This paper addresses two questions for polymer flooding. First, what polymer solution viscosity should be injected? A base-case reservoir-engineering method is present for making that decision, which focuses on waterflood mobility ratios and the permeability contrast in the reservoir. However, some current field applications use injected polymer viscosities that deviate substantially from this methodology. At one end of the range, Canadian projects inject only 30-cp polymer solutions to displace 1000-3000-cp oil. Logic given to support this choice include (1) the mobility ratio in an unfavorable displacement is not as bad as indicated by the endpoint mobility ratio, (2) economics limit use of higher polymer concentrations, (3) some improvement in mobility ratio is better than a straight waterflood, (4) a belief that the polymer will provide a substantial residual resistance factor (permeability reduction), and (5) injectivity limits the allowable viscosity of the injected fluid. At the other end of the range, a project in Daqing, China, injected 150-300-cp polymer solutions to displace 10-cp oil. The primary reason given for this choice was a belief that high molecular weight viscoelastic HPAM polymers can reduce the residual oil saturation below that expected for a waterflood or for less viscous polymer floods. This paper will examine the validity of each of these beliefs.
The second question is: when should polymer injection be stopped or reduced? For existing polymer floods, this question is particularly relevant in the current low oil-price environment. Should these projects be switched to water injection immediately? Should the polymer concentration be reduced or graded? Should the polymer concentration stay the same but reduce the injection rate? These questions are discussed.
Polymer flooding is a widely used commercial process with a low cost per barrel of produced oil, For this application, hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) polymers are the most widely used type of polymer. In an era of low cost oil, it is becoming even more essential to optimize the polymer flooding design under realistic reservoir conditions. The objective of this research was to better understand and predict the behavior of HPAM polymers and their effect on residual oil saturation, in order to improve the capability of optimizing field design and performance. The corefloods were performed under typical field conditions of low pressure gradients and low capillary numbers. The polymer floods of the viscous oils recovered much more oil than the water floods, with up to 24% lower oil saturation after the polymer flood than the water flood. The experimental data are in good agreement with the fractional flow analysis using the assumptions that the true residual oil saturations and end point relative permeabilities are the same for both water and polymer. This suggests that for more viscous oils, the oil saturation at the end of water flood (i.e. at greater than 99% water cut) is better described as ‘emaining’ oil saturation rather than the true ‘esidual’ oil saturation. This was true for all of the corefloods regardless of the core permeability and without the need for assuming a permeability reduction factor in the fractional flow analysis.
Water-based polymers are often used to improve oil recovery by increasing displacement sweep efficiency. However, recent laboratory and field work has suggested these polymers, which are often viscoelastic, may also reduce residual oil saturation. The objective of this work is to investigate the effect of viscoelastic polymers on residual oil saturation in Bentheimer sandstones and identify conditions and mechanisms for the improved recovery. Bentheimer sandstones were saturated with a heavy oil (120cp) and then waterflooded to residual oil saturation using brine followed by an inelastic Newtonian fluid (diluted glycerin). These floods were followed by injection of a viscoelastic polymer, hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM).
Significant reduction in residual oil was observed for all core floods performed at constant pressure drop when the polymer had significant elasticity (determined by the dimensionless Deborah number,
As polymer injection has not reached the same maturity as waterflooding, implementing polymer injection projects at field scale requires a workflow comprising screening of the portfolio of an organization for oil fields potentially amenable for polymer injection, laboratory and field testing followed by sector- and field implementation and roll-out in the portfolio.
Going through the workflow, not only the subsurface uncertainty is reduced but also the knowledge about the cost structure and operating capabilities of the organization improved.
Analyzing the economics of polymer injection projects shows that costs can be split into polymer injector-producer (polymer pattern) dependent and independent costs. Knowing these costs, a Minimum Economic Number of Patterns (MENP) is defined to achieve Net Present Value zero. This number is used to determine a Minimum Economic Field Size (MEFS) for polymer injection which is taken into account in the screening of the portfolio.
Defining a robustness criterion for economics, the minimum number of patterns for polymer injection meeting this criterion is calculated. This criterion is applied to generate a diagram allowing for screening of fields for polymer economics using pattern dependent and pattern independent costs and Utility Factor.
The cost structure reveals how the NPV of polymer projects changes with number of patterns, incremental oil and injectivity. Injectivity is of particular importance as it determines the Chemical Affected Reservoir Volume (CARV) or speed of production.
A sensitivity analysis of the NPV showed that for the cost structure used here, in addition to the polymer costs, the well costs are important for the economics of a full-field polymer injection project.
