially from this methodology. At one end of the range, Canadian projects inject only 30-cp polymer solutions to displace 1000-3000-cp oil. Logic given to support this choice include (1) the mobility ratio in an unfavorable displacement is not as bad as indicated by the endpoint mobility ratio, (2) economics limit use of higher polymer concentrations, (3) some improvement in mobility ratio is better than a straight waterflood, (4) a belief that the polymer will provide a substantial residual resistance factor (permeability reduction), and (5) injectivity limits the allowable viscosity of the injected fluid. At the other end of the range, a project in Daqing, China, injected 150-300-cp polymer solutions to displace 10-cp oil. The primary reason given for this choice was a belief that high molecular weight viscoelastic HPAM polymers can reduce the residual oil saturation below that expected for a waterflood or for less viscous polymer floods. This paper will examine the validity of each of these beliefs.
The second question is: when should polymer injection be stopped or reduced? For existing polymer floods, this question is particularly relevant in the current low oil-price environment. Should these projects be switched to water injection immediately? Should the polymer concentration be reduced or graded? Should the polymer concentration stay the same but reduce the injection rate? These questions are discussed.
This paper examines whether retention of partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) is different under anaerobic versus aerobic conditions. Both static (mixing with loose sand) and dynamic methods (core floods) were used to determine HPAM retention. There are both advantages and disadvantages associated with determining polymer retention using static tests versus dynamic tests and using aerobic versus anaerobic conditions. From static retention measurements, polymer adsorption values on pure silica sand or Berea sandstone were small, and they showed little difference between experiments conducted aerobically or anaerobically. For both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, HPAM retention increased significantly with increased pyrite or siderite content. Static retention under anaerobic conditions ranged from 45-75 µg/g with 1% of either pyrite or siderite to 137-174 µg/g for 10% pyrite or siderite to 1161-1249 µg/g for 100% pyrite or siderite.
If iron minerals are present, the most representative polymer retention results are obtained (for both static and dynamic tests) if conditions are anaerobic. Retention values (from static measurements) under aerobic conditions were commonly twice those determined under anaerobic conditions. If iron minerals are present and retention tests are performed under aerobic conditions, TOC or some similar method should be used for polymer detection. Viscosity detection of polymer may provide retention values that are too high (because oxidative degradation can be misinterpreted as polymer retention). For a broad range of siderite content, retention from static tests did not depend on whether dissolved oxygen was present. However, for a broad range of pyrite content, HPAM retention was significantly lower in the absence of dissolved oxygen than under aerobic conditions. Theses results may be tied to iron solubility. When polymer solutions were mixed with 100% pyrite over the course of 12 hours, 360–480-ppm iron dissolved into polymer solutions under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, whereas with 100% siderite, only 0–0.6-ppm iron dissolved. If dynamic methods (i.e., corefloods) are used to determine polymer retention under aerobic conditions, flow rates should be representative of the field application. Rates that are too high lead to underestimation of polymer retention. With 10% pyrite, dynamic retention was 211 µg/g at 6 ft/d versus 43.2 µg/g at 30 ft/d. In contrast, retention values were fairly consistent (40.6 – 47.8 µg/g) between 6 ft/d and 33 ft/d under anaerobic conditions.