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Oil Recovery by Spontaneous Imbibition from Weakly Water-Wet Rocks

Oil Recovery by Spontaneous Imbibition from Weakly Water-Wet Rocks

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Published by: ari_si on Jan 08, 2009
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Oil Recovery by Spontaneous Imbibition from Weakly Water-Wet Rocks
Xina Xie, Norman R. MorrowChemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071
Spontaneous imbibition is of special importance to oil recovery from fracturedreservoirs. Laboratory measurements of volume of liquid imbibed versus time are oftenused in the prediction of oil recovery. Imbibition measurements also provide a usefulapproach to the complex problem of characterizing the wetting properties of porousmedia. Correlation of a large body of data for imbibition of brine into porous mediainitially saturated with refined oil was achieved through a semi-empirical scaling groupwhich includes permeability, porosity, interfacial tension, oil and brine viscosity, and thesize, shape and boundary conditions of the sample.The objective of the present study was to test this correlation for samples of differentgeometry for spontaneous imbibition under weakly water-wet conditions established byadsorption from crude oil with initial water saturation ranging from 14% to 31%. Afterestablishing initial water saturations, the wettability of thirty-two core samples waschanged to weakly water-wet by aging in an asphaltic crude oil at elevated temperature.Initial water saturation had a dominant effect on rate of oil recovery. Times forimbibition decreased by about 2 to 4 orders of magnitude with decrease in initial watersaturation. Results for cores with the same initial water saturation but of different sizeand shape (cylindrical, annular, and rectangular) and boundary conditions (given bysealing off part of the rock surface with epoxy resin) were closely correlated. Thepresence of epoxy resin during aging in crude oil enhanced the decrease in water-wetnessattained for cores and crude oil alone. The contribution to oil recovery by gravitysegregation at very weakly water-wet conditions is addressed.
Rate and extent of spontaneous imbibition provides a measure of wettability that isinherently dependent on surface energy. However, the mechanism of imbibition is highlycomplex and many factors besides wettability affect the rate of spontaneous imbibitionand displacement efficiency. In previous studies, a semi-empirical scaling group wasdeveloped for recovery of oil from very strongly water-wet (VSWW) media (Ma et al.,1997). Dimensionless time, t
, was defined by,
cwo D
(1)where t is the imbibition time;
is proportional to a microscopic pore radius;
isthe interfacial tension;
is the geometric mean of the oil and brine viscosity. L
isa characteristic length that compensates for sample size, shape and boundary conditions,
and is defined by
ni Aiic
 x A L
) /  /(, where
is the bulk volume of the core,
is theopen area of the
th face, and
is the distance from the no-flow boundary to the openface.This scaling relationship has been shown to correlate imbibition data with variationsin porosity, permeability, boundary conditions, and liquid viscosity ratios. Thecorrelation was initially developed mainly for VSWW conditions with zero initial watersaturation. Changes in dimensionless time for imbibition with change in water saturationat VSWW conditions have also been investigated (Viksund et al., 1998).The applicability of the scaling group to wettability conditions other than VSWWneeds to be investigated. Most oil reservoirs are considered to have some form of mixedwettability (Salathel, 1973). Mixed wettability arises because the distribution of connatewater controls which parts of the rock surface are exposed to adsorption from crude oil.As the connate water saturation decreases, the exposed area increases and a larger changein wetting results. Change in the disjoining pressure of aqueous films with the increase incapillary pressure that accompanies decrease in water saturation may also be a factor inwettability alteration (Melrose, 1982; Kovscek et al., 1993).Wettability change from VSWW conditions to mixed-wet can be induced byadsorption from crude oil (Jadhunandan and Morrow, 1991, 1995; Zhou et al., 1995,1996). Changes in wettability can exhibit a wide spectrum of wetting behavior. Thechanges have been shown to depend on the crude oil type, the rock, aging time,temperature of aging, T
, and of measurement, T
