With the synergy of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques, commercial production of Unconventional Liquid Reservoirs (ULR) has been successfully demonstrated. Due to the low recovery factor of these reservoirs, it is inevitable that Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) will ensue. Experimental results have shown promising oil recovery potential using CO2. This study investigates oil production mechanisms from the matrix into the fracture by simulating two laboratory experiments as well as several field-scale studies, and evaluates the potential of using CO2 huff-n-puff process to enhance the oil recovery in ULR with nano-Darcy range matrix permeability in complex natural fracture networks.
This study fully explores mechanisms contributing to the oil recovery with numerical modeling of experimental work, and provides a systematic investigation of the effects of various parameters on oil recovery. The core scale modeling utilizes two methods of determining properties that are used to construct 3D heterogeneous models. The findings are then upscaled to the field scale where both simple and complex fractures in a single stage are modeled. The effects of reservoir properties and operational parameters on oil recovery are then investigated. In addition, this study is the first to present simulation results of CO2 huff-n-puff using complex fracture networks which are generated from microseismic-constraint stochastic models.
Diffusion is proven to be the dominant oil recovery mechanism at the laboratory scale. However, the field-scale reservoir simulation indicates diffusion is negligible compared to the well-known mechanisms accompanying multi-contact miscibility. This includes swelling, viscosity reduction, and gas expansion in the matrix. Overall, the CO2 huff-n-puff process was found to be beneficial in both models in terms of enhancing the ultimate oil recovery in ULR.
Preliminary studies have been done to characterize rock-fluid properties, and flow mechanisms in the shale reservoirs. Most of these studies, through modifying methods used for conventional reservoirs, fail to capture dynamic features of shale rock and fluids in confined nano-pore space. In unconventional reservoirs, interactions between the wall of shale and the contained fluid significantly affect phase and flow behaviors. The inability to model capillarity with the consideration of pore size distribution characteristics using commercial software may lead to an inaccurate oil production performance in Bakken. This paper presents a novel formulation that consistently evaluates capillary force and adsorption using pore size distribution (PSD) directly from core measurements. The new findings could better address differences in flow mechanisms in unconventional reservoirs, and thus lead to an optimized IOR practice.
Improved Oil Reocvery (IOR) technologies may offer a new strategy to improve the initial production (IP) and slow the production decline from oil-rich shale formations. Early implementation of chemical IOR technologies largely have been overlooked during strategic planning of unconventional reservoirs. The purpose of this study is to improve understanding of the dynamic processes of oil displacement by surfactants and to investigate mechanism of how surfactants extract oil. A successful conventional surfactant "huff-n-puff' treatment is described with a focus on any relationship between increased oil production and the surfactant soaking period. Surfactant chemistry has been considered as one of a few ultimate IOR solutions. Despite being well proven as effective chemicals to recover oil from convenetional reservoris, surfactants commonly are used in hydraulic fracturing of unconventional reservoris are just to promote flow back of the injected aqueous fluid over a relatively short time frame. In order to better understand the functionality of surfactants for obtaining favorable oil interaction with both the stimulation fluid and rock matrix, a specifically-designed "oil-on-a-plate" (OOAP) setup and procedure is employed to examine the penetration of surfactant into the oil-film that is adhereing to a solid surface. In addition to the well-recognized spontaneous imbibition and surface wettability alternation processes, surfactant also can gradually penetrate and mobilize oil droplets, resulting in improved oil recovert. If properly selected and designed, the surfactant additives in stimulation/fracturing fluids could have multi-functions towards improving both IP and the longer-term oil production. Besides serving as a demulsifier and flowback enhancer to boost IP, the surfactants could continuously lift-up and mobilize adsorbed oil to increase recoverable oil in place.
The application of surfactants to improve oil recovery in conventional reservoirs via wettability alteration and enhancement of spontaneous imbibition has been extensively studied in the literature. However, little work has been performed yet to investigate the interaction of these surfactants with ultra-tight oil-rich shale reservoirs such as Wolfcamp shale. The use of horizontal drilling and massive multistage hydraulic fracturing has made primary oil recovery from these ultra-tight oil-rich shale reservoirs possible. With declining production from existing shale wells, it is essential to explore potential "beyond primary" strategies in shale oil development. This paper analyzes the potential of surfactants in altering wettability and improving the process of spontaneous imbibition in oil rich shales demonstrating nanodarcy range permeability, relevant to stimulation and "beyond primary" chemical EOR applications in shales.
