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SPE 106679
Permeability Upscaling Techniques for Reservoir Simulation
J. R. Villa, SPE, PDVSA Intevep; M. O. Salazar, SPE, Universidad Central de Venezuela
Copyright 2007, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Inc.
This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2007 SPE Latin American and Caribbean
Petroleum Engineering Conference held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 15-18 April 2007.

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the authors(s). Contents of the paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are sub- ject to correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily re\ufb02ect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its of\ufb01cers, or members. Papers pre- sented at SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Permission to copy is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words. Illustrations may not be copied. The abstract should contain conspicuous acknowledgement of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., Fax 1-214-952-9435.


Upscaling reservoir properties for reservoir simulation is one of the most important steps in the work\ufb02ow for building reservoir models. Upscaling allows taking high-resolution geostatistical models (107-108 grid blocks) to coarse scale models (104-105 grid blocks), manageable for reservoir simulation, while re- taining the geological realism and thus effectively representing \ufb02uid transport in the reservoir1,2. This work presents a study of the effectiveness of different available techniques for permea- bility upscaling and the implementation of a new technique for upscaling of relative permeability curves based on the nume- rical solution of a two-phase system and the Kyte and Berry method3.

The reference \ufb01ne scale model considered in this study is a con- ceptual \ufb02uvial reservoir based on the Stanford V model4. The reference \ufb01ne scale isotropic and locally heterogeneous per- meability distribution was upscaled to different upscaling ratios by means of analytical (static) and numerical single-phase (pre- ssure solver, dynamic) techniques. Two-phase \ufb02ow simulations were performed on the reference \ufb01ne grid and upscaled models using a comercial black-oil simulator. Arithmetic, harmonic, and geometric averages were de\ufb01ned for static upscaling of the permeability distribution. The dynamic upscaling process considered one-phase and two-phase upscaling. One-phase upscaling considered upscaling of the permeability distribution and two-phase upscaling considered upscaling of the permea- bility distribution and relative permeability curves.

Flow simulation results for water\ufb02ooding in the coarse scale
model indicated relevant discrepancies with the \ufb01ne grid re-

sults. Compared to \ufb01ne-scale, \ufb02ow results of the single-phase upscaling process indicated that the coarsest upscaled models did not match the water breakthrough times, water cut values, or well pressures from the reference model. The \ufb01ner upsca- led models reproduced the reference results more accurately than the coarser models. The two-phase dynamic upscaling technique implemented in this work resulted in the best match with the \ufb02ow simulation results of the \ufb01ne grid model. Results show that the most accurate upscaling scheme should be de- \ufb01ned using the two-phase dynamic upscaling technique on the model with the smallest upscaling ratio.


Reservoir models generated by geostatistical techniques, high- resolution \ufb01ne scale models (107-108 grid blocks), are capa- ble of with great precision reservoir characterization as for compartmentalization, heterogeneity, connectivity and struc- ture. However, the main drawback of high-resolution models is the signi\ufb01cant computational cost when performing reser- voir simulation. Upscaling reservoir properties allows taking high-resolution models to coarse scale models (104-105 grid blocks) reducing computational costs during \ufb02ow simulation for history matching and forecast. Permeability upscaling plays and important role in reservoir characterization5, as shown in Figure 1. The importance of using an appropriate upscaling technique consists in preserving the geological realism of high- resolution, \ufb01ne-scale models, thus preserving the \ufb02ow response in reservoirs1,2. Permeability upscaling is an active research topic, numerous studies on upscaling have been conducted by university researchers6,7 and industry2,8.

In this work, the effectiveness of different permeability upsca- ling techniques is evaluated using reservoir simulation. Ana- lytical and numerical single-phase upscaling techniques were used with different upscaling ratios for a conceptual \ufb02uvial reservoir. Public available software was used for this purpose. In addition, an alternative technique based on two-phase nume- rical upscaling was developed and implemented. Using these techniques, \ufb02ow simulation results of upscaled models were compared with the reference \ufb01ne scale model in terms of \ufb02ow

Permeability Upscaling Techniques for Reservoir Simulation
SPE 106679
production, well pressure and saturation distribution.