, the brine composition andconcentration, and the initial water saturation.Experimental studies have shown that if a sandstone core is aged at ambienttemperature, T
, decrease in imbibition rate measured at T
from very stronglywater-wet is small. If the core is aged at elevated temperature, T
, the imbibition rateat T
is reduced by up to several orders of magnitude relative to VSWW conditions.If the imbibition rate, for a core aged at T
is measured at T
, the imbibition rate ismuch higher than that measured at T
(Tang and Morrow, 1997). The controllingmechanisms for these differences are not well understood. In the present study theconditions T
for aging and T
were chosen to provide weakly water-wetconditions that were readily distinguished from imbibition behavior for VSWW rocks.All conditions were held essentially constant except for initial water saturation, samplegeometry, and boundary conditions.
The rock samples in this study, 32 in all, were cut from the same block of Bereasandstone which had been tested for uniformity of properties. Different shapes of coreswere prepared, including 1”, 1.5” and 2” diameter cylindrical plugs of different lengths(some chosen to give cylinders of similar geometry), 2” outside diameter and 1” insidediameter annular plugs and rectangular blocks. Core dimensions and petrophysicalproperties are listed in Table 1. Some of the cores were partially coated with epoxy resinto obtain selected boundary conditions. The air permeabilities of the cores were all about450 md, and the porosities were all close to 20%.
Synthetic sea water containing NaCl (28000 ppm), KCl (935 ppm), MgCl
(5365ppm), CaCl
(1190 ppm), and 100 ppm of NaN
as biocide, was used as the brine phase.The total dissolved solids content was 35490 ppm. The interfacial tension between A95crude oil and the synthetic seawater was 25.6 dynes/cm at room temperature measured bythe du Nouy ring method.
Crude oil 
An asphaltic crude oil, Alaska 95 (A95) from Prudhoe Bay, was used tochange the wettability of the cores. The oil was degassed by vacuum treatment. The oilhad 6.55 wt% of n-heptane asphaltenes and no detectable wax content. The viscosity of the evacuated oil was 40.3 cp at room temperature (22
C) and 18.5 cp at 55
C. The acidand base numbers were 0.24 and 2.2 respectively. The API gravity of the oil was 25.2.This oil was selected because it was known to induce significant change in wettabilityand would not give problems associated with wax deposition even at ambienttemperature.
Core surfaces partially sealed with epoxy resin
Devcon 5 minute epoxy was used topartially seal the core surfaces to give different boundary conditions. The componentsare bisphenol (a diglycidyl ether resin), and a hardener that contained 2,4,6-tri(dimethylaminomethyl) phenol and polymercaptan curing agent. The partially sealedcores were set at room temperature to dry. The cores were then rinsed with tap water anddried at 110
C. The effect on core wettability of exposing the crude oil during aging to ablock of the hardened epoxy resin was also tested.
 Establishing initial water saturation:
The core samples were first saturated with thesynthetic sea water by vacuum. They were then left in the brine for about 10 days toattain ionic equilibrium. A porous plate apparatus (Soil moisture ceramic plate extractor)was used to establish the initial water saturation. Contact with the plate was ensured byseating in a very thin layer of fine cuttings obtained from Berea sandstone. Pressuredifferences of 10, 25, 40 and 55 psi, were applied sequentially (the capillary pressure inthe core was always well below the applied pressure). Initial water saturationsestablished by this procedure (after up to 10 days) ranged from 14-30% (see Table 1).
Saturation with crude oil:
After establishing S
, the cores were saturated with A95crude oil under vacuum. Any core which was determined, from mass balance, to be notfully saturated, was set under crude oil in a stainless steel aging cell at 800 psi for up to 3days to ensure full saturation by liquids.
The cores containing initial water and crude oil were submerged in crude oil inaging cells which were then sealed. All of the cores were aged at 55
C for 10 days. 
 Imbibition test:
After aging, the cores were set in glass imbibition cells filled initiallywith brine. All of the imbibition tests were performed at room temperature. Oil volumeproduced by imbibition of brine (expressed as percentage of original oil in place -%OOIP) versus time was recorded.
Conditions for 32 imbibition tests are listed in Table 1 according to general classes of boundary conditions.
 All-faces-opens cores (AFO):

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