Enhanced Oil Recovery

Don W. Green
Chair and Deane E. Ackers Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

U. of Kansas

G. Paul Willhite
Ross H. Forney Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering U. of Kansas

Henry L. Doherty Memorial Fund of AlME Society of Petroleum Engineers
-" -- ^-

-

Richardson, Texas 1998

Chapter 1

Introduction to EOR Processes
1.1 Definition of EOR Oil recovery operations traditionally have been subdivided into three stages: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Historically, these stages described the production from a reservoir in a chronological sense. Primary production, the initial production stage, resulted from the displacement energy naturally existing in a reservoir. Secondary recovery, the second stage of operations, usually was implemented after primary production declined. Traditional secondary recovery processes are waterflooding, pressure maintenance, and gas injection, although the term secondary recovery is now almost synonymous with waterflooding. Tertiary recovery, the third stage of production, was that obtained after waterflooding (or whatever secondary process was used). Tertiary processes used miscible gases, chemicals, and/or thermal energy to displace additional oil after the secondary recovery process became uneconomical. The drawback to consideration of the three stages as a chronological sequence is that many reservoir production operations are not conducted in the specified order. A well-known example is production of the heavy oils that occur throughout much of the world. If the crude is sufficiently viscous, it may not flow at economic rates under natural energy drives, so primary production would be negligible. For such reservoirs, waterflooding would not be feasible; therefore, the use of thermal energy might be the only way to recover a significant amount of oil. In this case, a method considered to be a tertiary process in a normal, chronological depletion sequence would be used as the first, and perhaps final, method of recovery. In other situations, the so-called tertiary process might be applied as a secondary operation in lieu of waterflooding. This action might be dictated by such factors as the nature of the tertiary process, availability of injectants, and economics. For example, if a waterflood before application of the tertiary process would diminish the overall effectiveness, then the waterflooding stage might reasonably be bypassed. Because of such situations, the term "tertiary recovery" fell into disfavor in petroleum engineering literature and the designation of "enhanced oil recovery" (EOR) became more accepted. This latter term is used throughout this book. Another descriptive designation commonly used is "improved oil recovery" (IOR), which includes EOR but also encompasses a broader range of activities, e.g., reservoir characterization, improved reservoir management, and infdl drilling. The term IOR is not used in this book. Because of the difficulty of chronological oil-production classification, classification based on process description is more useful and is now the generally accepted approach, although the naming of the processes still incorporates the earlier scheme based on chronology. Oil recovery processes now are classified as primary, secondary, and EOR processes. A classificationscheme is clearly useful in that it establishes a basis for communication among technical persons. However, it also has a pragmatic utility in the implementation of tax laws and accounting rules. Primary recovery results from the use of natural energy present in a reservoir as the main source of energy for the displacement of oil to producing wells. These natural energy sources are solutiongas drive, gas-cap drive, natural waterdrive, fluid and rock expansion, and gravity drainage. The particular mechanism of lifting oil to the surface, once it is in the wellbore, is not a factor in the classification scheme. Secondary recovery results from the augmentation of natural energy through injection of water or gas to displace oil toward producing wells. Gas injection, in this case, is either into a gas cap for pressure maintenance and gas-cap expansion or into oil-column wells to displace oil immiscibly according to relative permeability and volumetric sweepout considerations. Gas processes based on other mechanisms, such as oil swelling, oil viscosity reduction, or favorable phase behavior, are considered EOR processes. An immiscible gas displacement is not as efficient as a waterflood and is used infrequently as a secondary recovery process today. (Its use in earlier times was much more prevalent.) Today, waterflooding is almost synonymous with the secondary recovery classification. EOR results principally from the injection of gases or liquid chemicals and/or the use of thermal energy. Hydrocarbon gases, C02, nitrogen, and flue gases are among the gases used in EOR processes. In this book, the use of a gas is considered an EOR process if the recovery efficiency significantly depends on a mechanism other than immiscible frontal dis~lacement characterized bv high-interfacial-tension (IFT) permeabilities. A number of liquid chemicals are commonly used, including polymers, surfactants, and hydrocarbon solvents. Thermal processes typically consist of the use of steam or hot water, or rely on the in-situ generation of thermal energy through oil combustion in the reservoir rock. EOR processes involve the injection of a fluid or fluids of some type into a reservoir. The injected fluids and injection processes supplement the natural energy present in the reservoir to displace oil to a producing well. In addition, the injected fluids interact with the reservoir rock/oil system to create conditions favorable for oil recovery. These interactions might, for example, result in lower IFT's, oil shelling, oil viscosity reduction, wettabilitv modification. or favorable ~ h a s e behavior. The interactions are aiributable to physical and cheLmical mechanisms and to the injection or production of thermal energy. Simple waterflooding or the injection of dry gas for pressure maintenance or oil displacement are excluded from the definition.