The sensitivity study of different permeability upscaling tech- niques is referred to a conceptual \ufb02uvial reservoir based on the Stanford V model4. As much for the \ufb01ne scale model as upsca- led models the numerical simulation of an oil-water inmiscible displacement process was effected, speci\ufb01cally a water\ufb02ooding process. This work includes the evaluation of static upscaling techniques (arithmetic, harmonic, and geometric) and dynamic upscaling techniques (one-phase and two-phase). The \ufb01ne scale reference model was upscaled to four different upscaling ratios. This work allows to understand the impact of using different upscaling techniques on the simulation results. Investigation on gridding techniques was not considered in this study.

Darcy\u2019s LawDarcy\u2019s law express the relationship between

\ufb02uid velocity and pressure gradient in a porous media. The Darcy velocity can be written in matrix notation for a Cartesian system (neglecting gravity) as:

In Equation 1,u is the velocity vector,k permeability tensor
and\ue000p the pressure gradient.
Permeability TensorThe permeability of the porous media is

a property that can vary at any point and on any direction in the three-dimensional space5. It is mathematically represented by the full permeability tensork (Equation 2). Each component of the permeability tensor represents the directional permeability at one point in space. The permeability tensor is usually taken to be locally symmetric (kij= kji).


If there is an orientation such thatu and\ue000p are parallel for a full tensork, the principal orientation of permeability is ob- tained. This leads to the principal values and directions of the permeability tensor (eigenvalues and eigenvectors):

The tensork\u2217 is the diagonal permeability tensor.
Governing EquationsIn single-phase incompressible \ufb02ow,
neglecting gravity and capillary effects, the conservation Equa-
tion is written as:
\ue000\u00b7u= 0
using the Darcy\u2019s law, Equation 4 becomes:
\ue000 \u00b7(k\ue000p) = 0
In two-phase incompressible \ufb02ow, Darcy\u2019s velocity is written
where,krj is the relative permeability of phasej, and\u00b5j is the
viscosity of phasej. The conservation equation is written as:
\ue000\u00b7ut= 0
subsituting Equation 6 in Equation 7 yields:
\ue000(\u03bbt (s)k \u00b7 \ue000p) = 0
where\u03bbt is the total mobility, de\ufb01ned as:
\u03bbt(s) =krw
Classi\ufb01cation of TechniquesUpscaling techniques can be

classi\ufb01ed in terms of the parameters to be upscaled. In one-phase parameter upscaling technique, the \ufb01ne-scale permeability tensor (k) is upscaled to a coarse-scale effective permeability tensor (k\u2217) while retaining the \ufb01ne-scale rela- tive permeabilities. Analytic and numerical methods are used for this purpose. On the other hand, in two-phase parameter upscaling technique, \ufb01ne-scale relative permeabilities (krj ) are also upscaled to curves of different shapes (k\u2217

rj). These curves

are usually referred as effective or pseudo-r elative permeabi- lity curves and their generation is accomplished by numerical methods. Figure 2 illustrates these upscaling techniques.

Analytic methodsAnalytic methods for computing one-

phase parameter upscaling involve the solution of Equation 5 with no-\ufb02ow boundary conditions in the non-communicative layered system shown in Figure 3, withn horizontal layers of permeabilityki and dimensionless thicknesshi. Flow inx di- rection is referred as parallel \ufb02ow and upscaled permeability results in the arithmetic mean of permeability values in each layer:

Flow in thez direction is referred as series \ufb02ow and results in
the harmonic mean of permeability values in each layer:
For this 2D system, the effective permeability tensor is:
SPE 106679
J. R. Villa, M. O. Salazar
yyare the principal values of the permeability

tensor. Although permeability values were locally isotropic, effective permeability values in Equation 12 are constant and anisotropic, meaning that when upscaling \ufb01ne-scale permea- bility values, coarse-scale permeabilities are anisotropic even with isotropic \ufb01ne-scale permeability.

