Microemulsion properties significantly impact any EOR process that relies on surfactants or soaps to generate ultralow interfacial tension to displace trapped oil. Unfavorable microemulsion viscosity can lead to high chemical retention, low oil recovery, and overall unfavorable performance across all modes. Controlling microemulsion properties is important in conventional approaches like surfactant-polymer (SP) and alkaline-surfactant-polymer (ASP) flooding, in addition to new applications like gravity stable displacements, spontaneous imbibition in fractured carbonates and unstable floods of viscous oil. Despite the central importance, microemulsion viscosity and rheology remain poorly understood.
This paper describes the results of an extensive experimental microemulsion study. We evaluated the effect of polymer on microemulsion viscosity in different microemulsion phase types (i.e. oil in water, bi-continuous, water in oil emulsions). We measured microemulsion viscosities across a broad salinity range for several crudes from light (API >30°) to heavy oils (API<14°) and observed Newtonian rheology for all phase types. The effect of cosolvents on microemulsion viscosity was also evaluated. Finally, we evaluated microemulsions with and without alkali to help understand potential differences between ASP and SP microemulsions.
We include many observations consistent with earlier literature using recently developed surfactants and report the microemulsion viscosity details for many high performance surfactant formulations across a wide range of conditions. We have also describe several observations, including polymer decreasing the required time to achieve equilibrium in microemulsion pipettes and the qualitative change in microemulsion behavior with and without polymer in Windsor Type III microemulsions.
In the case of surfactant EOR, an optimum formulation of surfactant has to be injected in the reservoir. This so-called optimum formulation corresponds to a minimum in the interfacial tension and a maximum in oil recovery and may be obtained with an appropriate balance of the hydrophobic and hydrophilic affinities of the surfactant. Salinity—scan tests are generally used to screen phase behavior of surfactant formulations before conducting time-consuming coreflood tests. The objective of this study was to develop a high-throughput dynamic microfluidic tensiometer, with the aim of studying interfacial phenomena between EOR injected formulations and crude oils and of optimizing chemical EOR processes for pilot or field applications.
We have selected a method based on the Rayleigh-Plateau instability and the analysis of the droplets to jetting transition in a coaxial flow of two fluids. In fact, in coaxial flows, the transition between a droplet and a jetting regime depends on the velocities of each phase, the viscosity ratio, the confinement and the interfacial tension (IFT). As the three first parameters are known, the dynamic interfacial tension can be calculated. This microfluidic device has been specifically designed to support high temperatures (up to 150°C), high pressures (up to 150 bars) and is compatible with complex fluids such as crude oils and solutions of surfactants and polymers.
The method was first developed and validated on a microfluidic device on model fluids at ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure for IFTs higher than 1 mN/m. It was then successfully applied for the measurement of IFTs over more than four decades. Measurements were also performed with a crude oil and a typical surfactant formulation. The validation of the HP/HT assembly, which has been designed with the aim to work in reservoir conditions, is currently under progress. By using this tensiometer, it would be quite easy to perform in short time numerous salinity scans on real systems in order to get the evolution of IFT and determine the optimal salinity S*.
The use of isenthalpic flash has become of interest for the simulation of some heavy oil recovery processes where large temperature changes are experienced. For these thermal simulations energy can be used as a primary variable. This leads to thousands or millions of individual multiphase isenthalpic flash calculations. Robust and efficient algorithms for multiple-phase isenthalpic flash are required to improve the efficiency of compositional simulations for thermal recovery.
The general framework on state function based flash specifications proposed by
Narrow boiling mixtures can be dealt with in the majority of cases without any significant difficulty. This is true of the direct substitution algorithm and the proposed solution procedure. The vast majority of examples can be solved without using Q function maximisation. The challenges associated with multiphase calculations in the Newton steps are investigated. In particular, inadequate initial estimate of the equilibrium type may lead to non-convergent iteration. This can usually be solved by introduction of a new phase and/or elimination of an existing phase. The speed of the method is analysed for a large number of specifications and is found to be only slightly more expensive than isothermal flash in the majority of cases.
