Polymer flooding is a well established tertiary EOR technique to improve mobility control of a waterflood. Currently partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) is the industry workhorse in polymer EOR in reservoirs with low salinity and temperature. Biopolymers including hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC) and Xanthan are soluble and excellent viscosifiers in high salinity conditions. This paper will provide a literature review on the use of biopolymers for EOR and focus specifically on the benefits of HEC as a mobility control polymer.
Viscous oils have adverse mobility that causes production to decline rapidly following a period of primary recovery. Traditionally, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) for this kind of oil has mostly relied on reducing viscosity and increasing mobility using thermal methods or miscible gas injection. However, in some cases—for example, deep reservoirs, thin sands, or restricted offshore applications—these methods might not be feasible. This paper discusses published field studies using polymer flooding EOR for viscous oil and provides recommendations for its applicability.
In countries with reservoirs that present challenges for use of traditional EOR methods, such as Canada, China, and Suriname, polymer flooding has been field tested as a reliable oil-sweeping method while minimizing the risk of high water cut. With oil viscosities at reservoir conditions up to 5000 cp and reasonable economic conditions, polymer flooding has been shown to be an attractive EOR alternative. The study cases presented show that polymer concentrations need only be between 800 to 1,500 ppm to ensure successful results.
Concerns about low or poor injectivity of polymers are being overcome using fracturing and horizontal wells, while high-value, limited-space challenges on offshore platforms are being addressed through modular and minimized installations. Additionally, most conventional waterflood monitoring and surveillance techniques are also applicable to polymer floods, while polymer use in backflow tests and as a tracer has also been proposed.
This study's projection shows a 90% probability of positive net present value (NPV) under broad ranges of uncertainty for oil price, recovery factor (RF), capital expenditures (CAPEX), and operational expenditures (OPEX). The results of this paper show that polymer flooding presents a clear and feasible alternative for increasing the RF of viscous oil. To this end, a detailed study is provided of its advantages and the reservoir condition range of applicability.