Novel proprietary surfactant blends along with traditional nonionic surfactants were investigated in this study using Wolfcamp shale core samples exhibiting nanodarcy permeability. X-ray diffraction analysis was performed which indicated that Wolfcamp shale has mixed mineralogy, with quartz, calcite, and dolomite acting as the major minerals in varying proportions depending on the interval depth. Contact angle and interfacial tension measurements were performed at reservoir temperature to identify the state of native wettability and the impact of surfactants in altering wettability. Thereafter, spontaneous imbibition experiments were performed using 3D computed tomography methods to understand the improvement in the magnitude of imbibition penetration due to surfactant addition. Contact angle and spontaneous imbibition experiments showed that Wolfcamp shale is intermediate-wet and surfactants have the potential to alter the native wettability to a preferentially water-wet state and improve oil recovery due to enhanced spontaneous imbibition.
Surfactants which altered the wettability significantly, but lowered the interfacial tension only slightly showed the highest oil recoveries due to the creation of strong capillary driven forces directly responsible for effective spontaneous imbibition. The potential of surfactants in altering wettability and improving oil recovery via enhanced spontaneous imbibition in ultra-tight oil-rich shales was verified in this study. The effectiveness of traditional nonionic surfactants in altering wettability and improving oil recovery was found to be comparable to that of novel, more expensive proprietary surfactant blends, and hence, the traditional nonionic surfactants provide a cost effective option for stimulation and EOR applications in Wolfcamp shale. Overall, this paper presents the theory behind surfactant interaction with ultra-tight shales and provides experimental results to validate the viability of surfactant induced improved oil recovery in shales.
Production from tight formation resources leads the growth in U.S. crude oil production. Compared with chemical flooding and water flooding, gas injection is a promising EOR approach in shale reservoirs. A limited number of experimental studies concerning gas flooding in the literature focus on unconventional plays. This study is a laboratory investigation of gas flooding to recover light crude oil from nano-permeable shale reservoirs.
In this work, the N2 flooding process was applied to Eagle Ford core plugs saturated with dead oil. To investigate the effects of flooding time and injection pressure on the recovery factor, two groups of core-flood tests were performed. In group one, flooding time ranged from 1 to 5 days in increments of 1 day; in the other group, the injection pressure ranged from 1,000 psi to 5,000 psi in increments of 1,000 psi. The experimental setup was monitored using X-ray CT that helped to visualize phase flow and estimate the recovery efficiency during the test.
The potential of N2 flooding for improving oil recovery from shale core plugs was examined, and the recovery factor (RF) of each case was presented. The results from group one showed that more oil was produced with a longer flooding time. However, the incremental RF decreased with the increase of flooding time. The oil recovery was significant at the initial period of the recovery process, and a longer flooding time had less effect on extracting more oil. With flooding time constant in 1-day, the results from the second group indicated that RF increased with injection pressure, especially rising pressure, from 1,000 psi to 2,000 psi. The gas breakthrough time became shorter with the increase of injection pressure. The analysis of the CT number showed that the oil recovery process mainly occurred before the gas breakthrough. Once a fluid flow path was established, the injected gas flowed through the limited communication channels; thus, no extra oil could be extracted without increasing the injection pressure. This experimental study illustrates that gas flooding has liquid oil production potential in shale reservoirs.
CO2 miscible injection is generally one of the most efficient enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods and widely used in the conventional oil reservoirs. The applicability of CO2 EOR technology for unlocking the resources from unconventional tight and shale formations and the mechanisms of miscible flooding in these reservoirs still remain unclear. An important parameter used to evaluate the feasibility of CO2 miscible flooding is the minimum miscibility pressure (MMP). Even though experimental approaches, empirical correlations and theoretical methods have performed well in measuring or predicting MMP between CO2 and crude oil in conventional reservoirs, they may not be suitable for unconventional formations as phase behavior and MMP can be significantly affected by confinement effect in small pores (e.g., nanopores) in such formations.
