ISC is basically injection of an oxidizing gas (air or oxygen-enriched air) to generate heat by burning a portion of resident oil. Most of the oil is driven toward the producers by a combination of gasdrive (from the combustion gases), steam, and waterdrive. This process is also called fire flooding to describe the movement of a burning front inside the reservoir. Based on the respective directions of front propagation and air flow, the process can be forward (when the combustion front advances in the same direction as the air flow) or reverse (when the front moves against the air flow). This process has been studied extensively in laboratories and tried in the field.
The primary physical mechanisms that occur as a result of gas injection are (1) partial or complete maintenance of reservoir pressure, (2) displacement of oil by gas both horizontally and vertically, (3) vaporization of the liquid hydrocarbon components from the oil column and possibly from the gas cap if retrograde condensation has occurred or if the original gas cap contains a relict oil saturation, and (4) swelling of the oil if the oil at original reservoir conditions was very undersaturated with gas. Gas injection is particularly effective in high-relief reservoirs where the process is called "gravity drainage" because the vertical/gravity aspects increase the efficiency of the process and enhance recovery of updip oil residing above the uppermost oil-zone perforations. The decision to apply immiscible gas injection is based on a combination of technical and economic factors. Deferral of gas sales is a significant economic deterrent for many potential gas injection projects if an outlet for immediate gas sales is available. Nevertheless, a variety of opportunities still exist. First are those reservoirs with characteristics and conditions particularly conducive to gas/oil gravity drainage and where attendant high oil recoveries are possible. Second are those reservoirs where decreased depletion time resulting from lower reservoir oil viscosity and gas saturation in the vicinity of producing wells is more attractive economically than alternative recovery methods that have higher ultimate recovery potential but at higher costs. And third are reservoirs where recovery considerations are augmented by gas storage considerations and hence gas sales may be delayed for several years. Nonhydrocarbon gases such as CO2 and nitrogen can and have been used. In general, calculation techniques developed for hydrocarbon-gas injection and displacement can be used for the design and application of nonhydrocarbon, immiscible gas projects. Valuing the use of such gases must include any additional costs related to these gases, such as corrosion control, separating the nonhydrocarbon components to meet gas marketing specifications, and using the produced gas as fuel in field operations. The conceptual aspects of the displacement of oil by gas in reservoir rocks are discussed in this section. There are three aspects to this displacement: gas and oil viscosities, gas/oil capillary pressure (Pc) and relative permeability (kr) data, and the compositional interaction, or component mass transfer, between the oil and gas phases.