An estimate for systems with spatially random permeability can be obtained using the geometric average of permeability values where there is no particular assumption of \ufb02ow direction:

kg= exp1
In systems with constanthi, Equation 139 can be also ex-
pressed as:
A generalization of these averages techniques is known as the
Power Law10. This empirical relation is written as:
The Power Law allows to determine the effective permeability
k\u03c9of a set of volume elements for different values of \u03c9ranging

between -1 and 1. For values of\u03c9= 1,0,\u22121, Equation 15 results in arithmetic, geometric and harmonic averages, respec- tively. In general, arithmetic average provides an upper bound tok\u2217, and the harmonic average provides a lower bound. Fi- gure 4 shows the effective permeability computed for differents values of\u03c9 in a heterogeneous system10.

Numerical methodsNumerical methods involve the solu-

tion of Equation 5 or Equation 8 for the pressure distribution using \ufb01nite-difference methods. In one-phase dynamic upsca- ling, each component of the diagonal permeability tensor is cal- culated separately depending of the \ufb02ow direction. To solve the pressure distribution, arbitrary boundary conditions are as- signed in the target coarse grid block (Figure 5) and the pre- ssure of each \ufb01ne grid block inside the target coarse grid block is computed by the solution of the single phase incompressible \ufb02ow steady state Equation 5. This equation can be expressed in \ufb01nite difference form and written as a matrix equation as:

Tp= b

where,T is the transmissibility matrix,b a vector representing the source / sink term andp the unknown pressure vector. Once the pressure vector is calculated, the effective permeability of the target coarse grid block in thex direction (k\u2217

xx) is computed
as follows:
ny nz(pin\u2212 pout)
k1jk(p1jk\u2212 pin)

where,nx,ny, andnz are the number of \ufb01ne grid blocks in thex,y, andz direction respectively,pin is the pressure in the inlet of the coarse gridblock,pout is the pressure in the outlet of the coarse grid block,k1jk is the absolute permeability in each \ufb01ne grid block next to the inlet, andp1jk is the pressure in each \ufb01ne grid block next to the inlet. The terms,k\u2217

zzcan be
obtained in a similar fashion.

In two-phase dynamic upscaling, it is recognized that it is not enough to upscale the absolute permeability to characterize transport in porous media under inmiscible displacement processes2. Therefore, the \ufb01ne-grid relative permeability curves (krj ) are upscaled to different curves (k\u2217

rj) and thus the \ufb02uid-

rock interaction in the coarse-scale model is considered. This kind of upscaling performed by generating pseudo-relative per- meability curves allows to better represent \ufb02uid \ufb02ow when the \ufb01ne-grid relative permeability curves function are not able to represent. The main methods for generating pseudo-relative permeability functions11 are Kyte and Berry method, Stone method, weighted porous volume method, weighted relative permeabilities method, and the Kirchoff\u2019s Law method. All these methods use numerical \ufb02ow simulation results on the high-resolution \ufb01ne-scale model to generate the relative per- meability curves of the coarse-scale model.

Upscaling ratioThe upscaling ratio is de\ufb01ned as:

where,r is the upscaling ratio,n the number of \ufb01ne grid blocks, andN the number of coarse grid blocks. The upscaling ratio represents a measure of how coarse is the coarse model. The larger upscaling ratio the coarser the upscaled model. Figure 6 shows two coarse models at different upscaling ratios.


The methodology propossed for this work involves the use of analytic and numerical methods to upscale a \ufb01ne-grid model to four different upscaling ratios. Figure 7 illustrates the metho- dology followed in this work. Flow simulations are performed on the reference model and on the coarse-scale models and comparisons are made based on the calculated error. Analytic upscaling and single-phase dynamic upscaling of the \ufb01ne- grid model was performed using the Fortran-based program

\ufb02owsim12. For two-phase dynamic upscaling, a new Fortran-

based program\ufb02owsim2p was coded for this porpuse, following a similar structure to GSLIB suite of programs12. Porosity ups- caling was performed using programupscaler12 and program

gsl2ecl12was used for output compatibility to the black-oil

reservoir simulator ECLIPSE13. An automated work\ufb02ow and post-processing of results were implemented using the applica- tion MATLAB14,15.

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