In this study, a new MMP prediction model based on the modified Parachor Model associated with the Perturbed-Chain Statistical Associating Fluid Theory (PC-SAFT) is developed to determine CO2 MMP both in the bulk phase and nanopores. The Parachor Model is modified to account for the confinement effect of nanopore walls on the equilibrium interfacial tension (IFT). The Equilibrium IFT reduction in nanopores is related to a temperature-dependent and slit pore width-dependent modification term. The parameters of the new Parachor Model are determined by matching the vapor-liquid surface tension values for CH4, C2H6, C3H8,
The newly developed model successfully reproduces MMP in bulk phase as compared with both other methods and experimental data. The overall average absolute relative deviation (AARD) for MMP is within 8 %. The calculated equilibrium IFT for liquid-vapor phase has a good agreement with molecular simulation results. For Bakken oil-CO2 system, if the slit pore width is larger than 10 nm, MMP is independent on pore width; otherwise, it decreases significantly with the decrease of the pore width. If pore width decreases to 3 nm, 67.5 % decrease in the IFT is observed and 23.5% reduction is achieved for MMP between Bakken oil and CO2 stream, indicating that it is easier to reach miscibility in nanopores, and CO2 miscible flooding might be a promising enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technology for tight oil and shale oil reservoirs. Furthermore, MMP increases with an increase of temperature in bulk phase, whereas IFT and MMP decrease with an increase of temperature in nanopores.
Wang, D. (University of North Dakota) | Dawson, M. (Statoil Gulf Services LLC) | Butler, R. (University of North Dakota) | Li, H. (Statoil Gulf Services LLC) | Zhang, J. (University of North Dakota) | Olatunji, K. (University of North Dakota)
With the recent dramatic drop in oil price, production from ultra-tight resources, like the Bakken formation, may drop substantially. Since expenditures for drilling, completion, and fracking have already been made, existing wells will continue to flow, but oil rates will decline—rapidly in many cases. In a low oil-price environment, what can be done to sustain oil production from these tight formations?
We are testing a surfactant imbibition process to recovery oil from shales. We measured surfactant imbibition rates and oil recovery values in laboratory cores from the Bakken shale. After optimizing surfactant formulations at reservoir conditions, we observed oil recovery values up to 10–20% OOIP incremental over brine imbibition. However, whether or not surfactant imbibition will be a viable recovery process depends on achieving sufficiently high oil production rates in a field setting—which requires that we identify conditions that will maximize imbibition rate, as well as total oil recovery. In this paper, we describe laboratory evaluations of oil recovery using different core plugs. These recovery studies involved
(1) surfactant formulation optimization on concentration, salinity and pH, (2) characterization of phase behavior, (3) spontaneous imbibition, and (4) forced imbibition (flooding) with gravity drainage assistance.
In preserved cores, we observed: (1) Formulations using 0.1% surfactant concentration at 4% TDS salinity showed favorable oil recoveries (up to 40% OOIP). (2) Generally, surfactant formulations at optimal concentration and salinity were stable at high temperature (115°C). (3) Injectivity/permeability enhancements up to 75 percent occurred after acidification using acetic acid or HCl. (4) Wettability alteration is the dominant mechanism for surfactant imbibition. Of course, actions that increase fracture width will aid gravity drainage and oil recovery. This information is being used to design and implement a field application of the surfactant imbibition process in an ultra-tight resource.
There is considerable and timely interest in oil and condensate production from liquid-rich regions, placing emphasis on the ability to predict the behavior of gas condensate bank developments and saturation dynamics in shale gas reservoirs. As the pressure in the near-wellbore region drops below the dew-point, liquid droplets are formed and tend to be trapped in small pores. It has been suggested that the injection of CO2 into shale gas reservoirs can be a feasible option to enhance recovery of natural gas and valuable condensate oil, while at the same time sequestering CO2 underground. This work develops simulation capabilities to understand and predict complex transport processes and phase behavior in these reservoirs for efficient and environmentally friendly production management.
Although liquid-rich shale plays are economically producible, existing simulation techniques fail to include many of the production phenomena associated with the fluid system that consists of multiple gas species or phases. In this work, we develop a multicomponent compositional simulator for the modeling of gas-condensate shale reservoirs with complex fracture systems. Related storage and transport mechanisms such as multicomponent apparent permeability (MAP), sorption and molecular diffusion are considered. In order to accurately capture the complicated phase behavior of the multiphase fluids, an equation of State (EOS) based phase package is incorporated into the simulator. Due to the large capillary pressure that exists in the nanopores of ultra-tight shale matrix, the phase package considers the effect of capillary pressure on phase equilibrium calculations. A modified negative-flash algorithm that combines Newton's method and successive substitution iteration (SSI) is used for phase stability analysis under the effect of capillary pressure between oil and gas phases.
