Luo, Haishan (The University of Texas at Austin) | Mohanty, Kishore K. (The University of Texas at Austin) | Delshad, Mojdeh (The University of Texas at Austin) | Pope, Gary A. (The University of Texas at Austin)
Upscaling of unstable immiscible flow remains an unsolved challenge for the oil industry. The absence of a reliable upscaling approach greatly hinders the effective reservoir simulation and optimization of heavy oil recoveries using waterflood, polymer flood and other chemical floods, which are inherently unstable processes. The difficulty in upscaling unstable flow lies in estimating the propagation of fingers smaller than the gridblock size. Using classical relative permeabilities obtained from stable flow analysis can lead to incorrect oil recovery and pressure drop in reservoir simulations.
In a recent study based on abundant experimental data, it is found that the heavy-oil recovery by waterfloods and polymer floods has a power-law correlation with a dimensionless number (named viscous finger number in this paper), which is a combination of viscosity ratio, capillary number, permeability, and the cross-section area of the core. Based upon this important finding as well as the features of unstable immiscible floods, an effective-finger model is developed in this paper. A porous medium domain is dynamically identified as three effective zones, which are two-phase flow zone, oil single-phase flow zone, and bypassed oil (isolated oil island) zone, respectively. Flow functions are derived according to effective flows in these zones. This new model is capable of history-matching a set of heavy-oil waterflood corefloods under different viscosity ratios and injection rates. Model parameters obtained from the history match also have a power-law correlation with the viscous finger number.
The build-up of this correlation contains reasonable physical meanings to quantitatively characterize the upscaled behavior of viscous fingering effects. Having such a correlation enables the estimation of model parameters in any gridblock of the reservoir by knowing the local viscous finger number in reservoir simulations. The model is applied to several heavy-oil field cases with waterfloods and polymer floods with different heterogeneities. Oil recovery in water flooding of viscous oils is overpredicted by classical simulation methods which do not incorporate viscous fingering properly. Simulation results indicate that the new model reasonably differentiates the oil recoveries at different viscous finger numbers, e.g., lower injection rate leads to higher oil recovery. In contrast, classical simulations obtain close oil recoveries under different injection rates or degrees of polymer shear-thinning, which is apparently incorrect for unstable floods. Moreover, coarse-grid simulations using the new model are able to obtain consistent saturation and pressure maps with fine-grid simulations when the correlation lengths are not smaller than the coarse gridblock size. Furthermore, it is well captured by the model that the shear-shinning polymer solution can strengthen the fingering in high-permeability regions due to increased capillary number and viscosity ratio, which is not observed in waterflood. As a whole, the new model shows encouraging capability to simulate unstable water and polymer floods in heavy oil reservoirs, and hence can facilitate the optimization of heavy-oil EOR projects.
Waterflood implementation accounts for more than half of the oil production worldwide. Despite the observations and extensive research from a large number of floods and thousands of simulation studies, managing waterfloods and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) floods is still a technical challenge. A major contributor to this challenge are waterflood induced fractures (WIF). Managing waterfloods is a multivariable problem although WIF are one aspect, it is by no means the only controlling factor.
The best evidence that WIF are one of the main factors controlling flow in reservoirs is the insensitivity of injection pressure to injection rates. With our experience, in hundreds of waterfloods, we have frequently observed this phenomenon in the field data. If fluid flow depended on diffusive Darcy flow alone, we would expect higher injection rates with higher injection pressures. However, it is common to observed relatively constant injection pressures over a wide range of water injection rates. Rapid well communication and changes in water cuts that vary with injection rates also support an interpretation of high permeability induced fractures between injector and producer. In some reservoirs, interwell tracer data can be used to determine the influence of induced fracture features. The interwell tracers usually show very fast water movement.
Induced fractures in waterfloods and EOR projects can be caused by a number of mechanisms such as but not limited to, pressure depletion, changing pressure regimes, thermal effects, or plugging effects. These fractures can either be beneficial to the reservoir performance or effect performance negatively. Benefits include improved injectivity and increased throughput of the displacing fluid. Negative effects can come in the form of reduced volumetric sweep efficiency, impaired ultimate recovery or injected fluid losses out of zone.
Case studies, theory, and available literature from Western Canada will be reviewed in order to suggest and improve reservoir management strategies for waterfloods. We have completed hundreds of waterflood feasibility, waterflood management and EOR flood studies worldwide and continue to be amazed and humbled by the complexity that many waterfloods and EOR floods exhibit due to induced fracturing. WIF and EOR induced fractures (EIF) are common and should be analysed to optimize production. Growth of the WIF, response to waterflood with the presence of WIF, implication of WIF and reservoir management are the main areas which will be addressed.