The in-situ steam based technology is still the main exploitation method for bitumen and heavy oil resources all over the world. But most of the steam-based processes (e.g., cyclic steam stimulation, steam drive and steam assisted gravity drainage) in heavy oilfields have entered into anexhaustion stage. Considering the long-lasting steam-rock interaction, how to further enhance the heavy oil recovery in the post-steam injection era is currently challenging the EOR (enhanced oil recovery) techniques. In this paper, we present a comprehensive review of the EOR processes in the post steam injection era both in experimental and field cases. Specifically, the paper presents an overview on the recovery mechanisms and field performance of thermal EOR processes by reservoir lithology (sandstone and carbonate formations) and offshore versus onshore oilfields. Typical processes include thein-situ combustion process, the thermal/-solvent process, the thermal-NCG (non-condensable gas, e.g., N2, flue gas and air) process, and the thermal-chemical (e.g., polymer, surfactant, gel and foam) process. Some new in-situ upgrading processes are also involved in this work. Furthermore, this review also presents the current operations and future trends on some heavy oil EOR projects in Canada, Venezuela, USA and China.
This review showsthat the offshore heavy oilfields will be the future exploitation focus. Moreover, currently several steam-based projects and thermal-NCG projects have been operated in Emeraude Field in Congo and Bohai Bay in China. A growing trend is also found for the in-situ combustion technique and solvent assisted process both in offshore and onshore heavy oil fields, such as the EOR projects in North America, North Sea, Bohai Bay and Xinjiang. The multicomponent thermal fluids injection process in offshore and the thermal-CO2and thermal-chemical (surfactant, foam) processes in onshore heavy oil reservoirs are some of the opportunities identified for the next decade based on preliminary evaluations and proposed or ongoing pilot projects. Furthermore, the new processes of in-situ catalytic upgrading (e.g., addition of catalyst, steam-nanoparticles), electromagnetic heating and electro-thermal dynamic stripping (ETDSP) and some improvement processes on a wellbore configuration (FCD) have also gained more and more attention. In addition, there are some newly proposed recovery techniques that are still limitedto the laboratory scale with needs for further investigations. In such a time of low oil prices, cost optimization will be the top concerns of all the oil companies in the world. This critical review will help to identify the next challenges and opportunities in the EOR potential of bitumen and heavy oil production in the post steam injection era.
One major concern for Alkaline Surfactant Polymer (ASP) flooding is the possibility of inorganic scale formation near the wellbore and in the production facility. In this process, the precipitation reactions of multivalent hardness ions present in the carbonate reservoirs with alkalis in high pH brines might damage the formation, production facilities, and cause severe flow assurance issues. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the geochemical reactions and possibility of scale formation and its associated problems to develop mitigation plans. In this paper, we performed geochemical simulations to investigate the likelihood of inorganic scale formation during ASP flooding in a 5-spot pilot project in one of the largest carbonate reservoirs in the Middle East.
We used a coupled chemical flooding simulator and geochemical (IPhreeqc) framework for this study. First, we incorporated published laboratory data in a geomodel realization of the pilot area. Second, we used the pilot model to investigate the possibility of scale formation during ASP flooding considering a comprehensive system of reactions. Using IPhreeqc, we were able to include thermodynamic databases with various geochemical reactions and capabilities such as saturation index calculation, reversible and irreversible reactions, kinetic reaction, and impacts of temperature and pressure on reaction constants and solubility products. Thus, we were able to show how and where the scales may form.
Our results indicated that the mixing of very hard formation water or water from the subzones near the production wellbore with the injected alkaline water causes scale deposition. We observed calcite dissolutions with slight increase in pH near the injection wellbores after soft seawater preflush. As the ASP solution was injected and high pH brine propagated, carbonate scale and to a lesser extent hydroxide scale formed near the producer. Moreover, although some carbonate and magnesium hydroxide deposits in the formation, but there was negligible effect on reservoir properties. Furthermore, according to our simulation results, most of the scales deposited near the production wellbore, which increases the chance of reducing wellbore productivity and production system damage. These results can help in developing mitigation strategies i.e. preflood the reservoir with soft brine before introducing the ASP slug and optimize the soft brine injection time.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that a comprehensive chemical flood reactive transport simulator is used to assess scale formation during ASP flooding in a carbonate reservoir. Our approach can be used to identify and mitigate challenges and associated design problems for field-scale ASP scenarios.
Although geochemical reactions are the fundamental basis of the alkaline/surfactant/polymer (ASP) flooding, their importance is commonly overlooked and not fully assessed. Common assumptions made when modeling geochemical reactions in ASP floods include: 1) ideal solution (i.e., using molalities rather than ion activities) for the water and aqueous geochemical species 2) limiting the number of reactions (i.e., oil/alkali and alkali consumptions) rather than including the entire thermodynamically-equilibrated system 3) ignoring the effect of temperature and pressure on reactions 4) local equilibrium ignoring the kinetics. To the best of our knowledge, the significance of these assumptions has never been discussed in the literature. In this paper we investigate the importance of geochemical reactions during alkaline/surfactant/polymer floods using a comprehensive tool in the sense of surfactant/soap phase behavior as well as geochemistry.
We coupled the United States Geological Survey (USGS) state-of-the-art geochemical tool, with 3D flow and transport chemical flooding module of UTCHEM. This geochemical module includes several thermodynamic databases with various geochemical reactions, such as ion speciation by applying several ion-association aqueous models, mineral, solid-solution, surface-complexation, and ion-exchange reaction. It has capabilities of saturation index calculation, reversible and irreversible reactions, kinetic reaction, mixing solutions, inverse modeling and includes impacts of temperature and pressure on reaction constants and solubility products. The chemical flood simulator has a three phase (water, oil, microemulsion) phase behavior package for the mixture of surfactant/soap, oil, and water as a function of surfactant/soap, salinity, temperature, and co-solvent concentration. Hence, the coupled software package provides a comprehensive tool to assess the significance of geochemical assumptions typically imposed in modeling ASP floods. Moreover, this integrated tool enables modeling of variations in mineralogy present in reservoir rocks. We parallelized the geochemistry module of this coupled simulator for large-scale reservoir simulations.
Our simulation results show that the assumption of ideal solution overestimates ASP oil recovery. Assuming only a subset of reactions for a coupled system is not recommended, particularly when a large number of geochemical species is involved, as is the case in realistic applications of ASP. Reservoir pressure has a negligible effect but temperature has a significant impact on geochemical calculations. Although mineral reaction kinetics is largely a function of the temperature and in-situ water composition, some general conclusions can be drawn as follows: to a good approximation, minerals with slow rate kinetic reaction (e.g., quartz) can be excluded when modeling ASP laboratory floods. However, minerals with fast rate kinetic reactions (e.g., calcite) must be included when modeling lab results. On the other hand, in modeling field-scale applications, local equilibrium assumption (LEA) can be applied for fast rate kinetic minerals, whereas kinetics should be used for slow rate kinetic minerals.