Alkan, H. (Wintershall Holding GmbH) | Klueglein, N. (BASF SE) | Mahler, E. (BASF SE) | Kögler, F. (Wintershall Holding GmbH) | Beier, K. (Freiberg University) | Jelinek, W. (Wintershall Holding GmbH) | Herold, A. (BASF SE) | Hatscher, S. (Wintershall Holding GmbH) | Leonhardt, B. (Wintershall Holding GmbH)
This paper provides an update on a microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) project conducted by Wintershall and BASF. Overall nutrient development and planning of a single well field trial (huff'n'puff, HnP) including risk management are described. A nutrient solution is tailored to stimulate growth and metabolite production of a reservoir community of various indigenous microbial species in a Wintershall operated oil field with challenging reservoir characteristics, including high salinity (160,000 ppm). Up-scaled imbibition experiments performed with sandstone cores using MEOR-oil systems are compared with injection brine-oil systems and assessed for the implications on incremental oil. The results of sandpack and coreflood experiments performed with optimized nutrient solutions are discussed regarding incremental oil recovery and responsible EOR mechanisms. A MEOR modelling concept developed using STARS/CMG is used to estimate additional oil production under various feeding strategies after the calibration of the EOR mechanisms assigned.
As the laboratory and numerical works have indicated the feasibility of the MEOR field application, emphasis has been put on risk issues ranked in the register of the project. The key risk is potential souring of the reservoir due to the activation of the sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB) growing on the metabolites generated by the MEOR target community. Conventional mitigation measures have been tested in short and long-term experiments. An innovative solution had been developed to assure H2S free application without any consequences to the reservoir and to the MEOR application.
A single well pilot application is planned in a pre-selected well of the Wintershall field studied with two main objectives: (1) proof of the concept of risk mitigation and (2) stimulation of growth and metabolite production. Identification of operational issues as well as data gathering to improve the forecasting methods towards full-field predictions are secondary objectives. A monitoring plan has been initiated to establish a baseline in terms of microbiological and petro-dynamic parameters. Temperature and volumetric distributions have been predicted based on the results of an injectivity test performed in the well. The data is used to design the HnP operation and the surface setup for the injection rate of 100 m3/day nutrient solution under well-defined conditions.
Griffith, Nicholas (Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin) | Ahmad, Yusra (Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin) | Daigle, Hugh (Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin) | Huh, Chun (Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin)
Interest in silica nanoparticle-stabilized emulsions, especially those employing low-cost natural gas liquids (NGLs), has increased due to recent developments suggesting their use leads to improved conformance control and increased sweep efficiencies. When compared to conventional emulsion- stabilizing materials such as surfactants, nanoparticles are an inexpensive and robust alternative, offering stability over a wider range of temperature and salinity, while reducing environmental impact.
Oil-in-water emulsions with an aqueous nanoparticle phase and either a pentane or butane oil phase at a 1:1 volume ratio were generated at varying salinities for the observations of several emulsion characteristics. The effects of salinity on the stability of silica nanoparticle dispersions and NGL emulsions were observed. Increasing the salinity of the aqueous nanoparticle phase resulted in an increase in effective nanoparticle size due to increased nanoparticle aggregation. Rheology tests and estimates of emulsion droplet sizes were performed. Shear-thinning behavior was observed for all emulsions. Furthermore, overall emulsion viscosity increased with salinity. Nanoparticle-stabilized liquid butane-in-water emulsions were also generated with varying brine concentrations; however, no rheology or droplet size measurements were made due to the volatility of these emulsions.
Residual oil recovery coreflood experiments were conducted (using Boise Sandstone cores) with nanoparticle-stabilized pentane-in-water emulsions as injectant and light mineral oil as residual oil. A recovery of up to 82% residual oil was observed for these experiments. By continuously measuring the pressure drop across the core, a possible mechanism for enhanced oil recovery is proposed. Pentane emulsion coreflood tests indicated that at a slower injection rate, residual oil recovery increases. This contrasts viscous emulsion corefloods (mineral oil or Texaco white oil as the emulsion oil phase), where increasing the injection rate increases the residual oil recovery.