2

ENHANCED OIL RECOVERY

536 Billion bbl 351 Billion bbl

injection - In EOR processesaoften involve thevolume ofof more than one fluid. a typical case, relatively small an expensive chemical (primary slug) is injected to mobilize the oil. This primary slug is displaced with a larger volume of a relatively inexpensive chemical (secondary slug). The purpose of the secondary slug is to displace the primary slug efficiently with as little deterioration as possible of the primary slug. In some cases, additional fluids of even lower unit cost are injected after a secondary slug to reduce expenses. In such a case of multiple fluid injection, all injected fluids are considered to be part of the EOR process, even though the final chemical slug might be water or dry gas that is injected solely to displace volumetrically the fluids injected earlier in the process. 1.2 Target Oil Resource for EOR Processes Several studies'-6 in the U.S. have estimated the potential oil recovery through the application of EOR processes. Part of the objectives of these studies was estimating the target oil resource for EOR-i.e, the amount of oil that would remain after exhaustion of recovery through primary and secondary processes. Fig. 1.1, which shows the total U.S. oil resources, is a recent example. In ~ the U.S. as of the end of 1993, about 5 3 6 lo9 bbl of oil had been discovered. The cumulative production through 1993 was about 162 x 109 bbl and the proven reserves amounted to 23 x 109 bbl. 1.2 Proven reserves is the oil remaining in known reservoirs that can be expected to be recovered through application of current proven technology at economic conditions on the specified date. Thus, the proven reserves at the end of 1993 include primary and waterflood recovery. A small amount of EOR oil is also included in the proven reserves and is principally oil expected to be recovered through the application of steam processes in California. As Fig. 1.1 shows, cumulative production plus oil reserves accounts for about one-third of the original oil in place (OOIP). Thus, the total target for EOR processes is large, amounting to about 351 X lo9 bbl in the U.S. alone. If this one-third recovery fraction for primary plus secondary production holds worldwide, then the EOR target approaches 2 X 1012 bbl for the world, not including countries that formerly had centrally planned economies. The physicallchemical characteristics of the target oil are varied and range from high-API-gravity, volatile crudes of low viscosity to low-API-gravity, heavy crudes of very high viscosity. Significant amounts of oil exist across this physicallchemical spectrum, and therefore, EOR technology cannot focus on a particular oil type without eliminating a large fraction of the target resource. Clearly, no single EOR process will be applicable to all crudes, and a number of different processes will have to be developed.
*Personal communication, BDM1U.S. DOE. Bartlesville, OK, June 1996.

A parallel difficulty is that the oil resource exists in reservoirs of widely varying characteristics. Oil reservoir types range from very thick carbonate reef formations at significant depths to relatively shallow, thin sandstone bodies. Subsequent chapters will show that reservoir rock type and structure have an effect on most EOR processes and are important variables. Willhite7 describes the role of geology and its significance for displacement processes. Finally, the saturation, distribution, and physical state of the oil in a reservoir as a result of past production operations are important factors in the implementation of an EOR process. Typically, a reservoir will undergo primary production followed by waterflooding. Recovery by those processes in individual reservoirs might have approached 35 to 50% OOIP when the waterflood reached an economic limit. The residual oil in the part of the reservoir swept by the waterflood remains largely as isolated, trapped droplets (or ganglia) in the pores or films around the rock particles, depending on the rock wettability. Residual saturation typically is about 20% to 35 % in swept regions. An EOR process must be able to mobilize the droplets or oil blobs and to create an oil bank that can be efficiently propagated to producing wells. In other circumstances, an EOR process might be applied after primary production-i.e., as a secondary recovery operation in a chronological sense. In this case, the oil may exist at a relatively high saturation, perhaps about 50 to 60%, and may still exist in a connected state with a relative permeability to oil significantly greater than zero. A gas saturation might also be present, depending on the primary recovery mechanism. In this case, the EOR process would be expected to build an oil bank, much in the manner of a waterflood. The displacement efficiency, however, must be better than for a watefflood in that only small amounts of trapped oil should be left behind. That is, the residual oil saturation following the displacement must be low relative to waterflooding because the economic attractiveness of an EOR process applied as a secondary operation normally is compared with the alternative of waterflooding-i.e., recovery (and costs) above that expected from a standard waterflood. In some instances, EOR processes are implemented as the initial or primary production stage. The usual situation is a viscous oil that would not be produced in economic quantitiesby primary mechanisms or waterflooding. The use of thermal energy, which decreases oil viscosity, is generally the preferred process in such cases. Again, the EOR process must mobilize the oil and displace it efficiently toward production wells. In summary, the target oil resource is very large and occurs under diverse conditions. Oil type, reservoir rock, and formation type, as well as the oil's distribution, saturation, and physical state resulting from past operations, must all be considered in the design of an EOR process for a particular reservoir. This diversity has led to the development of several different EOR processes that can be considered for implementation.
1.3 Idealized Characteristics of an EOR Process 1.3.1 EMicient Microscopic and Macroscopic Displacement. The overall displacement efficiency of any oil recovery displacement process can be considered conveniently as the product of microscopic and macroscopic displacement efficiencies. In equation form,