In addition, a lower-dimensional discrete fracture and matrix (DFM) model is implemented. The DFM model is based on unstructured gridding, and can accurately and efficiently handle the non-ideal geometries of hydraulic fracture in stimulated unconventional formation. Optimized local grid refinement (LGR) is employed to capture the extremely sharp potential gradient and saturation dynamics in the ultra-tight matrix around fracture.
We apply the developed simulator to study the combined effects of capillary pressure and multicomponent storage and transport mechanisms that are closely associated with the phase behavior and hydrocarbon recovery in gas-condensate shale reservoirs. We present preliminary simulation studies to show the applicability of CO2 huff-n-puff for the purpose of enhanced hydrocarbons recovery. Several design components such as the number of cycles and the length of injection period in the huff-n-puff process are also briefly investigated.
Liang, Tianbo (The University of Texas at Austin) | Achour, Sofiane H. (The University of Texas at Austin) | Longoria, Rafael A. (The University of Texas at Austin) | DiCarlo, David A. (The University of Texas at Austin) | Nguyen, Quoc P. (The University of Texas at Austin)
Significant amount of fracturing fluid is lost after hydraulic fracturing, and it is believed that the loss of fluid into the matrix can hinder the hydrocarbon production. One way to reduce this damage is to use the surfactants. Robust surfactant formulations have been developed for chemical enhanced oil recovery (CEOR); similar ideas are introduced in this study to reduce water blocks in low permeability reservoirs. Here we present an experimental investigation based on a coreflood sequence that simulates fluid invasion, flowback, and hydrocarbon production within the rock near the fracture face. Different levels of IFT reductions are tested and compared in order to explore the best condition that maximizes the permeability enhancement. The effect of in-situ microemulsion generation to mobilize the trapped water is also studied. From this work, we recognize the mechanism responsible for the permeability damage in matrix and we suggest criteria to optimize the performance of surfactant additives so as to enhance the hydrocarbon production from low permeability gas/oil reservoirs after hydraulic fracturing.
Compositional reservoir simulation plays a vital role in the development of conventional and unconventional reservoirs. Two major building blocks of compositional simulation are phase behavior and fluid transport computations. The oil and gas reserves and flow of reservoir fluids are strongly dependent on phase behavior. In conventional reservoirs, capillary pressure is relatively small and is typically ignored in phase behavior calculations. However, large capillary pressure values are encountered in tight formations such as shales; and therefore, its effects should not be ignored in phase equilibria calculations. Neglecting the effects of capillary pressure on phase behavior can lead to an inaccurate estimation of original oil and gas in place as well as recovery performance. In spite of this, the effect of capillary pressure on phase behavior in tight reservoirs has not been well studied using compositional simulation, especially for hydraulically-fractured reservoirs.
In this paper, we develop a new compositional reservoir simulator capable of modeling discrete fractures and incorporating the effect of capillary pressure on phase behavior. Large-scale natural and hydraulic fractures in tight rocks and shales are modeled with a technique called Embedded Discrete Fracture Model (EDFM) where fractures are modeled explicitly without using local grid refinement or an unstructured grid. Flow of hydrocarbons occurs simultaneously within similar and different porosity types. Capillary pressure is considered in both flow and flash calculations, where simulations also include variable pore size as a function of gas saturation in each grid block. We examine the impact of capillary pressure on the original oil in place and cumulative oil production for different initial reservoir pressures (above and below the bubble-point pressure) on Bakken and Eagle Ford fluids. The importance of capillary pressure on both flow and flash calculations from hydraulically fractured horizontal wells during primary depletion in fractured tight reservoirs using Bakken fluid composition is demonstrated.
Phase behavior calculations show that bubble-point pressure is suppressed allowing the production to remain in the single-phase region for a longer period of time and altering phase compositions and fluid properties such as density and viscosity of equilibrium liquid and vapor. The results show that bubble-point suppression is larger in the Eagle Ford shale than for Bakken. When capillary pressure is considered, we found an increase in original oil in place up to 4.1% for Bakken and 46.33% for the Eagle Ford crude. Depending on the initial reservoir pressure, cumulative primary production after one year increases owing to capillary pressure by approximately 9.0 – 38.2% for Bakken oil and 7.2 – 154% for Eagle Ford oil. The recovery increase caused by capillary pressure becomes more significant when reservoir pressure is far below bubble-point pressure. The simulation results with hydraulically fractured wells give similar recovery differences; cumulative oil production after 1 year is 3.5 – 5.2% greater when capillary pressure is considered in phase behavior calculations for Bakken.