Research has discovered systems that can selectively flocculate mineral solids from a high molecular weight polymer flood matrix while leaving the polymer intact or alternatively achieving a viable total flocculation of the polymer in the produced fluids. Modified alkaline surfactant polymer (ASP) and standard polymer (P) flood systems were studied with findings obtained by controlled variations of both well-proven and non-prevalent chemical approaches. Results concluded that selectively removing the mineral solids from polymer-laden water produces reusable enhanced oil recovery (EOR) fluid.
EOR is a proven method to increase hydrocarbon yield from post-natural, stimulated, or standard flood driven reservoirs. Fluid produced from the reservoir contains the desired hydrocarbon and an aqueous phase. Previously considered a liability, properly treated, the aqueous phase can become an asset. Polymer floods have a proven history in EOR and, though complex in application, ASP also demonstrated EOR effectiveness in the laboratory. Most ASP approaches are currently in field trial stages. The produced fluid is subjected to hydrocarbon separation with the resulting aqueous system either treated for disposal or recycled into the system. The aqueous phase matrix is mainly composed of high molecular weight polymer, mineral solids, residual base, residual oil, and possibly surfactant. If the producer chooses disposal, the solids must be flocculated by a method balancing density, dewaterability, processability, process variability, and cost. However, if the producer opts to recycle the fluid for reinjection, steps must be taken to minimize polymer deviations requiring selective flocculation of all components with exception of the polymer. This undertaking is challenging as EOR polymers are also effective flocculants, therefore sensitive to standard coagulant and flocculant approaches. Utilizing controlled, standard methods and multivariable design of experiments, results were obtained for both total and selective flocculation.
Total flocculation systematically studies the influence of pH, inorganic, and organic coagulants in maximizing the treatment effectiveness. The same approach was successful for selective flocculation, however unique coagulants were applied. The selective flocculation process coagulated and separated the mineral solids, and left the high molecular weight polymer intact and the fluid matrix as viscous as prior to treatment. Effectiveness of treatments were determined using standard gravimetric and viscometric methods.
These discoveries will assist decision makers in determining whether total or selective flocculation is the most viable treatment for polymer based EOR, balancing environmental and economic aspects to pursue a desired treatment route. These methods, though targeting EOR, have practical applications for treatment of flowback and water produced from stimulation and potentially drilling operations as well.
The performance results from a systematic study of novel and contemporary clay stabilizers are provided. These interactions range from synergistic to antagonistic and are presented on a response surface with good correlation. Both organic and inorganic permanent and temporary clay stabilizers were studied. Some of these novel effective inhibitors have HIMS ratings lower than choline chloride.
Various clay stabilizers are employed when stimulation techniques requiring aqueous based fluids are necessary in water sensitive formations. Typically, if swelling or migrating clays are present, temporary or permanent stabilizers are utilized. Low molecular weight temporary stabilizers, as a rule, perform only above a critical level concentration, but as the stabilizer's concentration diminishes in the fracturing fluid due to flowback, formation fluid displacement, or other mechanisms, the clay can swell, reducing porosity and permeability. Permanent stabilizers are generally higher molecular weight and can adhere to single or multiple clay platelets, thus dissolution of the stabilizer into the fluid is not favored, and the beneficial anti-swelling effect is of higher duration.
This study was set up using Central Composite Design of Experiments. Performance testing was conducted using a low pressure Bariod fluid loss cell. A set concentration of unbenefited sodium bentonite was blended into water at a specific RPM and duration in the presence of the particular stabilizers, then placed in the cell, sealed, and pressure was applied. Finally leak off rates were measured. The slope of the leak off curve was calculated and plotted versus dosage. The slopes and response surfaces observed had excellent correlation. Additive effects and synergies were noted.
The design of efficient temporary clay stabilizers can be directly linked to performance. Novel temporary clay stabilizers competitive with choline chloride in both performance and environmental profile should be welcomed in stimulation. The duration of the stabilization could also be studied using this test method since porous media experimentation is difficult to perform.