where E=overall displacement efficiency (oil recovered by process1 oil in place at start of process), ED =microscopic displacement efficiency expressed as a fraction, and Ev=macroscopic (volumetric) displacement efficiency expressed as a fraction. Microscopic displacement relates to the displacement or mobilization of oil at the pore scale. That is, ED is a measure of 'the effectiveness of the displacing fluid in moving (mobilizing) the oil at those places in the rock where the displacing fluid contacts the oil. ED is reflected in the magnitude of the residual oil saturation, So,, in the regions contacted by the displacing fluid. Macroscopic displacement efficiency relates to the effectiveness of the displacing fluid(s) in contacting the reservoir in a volumetric sense. Alternative terms conveying the same general concept are sweep efficiency and conformance factor. E v is a measure of how

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

137 1. such as the coning of gas or water in a production well. 13' . The foam mobility was much lower than that of the surfactant solution. approaching 97 % . An unconsolidated sandpack (k=2. Liquid.142 or significantly lower. generating a foam.Foams are useful in EOR processes because they have a relatively high resistance to flow when displaced through a porous medium.760 md) was initially saturated with a surfactant solution (water containing 2% foaming agent). Foam quality typically ranges from 75% to 90% but may be higher.50137 shows an example of data on quality for foams generated in different porous media. 139 as steam-diverting agents to reduce gravity override or steam channeling in steamfloods. Thus.760-md unconsolidated sandpack. and the volume of the foam continued to grow as air injection proceeded. t = 720 MIN 4 zl:\ I 2A : t t = 1. Foams have been tested as diverting agents in waterfloods. The resistance typically is significantly higher than that of the individual phases that make up the foam. they are potentially suitable for improving displacement efficiency in a process or for blocking the flow of condensed fluids. A foam was generated as a result of the contact between the air and the surfactant solution. the foam's resistance to flow was much larger than that for the surfactant solution.-. Essentially all the pressure drop occurred over the volume occupied by foam. In these experiments. 5. 5.K.295 MIN - 6. the porous medium was saturated with a 0. Improving the mobility ratio in displacement processes by reducing the mobility of the injected phase. 3. which was essentially equivalent to water. The liquid was then displaced with gas.9.100-In-situ generation and propagation of foam in a 2. as well as foam constituents and physical conditions associated with the production and handling of the foam. Foams typically are characterized by quantifying foam quality and bubble size. 2. 140 and as mobility-control fluids in C 0 2 dis5. Pressure drops across individual-sections of the sandpack were monitored through pressure taps located along the sandpack as shown in the top sketch. Table 5.1 Properties That Characterize Foam. As Fig.25 N brine containing 2% of a surfactant called O.170 MIN Fig. The following are possible applications. 10 psig 0 psig -l:. Blocking or restricting flow of injected fluids in highpermeability streaks or fractures (profile modification). 142 Foam quality is expressed as the fraction or percentage of total volume that is gas. 137 Quality is a function of pressure and temperature. 5.100137 illustrates the last mechanism. Bubble size is specified in terms of average size or diameter (foam texture) and the range of bubble sizes present. Air was injected at a constant pressure difference of 10 psia across the sandpack. R a ~ a also ~ l ~ investigated the effect of a second liquid phase on foam formation. The schematic of a foam displacement process shown in Fig.L 'b2 ': I\ 36" 4 4 t 125 MIN 2: l p .100 indicates. Blocking or restricting flow of undesired fluids. This is characteristic of the flow behavior of foams at reservoir conditions.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