Alkaline-surfactant-polymer (ASP) flooding of a viscous oil (100 cp) is studied here in a two-dimensional (2D) sand pack. An ASP formulation was developed by studying the phase behavior of the oil with several alkaline-surfactant formulations. The effectiveness of the ASP formulation was validated in a 1D sand pack by conducting a water flood followed by a stable ASP flood. Reservoir sand was then packed into a 2D square steel cell similar to a quarter five-spot pattern. Several ASP floods were then conducted in this 2D cell to study both the displacement and sweep efficiency of ASP floods. First, the polymer concentration was varied to find an optimum polymer concentration. Then the waterflood extent was varied (0–1 PV) after which the ASP flood was initiated. The oil recovery, oil cut, effluent concentration and pressure drop were monitored during the floods. The tertiary ASP flood was very effective in 1D and validated the ASP formulation. The 2D tertiary ASP flood also recovered most of the oil (~98% of OOIP) when the ASP slug viscosity exceeded the oil viscosity, but the pressure gradients were high at ~ 1ft/d injection. When the ASP slug viscosity was lowered to ~1/3 of oil viscosity, oil recovery dropped slightly to 90% OOIP. However, it also decreased the pressure gradient 5 times, which would give good flow rates in the field conditions. As the extent of waterflood preceding ASP got shorter, the oil was recovered faster (for the same pore volumes injected), but the pressure gradient was higher for the ASP flood than the water flood. The ultimate recovery was independent of the extent of waterflood.
Dwarakanath, Varadarajan (Chevron) | Dean, Robert M. (Chevron) | Slaughter, Will (Chevron) | Alexis, Dennis (Chevron) | Espinosa, David (Chevron) | Kim, Do Hoon (Chevron) | Lee, Vincent (Chevron) | Malik, Taimur (Chevron) | Winslow, Greg (Chevron) | Jackson, Adam C. (Chevron) | Thach, Sophany (Chevron)
Polymer flooding by liquid polymers is an attractive technology for rapid deployment in remote locations. Liquid polymers are typically oil external emulsions with included surfactant inversion packages to allow for rapid polymer hydration. During polymer injection, a small amount of oil is typically co-injected with the polymer. The accumulation of the emulsion oil near the wellbore during continuous polymer injection will reduce near wellbore permeability. The objective of this paper is to evaluate the long-term effect of liquid polymer use on polymer injectivity. We also present a method to remediate the near well damage induced by the emulsion oil using a remediation surfactant that selectively solubilizes and removes the near wellbore oil accumulation. We evaluated several liquid polymers using a combination of rheology measurement, filtration ratio testing and long-term injection coreflood experiments. The change in polymer injectivity was quantified in surrogate core after multiple pore volumes of liquid polymer injection. Promising polymers were further evaluated in both clean and oil-saturated cores. In addition, phase behavior experiments and corefloods were conducted to develop a surfactant solution to remediate the damage induced by oil accumulation. Permeability reduction due to long term liquid polymer injection was quantified in cores with varying permeabilities. The critical permeability where no damage was observed was identified for promising liquid polymers. A surfactant formulation tailored for one of the liquid polymers improved injectivity three- to five-fold and confirms our hypothesis of permeability reduction due to emulsion oil accumulation. Such information can be used to better select appropriate polymers for EOR in areas where powder polymer use may not be feasible.
Aminzadeh, Behdad (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Hoang, Viet (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Inouye, Art (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Izgec, Omer (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Walker, Dustin (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Chung, Doo (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Nizamidin, Nabijan (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Tang, Tom (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Lolley, Chris (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Dwarakanath, Varadarajan (Chevron Energy Technology Company)
Alkali flooding in heavy oil reservoirs is known to stabilize emulsion in-situ and improve the recovery beyond that of conventional waterflood under certain boundary and initial conditions. The overarching goal of this study is to develop a systematic approach to optimize this process and capture underlying recovery mechanisms. Therefore, we experimentally evaluated the performance of alkali flood as a function of emulsion type and viscosity. Phase behavior and viscosity of the microemulsion are modified by introducing seven different surfactants. Microscope imaging techniques are employed to measure the droplet size distribution for type I and II emulsions. Viscosities of generated emulsions are measured with a rotational rheometer at low temperatures and with an electromagnetic viscometer at reservoir conditions. Finally, corefloods are conducted at different conditions to evaluate the performance of displacement as a function of emulsion type and viscosity. Enhanced alkali floods showed an incremental recovery of 8 – 50% beyond that of waterflood. Formation of higher viscosity emulsion has a large contribution on the sweep efficiency and therefore improved oil recovery during alkali flood; however, other mechanisms (e.g. entrainment and entrapment) also have contribute to the incremental recovery. Results of our experiments indicated that the incremental recovery is a strong function of emulsion type, emulsion viscosity, and the droplet size distribution.