Low-salinity waterflooding has been portrayed as an effective enhanced-oil recovery technology. Despite compelling laboratory and field evidence of its potential, the underlying mechanisms still remain controversial. In this study, the enhanced-oil recovery mechanisms are investigated considering a distinct interfacial effect, i.e. water-crude oil interfacial viscoelasticity, through analysis of capillary hysteresis. An experimental setup with an oil-wet and a water-wet media on each end face of the core sample was utilized to capture capillary and rock electrical properties hysteresis. Moreover, new improvements over the traditional quasi-static porous plate method were implemented to accelerate measurements. Two experiments were conducted on Minnelusa formation rock samples and TC crude oil, at low temperature (30 °C) and without any significant aging as to minimize wettability alteration. Two core plugs were flooded with high-salinity and low-salinity brines, separately. It is found that the dynamic-static method with a ceramic disk, i.e. a combination of continuous injection in drainage and stepwise quasi-static method in imbibition on short 1" long core samples, allows one to capture the correct envelopes of the capillary pressure curves and save ~ 30% of the total time; a thin membrane is anticipated to save ~90% with respect to traditional quasi-static porous plate method. The capillary hysteresis experiments at low temperature prove that low-salinity brine is able to suppress capillary hysteresis. This is attributed to the formation of a more visco-elastic brine-crude oil interface upon exposure to low-salinity brine, leading to a more continuous oil phase. In addition, we show that wettability plays an essential role on electrical resistivity and the more oil-wet, the more hysteresis occurs, namely that resistivity values in imbibition are higher than those in drainage. The findings in this paper demonstrate that low-salinity waterflooding can still increase oil recovery even in the absence of wettability alteration.
Jang, Sung Hyun (The University of Texas at Austin) | Liyanage, Pathma Jith (The University of Texas at Austin) | Tagavifar, Mohsen (The University of Texas at Austin) | Chang, Leonard (The University of Texas at Austin) | Upamali, Karasinghe A. N. (The University of Texas at Austin) | Lansakara-P, Dharmika (The University of Texas at Austin) | Weerasooriya, Upali (The University of Texas at Austin) | Pope, Gary A. (The University of Texas at Austin)
The chemical cost to recover an incremental barrel of oil is directly proportional to the surfactant retention, so the single most effective way to reduce the cost is to reduce surfactant retention. The main objective of this research was to demonstrate how surfactant retention could be reduced to almost zero by careful optimization of the chemical formulations for different crude oils. Although surfactant retention has been studied for many years over a wide range of reservoir conditions, its dependence on the rheological behavior of the microemulsion that forms in-situ has not been adequately studied. Thus, in this paper we emphasize the importance of microemulsion rheology and demonstrate how to develop and test formulations with properties that give very low surfactant retention. Novel co-solvents (iso-butanol (IBA) alkoxylates and phenol alkoxylates) were tested in some of the formulations with excellent results. Unlike classical co-solvents used to optimize chemical formulations, the new co-solvents cause only a slight increase in the interfacial tension. A series of ASP corefloods were performed in sandstone cores with and without oil to measure surfactant and co-solvent retention and to elucidate the effects of microemulsion viscosity, salinity gradient, clay content, surfactant concentration and other variables. Dynamic adsorption was measured in cores with the same mineralogy and compared with the retention from oil recovery corefloods to determine the component of the retention due to phase trapping.
Compositional reservoir simulation plays a vital role in the development of conventional and unconventional reservoirs. Two major building blocks of compositional simulation are phase behavior and fluid transport computations. The oil and gas reserves and flow of reservoir fluids are strongly dependent on phase behavior. In conventional reservoirs, capillary pressure is relatively small and is typically ignored in phase behavior calculations. However, large capillary pressure values are encountered in tight formations such as shales; and therefore, its effects should not be ignored in phase equilibria calculations. Neglecting the effects of capillary pressure on phase behavior can lead to an inaccurate estimation of original oil and gas in place as well as recovery performance. In spite of this, the effect of capillary pressure on phase behavior in tight reservoirs has not been well studied using compositional simulation, especially for hydraulically-fractured reservoirs.
In this paper, we develop a new compositional reservoir simulator capable of modeling discrete fractures and incorporating the effect of capillary pressure on phase behavior. Large-scale natural and hydraulic fractures in tight rocks and shales are modeled with a technique called Embedded Discrete Fracture Model (EDFM) where fractures are modeled explicitly without using local grid refinement or an unstructured grid. Flow of hydrocarbons occurs simultaneously within similar and different porosity types. Capillary pressure is considered in both flow and flash calculations, where simulations also include variable pore size as a function of gas saturation in each grid block. We examine the impact of capillary pressure on the original oil in place and cumulative oil production for different initial reservoir pressures (above and below the bubble-point pressure) on Bakken and Eagle Ford fluids. The importance of capillary pressure on both flow and flash calculations from hydraulically fractured horizontal wells during primary depletion in fractured tight reservoirs using Bakken fluid composition is demonstrated.