relative permeability to oil is reduced essentially to zero and continued injection of the displacing fluid is ineffective because the fluid simply flows around the trapped oil. Fig. It will be shown that. the injected solvent must displace enough of the water phase to contact the residual oil and then displace the oil as a single-phase mixture with the solvent. followed by a solventloil mixture bank that is rich in oil at the front end and rich in solvent at the back. miscible conditions are developed in situ through composition alteration of the injected fluid or crude oil as the fluids move through the reservoir. 6.1. such as a waterflood. the microscopic displacement efficiency.Chapter 6 Miscible Displacement Processes 6. and equation-ofstate @OS) calculations. Mixing of solvent and oil results in a mixture with a higher viscosity than the pure solvent. Requirements for an FCM process are presented. is generally much less than unity. i. so the use of surfactants is not discussed in this chapter. and composition. For this situation. the process is called immiscible. which is not miscible with the solvent. solvents that are miscible with crude oil are more expensive than water or dry gas. As the displacement proceeds. and general design principles to be considered are discussed. oil recovery mechanisms. or pendular rings. temperature. empirical correlations. The resulting microscopic displacement efficiency is much greater than for immiscible processes and can approach 100%. depending on the wettability. 1 The displacement processes treated here may be conveniently classified as first-contact miscible (FCM) or multiple-contact miscible (MCM) on the basis of the manner in which miscibility is developed. Under proper conditions of pressure. Part of the crude oil in the places contacted by the displacing fluid is trapped as isolated drops. 6. which makes water displacement more efficient. such as hydrocarbon solvents. or slug. such as polymer-augmented waterflooding. This chapter first discusses phase-behavior considerations related to miscible displacement processes.1 illustrates. Displacement fluids. a lean gas that is high in CH4 concentration will be miscible with LPG. The oil does not move in the flowing stream because of capillary forces. is used as the chase fluid a residual solvent saturation will be retained in the . it forms only a single phase upon first contact when mixed in all proportions with the crude oil. and oil is displaced through the reservoir as long as the integrity of the injected solvent slug is maintained. Finally.2 General Description of Miscible Displacement In an immiscible displacement process. Again. and a mixing zone with a concentration gradient develops. and thus an injected solvent slug must be relatively small for economic reasons. are considered. stringers. and nitrogen. thus yielding an efficient displacement of the primary slug. the so-called minimum miscibility (MMP) is an important parameter for these processes. as described in Chap.. Mixing and dispersion will occur at the solvent/oil interface. which rely on experimental measurements. the former process involves injection of a displacement fluid that is miscible with the crude oil. for a specified fluid/resemoir system. methods of modeling the processes. When this condition is reached. ED. Ternary diagrams are used to describe conceptually the manner in which miscibility is achieved in the MCM processes. that is. This organization is consistent with Stalkup's. which prevent oil deformation and passage through constrictions in the pore passages. If the two fluids do not mix in all proportions to form a single phase. In the latter process. the oil is displaced efficiently ahead of the LPG slug. Methods of determining this pressure. the oil bank continues to grow. flue gas. as shown in Fig.1 shows schematically an idealized FCM displacement process that involves the injection of a specified volume. this secondary slug should be miscible with the primary slug. These displacements also are not treated in this chapter. COz. If the process is used as a tertiary process with the oil at waterflood residual saturation. The solvent in Fig. as Fig. If the process is operated as a secondary recovery process. When water. 3. The mixing leads to the development of an oil bank.e. Miscibility also plays a role in other processes that are basically immiscible. a mixing zone will develop at the interface between the primary slug (LPG) and the secondary slug (lean gas). This limitation to oil recovery may be overcome by the application of miscible displacement processes in which the displacing fluid is miscible with the displaced fluid at the conditions existing at the displacing-fluid/displaced-fluid interface. 6. In practice. Ideally. of a solvent that is miscible with the crude oil. Interfacial tension (IFT) is eliminated. followed by a discussion of MCM processes. as long as the fluid bank displacing the oil is miscible with the oil. the primary (solvent) slug may be followed by a larger volume of a less expensive fluid.1 is a mixture of low-molecular-weight hydrocarbons [liquified petroleum gases (LPG's)].1 Introduction Miscible displacement processes are defined here as processes where the effectiveness of the displacement results primarily from miscibility between the oil in place and the injected fluid. 6. leaving little or no residual oil. such as water or a lean gas. 6. As implied. Miscibility plays a role in surfactant processes. but is not the primary recovery mechanism for these processes. are presented.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

