Tar mats at the oil-water contact (OWC tar mats) in oilfield reservoirs can have enormous, pernicious effects on production due to possibly preventing of any natural water drive and precluding any effectiveness of water injectors into aquifers. In spite of this potentially huge impact, tar mat formation is only now being resolved and integrated within advanced asphaltene science. Herein, we describe a very different type of tar mat which we refer to as a "rapid-destabilization tar mat??; it is the asphaltenes that undergo rapid destabilization. To our knowledge, this is the first paper to describe such rapid-destabilization tar mats at least in this context. Rapid-destabilization tar mats can be formed at the crest of the reservoir, generally not at the OWC and can introduce their own set of problems in production. Most importantly, rapid-destabilization tar mats can be porous and permeable, unlike the OWC tar mats. The rapid-destabilization tar mat can undergo plastic flow under standard production conditions rather unlike the OWC tar mat. As its name implies, the rapid-destabilization tar mat can form in very young reservoirs in which thermodynamic disequilibrium in the oil column prevails, while the OWC tar mats generally take longer (geologic) time to form and are often associated with thermodynamically equilibrated oil columns. Here, we describe extensive data sets on rapid-destabilization tar mats in two adjacent reservoirs. The surprising properties of these rapid-destabilization tar mats are redundantly confirmed in many different ways. All components of the processes forming rapid-destabilization tar mats are shown to be consistent with powerful new developments in asphaltene science, specifically with the development of the first equation of state for asphaltene gradients, the Flory-Huggins-Zuo Equation, which has been enabled by the resolution of asphaltene nanostructures in crude oil codified in the Yen-Mullins Model. Rapid-destabilization tar mats represent one extreme while the OWC tar mats represent the polar opposite extreme. In the future, occurrences of tar in reservoirs can be better understood within the context of these two end members tar mats. In addition, two reservoirs in the same minibasin show the same behavior. This important observation allows fluid analysis in wells in one reservoir to indicate likely issues in other reservoirs in the same basin.
A Jurrasic oilfield in Saudi Arabia is characterized by black oil in the crest and with mobile heavy oil underneath and all underlain by a tar mat at the oil-water contact. The viscosities in the black oil section of the column are fairly similar and are quite manageable from a production standpoint. In contrast, the mobile heavy oil section of the column contains a large continuous increase in asphaltene content with increasing depth extending to the tar mat. The tar shows very high asphaltene content but not monotonically increasing with depth. Because viscosity depends exponentially on asphaltene content in these oils, the observed viscosity varies from several to ~ 1000 centipoise in the mobile heavy oil and increases to far greater viscosities in the tar mat. Both the excessive viscosity of the heavy oil and the existence of the tar mat represent major, distinct challenges in oil production. Conventional PVT modeling of this oil column grossly fails to account for these observations. Indeed, the very large height in this oil column represents a stringent challenge for any corresponding fluid model. A simple new formalism to characterize the asphaltene nanoscience in crude oils, the Yen-Mullins model, has enabled the industry's first predictive equation of state (EoS) for asphaltene gradients, the Flory-Huggins-Zuo (FHZ) EoS. For low GOR oils such as those in this field, the FHZ EoS reduces to the simple gravity term. Robust application of the FHZ EoS employing the Yen-Mullins model accounts for the major property variations in the oil column and by extension the tar mat as well. Moreover, as these crude oils are largely equilibrated throughout the field, reservoir connectivity is indicated in this field. This novel asphaltene science is dramatically improving understanding of important constraints on oil production in oil reservoirs.
Mishra, Vinay Kumar (Schlumberger) | Skinner, Carla (Husky Energy Inc.) | MacDonald, Dennis (Husky Energy Inc.) | Hammou, Nasreddine (Saudi Aramco Shell Ref Co) | Lehne, Eric (Schlumberger) | Wu, Jiehui (Schlumberger) | Zuo, Julian Youxiang (Schlumberger) | Dong, Chengli (Shell International E&P (Rijswijk)) | Mullins, Oliver C. (Schlumberger)
It has long been recognized that condensates can exhibit large compositional gradients. It is increasingly recognized that black oil columns can also exhibit substantial gradients. Moreover, significant advances in asphaltene science have provided the framework for modeling these gradients. For effective field development planning, it is important to understand possible variations in the oil column. These developments in petroleum science are being coupled with the new technology of downhole fluid analysis (DFA) to mitigate risk in oil production.
In this case study, DFA measurements revealed a large (10×) gradient of asphaltenes in a 100-m black oil column, with a corresponding large viscosity gradient. This asphaltene gradient was traced to the colloidal description of the asphaltenes, which yielded two conclusions: the asphaltenes are vertically equilibrated, consequently vertical connectivity is indicated, and the asphaltenes are partially destabilized. Vertical interference testing (VIT) was performed at several depths and confirmed the vertical connectivity of the oil column, with four of the five tests showing unambiguous vertical connectivity consistent with the overall connectivity implied by DFA. Geochemical analysis indicates that the instability was due to some late gas and condensate entry into the reservoir. For mitigation of production risk, flow assurance studies were performed and showed that while the asphaltenes are indeed partially destabilized, there is no significant associated problem. Moreover, thin sections of core were analyzed to detect possible bitumen. A very small quantity of bitumen was found, again confirming the asphaltene analysis; however, geochemical studies and flow assurance studies confirmed that this small amount of bitumen is not expected to create any reservoir issues.
Using new science and new technology to identify and minimize risk in oil production in combination with pressure transients addressed reservoir connectivity and provided a robust, positive assessment.
Pastor, Wilson (Minister of Non-Renewable Resources) | Garcia, German (Schlumberger) | Zuo, Julian Y. (Schlumberger) | Hulme, Richard (Schlumberger) | Goddyn, Xavier (Schlumberger) | Mullins, Oliver C. (Schlumberger)