Phase behavior calculations show that bubble-point pressure is suppressed allowing the production to remain in the single-phase region for a longer period of time and altering phase compositions and fluid properties such as density and viscosity of equilibrium liquid and vapor. The results show that bubble-point suppression is larger in the Eagle Ford shale than for Bakken. When capillary pressure is considered, we found an increase in original oil in place up to 4.1% for Bakken and 46.33% for the Eagle Ford crude. Depending on the initial reservoir pressure, cumulative primary production after one year increases owing to capillary pressure by approximately 9.0 – 38.2% for Bakken oil and 7.2 – 154% for Eagle Ford oil. The recovery increase caused by capillary pressure becomes more significant when reservoir pressure is far below bubble-point pressure. The simulation results with hydraulically fractured wells give similar recovery differences; cumulative oil production after 1 year is 3.5 – 5.2% greater when capillary pressure is considered in phase behavior calculations for Bakken.
Khorsandi, Saeid (The Pennsylvania State University) | Qiao, Changhe (The Pennsylvania State University) | Johns, Russell T. (The Pennsylvania State University) | Torrealba, Victor A. (The Pennsylvania State University)
Reservoir simulation is a valuable tool for assessing the potential success of enhanced recovery processes. Current chemical flooding reservoir simulators, however, use Hand's model to describe surfactant-oil-brine systems even though Hand's model is not predictive, and can fit only a limited data set. Hand's model requires the tuning of multiple empirical parameters using experimental data that usually consist of salinity scans at constant reservoir temperature and atmospheric pressure. Given experimental data supporting the change in microemulsion phase behavior with key formulation properties (e.g. temperature, pressure, salinity, EACN, and overall composition), there is a need for an improved model that can capture changes in these relevant parameters at the reservoir scale. The recent EOS proposed for microemulsion phase behavior (
In this paper, the EOS model with the extension to two-phase regions is incorporated for the first time into the chemical flooding simulators, UTCHEM, and our new in-house simulator PennSim. Hand's model is only used for comparison purposes, and is no longer needed even for flash calculations in the type II- and type II+ regions. The results show excellent agreement between UTCHEM and PennSim both in composition space and for composition/saturation profiles. Further, the HLD-NAC based EOS model and Hand's models are fitted to the same experimental data and the results of these simulations are nearly identical when variations of salinity, pressure and temperature are small. For large gradients, the results of the physics-based EOS deviates from Hand's model, and shows it is critical to incorporate these gradients in recovery predictions at large scale.
Jong, Stephen (University of Texas at Austin) | Nguyen, Nhut M. (University of Texas at Austin) | Eberle, Calvin M. (University of Texas at Austin) | Nghiem, Long X. (Computer Modelling Group Ltd.) | Nguyen, Quoc P. (University of Texas at Austin)
Low Tension Gas (LTG) flooding is a novel EOR process which can address challenging reservoir conditions such as high salinity, high temperature, and tight rock. Current process understanding is limited, and a joint experimental and modeling approach allows for both interpretation and insight into the complex interactions between the key process parameters of salinity gradient, foam strength, microemulsion phase behavior, and phase desaturation in order to achieve a physically correct and predictive process model.
We performed a series of corefloods in high permeability Berea sandstones (~500 mD) to demonstrate the impact of salinity gradient on the LTG process and interactions between key mechanisms such as microemulsion phase behavior and foam stability. In order to provide additional insight into the experimental study and improve understanding of the LTG process, we used our newly developed LTG simulator which we built within CMG GEM.
The results demonstrate that decreasing slug injection salinity can lead to a 15% increase in residual oil in place (ROIP) recovery over a slug injected at optimum salinity, with earlier breakthrough and steeper recovery slope. In addition, there is evidence of a late time pressure buildup as salinity is decreased through mixing with drive salinity which is indicative of increasing foam stability. This may be due to an inverse relationship between oil-water IFT and foam stability and thus designing an optimal salinity gradient for an LTG process requires balancing oil mobilization due to ultralow IFT and effectively displacing mobilized oil with adequate foam mobility control.
We introduce and show the strength our compositional LTG simulator in a pioneering laboratory and simulation study that sheds light on the interaction between salinity, microemulsion phase behavior, and foam strength. Our conclusions indicate a significant departure from traditional ASP understanding and methodology when designing an LTG salinity gradient and serve as a foundation for future investigation.