Luo, Haishan (The University of Texas at Austin) | Mohanty, Kishore K. (The University of Texas at Austin) | Delshad, Mojdeh (The University of Texas at Austin) | Pope, Gary A. (The University of Texas at Austin)
Upscaling of unstable immiscible flow remains an unsolved challenge for the oil industry. The absence of a reliable upscaling approach greatly hinders the effective reservoir simulation and optimization of heavy oil recoveries using waterflood, polymer flood and other chemical floods, which are inherently unstable processes. The difficulty in upscaling unstable flow lies in estimating the propagation of fingers smaller than the gridblock size. Using classical relative permeabilities obtained from stable flow analysis can lead to incorrect oil recovery and pressure drop in reservoir simulations.
In a recent study based on abundant experimental data, it is found that the heavy-oil recovery by waterfloods and polymer floods has a power-law correlation with a dimensionless number (named viscous finger number in this paper), which is a combination of viscosity ratio, capillary number, permeability, and the cross-section area of the core. Based upon this important finding as well as the features of unstable immiscible floods, an effective-finger model is developed in this paper. A porous medium domain is dynamically identified as three effective zones, which are two-phase flow zone, oil single-phase flow zone, and bypassed oil (isolated oil island) zone, respectively. Flow functions are derived according to effective flows in these zones. This new model is capable of history-matching a set of heavy-oil waterflood corefloods under different viscosity ratios and injection rates. Model parameters obtained from the history match also have a power-law correlation with the viscous finger number.
The build-up of this correlation contains reasonable physical meanings to quantitatively characterize the upscaled behavior of viscous fingering effects. Having such a correlation enables the estimation of model parameters in any gridblock of the reservoir by knowing the local viscous finger number in reservoir simulations. The model is applied to several heavy-oil field cases with waterfloods and polymer floods with different heterogeneities. Oil recovery in water flooding of viscous oils is overpredicted by classical simulation methods which do not incorporate viscous fingering properly. Simulation results indicate that the new model reasonably differentiates the oil recoveries at different viscous finger numbers, e.g., lower injection rate leads to higher oil recovery. In contrast, classical simulations obtain close oil recoveries under different injection rates or degrees of polymer shear-thinning, which is apparently incorrect for unstable floods. Moreover, coarse-grid simulations using the new model are able to obtain consistent saturation and pressure maps with fine-grid simulations when the correlation lengths are not smaller than the coarse gridblock size. Furthermore, it is well captured by the model that the shear-shinning polymer solution can strengthen the fingering in high-permeability regions due to increased capillary number and viscosity ratio, which is not observed in waterflood. As a whole, the new model shows encouraging capability to simulate unstable water and polymer floods in heavy oil reservoirs, and hence can facilitate the optimization of heavy-oil EOR projects.
Alexis, Dennis (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Varadarajan, Dwarakanath (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Kim, Do Hoon (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Winslow, Greg (Chevron Energy Technology Company) | Malik, Taimur (Chevron Energy Technology Company)
Performance of current synthetic EOR polymers is primarily constrained by salinity, temperature and shear which restrict their application to low to moderate salinity, low to moderate temperature and relatively high permeability reservoirs. The primary goal of the current work is to qualify recently developed associative polymers (AP) for EOR applications as well as to study their behavior in porous media. We also compare their performance with conventional non-associative polymers. In this work, we present the evaluation of several associative polymers. Two broad types of associative polymers were tested, one with a partially hydrolyzed poly acrylamide (HPAM) backbone and the other with a sulfonated HPAM backbone. The concentrations of the tested polymer vary between 75 ppm and 1000 ppm. We demonstrate the applicability of these innovative AP's through the carefully controlled lab experiments: (1) Corefloods in sandpacks to compare the sweep behaviors with conventional HPAM's. (2) Single phase flooding experiments are carried out in consolidated outcrop rocks to identify optimal polymer concentrations to achieve the desired in-situ resistance. (3) One dimensional displacement experiments with 8 cP and 90 cP oil are carried out in both unconsolidated and consolidated rocks at different temperatures to validate improved oil recovery. Results generally indicate that associative polymers require lower polymer concentration to generate high resistance factors in porous media and have stable long term injectivity behavior in high permeability rocks (>1D). Associative polymers with HPAM backbone have better filterability and injectivity in comparison to those with HPAM sulfonated backbone in low permeability(<300mD) rocks. Improved oil recovery in high permeability rocks compare well with conventional HPAM and sulfonated HPAM polymers. Based on the laboratory results, we are able to establish the selection baseline for associative polymers in different permeability rocks, salinities and temperatures. Such information can be used to select and screen the appropriate associative polymers, resulting in extending their applicability envelope in EOR.