which is the basis for the Type II(-) designation. NaCl.16. Two-phase lobes exist to the upper right and upper left of the three-phase triangle. Although the rmxtures remain single phase and thermodynamically stable.t ------__------. solutions at concentrations within the multiphase region divide into a water-external microemulSurfactant sion and an excess-oil phase. the system is more complex. This region typically is quite small and therefore is not included on the diagram. some partitioning of the components that make up a pseudocomponent occurs. Figs. ~ ~ Healy et ~ 1 described the phase behavior of a "simple" or ideal microemulsion system and the effect of the brine salinity on the phase behavior. pseudoternary diagrams are one tool for the study of phase behavior of surfactant systems. Because the microemulsion is the aqueous phase and is more dense than the oil phase. middle-. The apex locations on the equilateral triangle represent surfactant. as Fig. In the Type II(+) environment. such as Point A in Fig. respe~tively. 7. At high water concentrations.2 Effect of Brine Salinity on Phase Behavior.-. the three components of the solution. The three-phase region is of particular interest because ultralow IFT's against both water and oil usually are found in this region. The microemulsion is saturated with oil at that composition and temperature. and surfactant do not always partition equally between phases. one phase is typically a microemulsion lying on the binodal curve and the second phase is relatively pure oil or water. the microemulsion is an upper-phase microemulsion. the microemulsion structure changes through a series of intermediate states. the solutions are thermodynamically stable and isotropic. phase diagram for a micellar (micro- Fig.1731 illustrates this behavior. the microemulsion would be a water-external system with oil solubilized in the cores of the micelles. Windsor called these microemulsions.16-Effect havior. Changing the surfactant/cosurfactant (S/A) ratio at constant salinity will change the phase behavior and the composition region encompassed by the three-phase triangle.-Salinity Oplirmm Hieher ---T Fig. System A separates into a mi-croemulsionat Point M on the binodal curve and an oil at the pure-oil apex.32 In the Type II(-) environment. In the Type III phase environment. more dense. There is a third two-phase region located at very low surfactant concentrations below the three-phase region. 7. the solution is a microemulsion or micellar solution over most of the concentration range (other than at concentrations of surfactant below the CMC).16 below the ternary diagrams. brine salinity has a significant effect on phase behavior. for their ideal system. A microemulsion with high oil concentration. *' of salinity on microemulsion phase be- . Because the density of the microemulsion is intermediate to the oil and brine densities. 7. Windsor called the microemulsions formed in this environment Type II microemulsions. 7. At lower surfactant concentrations. and upper-phase systems are called Type II(-).15-Pseudoternary emulsion) solution. For most systems. 7. Solutions with overall concentrations within this region separate into microemulsion. Concentrations may be expressed on a mass or volume basis. . For a concentration that yields two phases. 7. Surfactant is driven out of a brine as the electrolyte concentration increases. water.17 and 7. II and II(+) phase environments.16. and oil phases. In the single-phase region of the diagram.As previously indicated.15 shows a general representation of "ideal" phase behavior of a microemulsion on a ternary diagram. The system would appear as shown on the left of Fig. on the threephase triangle will shift toward the water or oil apex as salinity is increased or decreased around the optimal salinity value. Consequently. 7. brine.grams. In spite of this. hence the designation of Type II(+). Fig. Type ID.16 indicates. a maximum of two phases exists. For some systems.18 use an alternative terminology to that of Healy et al. again only two phases exist.15. For a simple (ideal) system at fixed salinity. the multiphase behavior divides into three basic classes illustrated in Fig. a three-phase region exists. the solution will separate into two or sometimes three phases. as indicated by tie-lines in Fig. u W Lower Y-- Water Oil ------. At relatively low brine salinity. 7. however. This lows the terminology originally used by Windsor. three phases exist in equilibrium. In this case. A middle-phase microemulsion is saturated with both oil and water at the temperature and overall composition of the system.~~ folI. 7. Systems with overall concentrations within these lobes separate into two equilibrium phases. 2) are applicable. would be an oil-external system with water solubilized in the cores of the micelles. the microemulsion composition is invariant for any concentration within the three-phase triangle. At high salinity. However. In general. this is a good assumption. 7. 9 The structures of these intermediate states are not well understood. which are in equilibrium with water and oil. They found that.27 At intermediate salinity. Windsor referred to the microemulsions formed in the Type II(-) phase environment as Type I microemulsions. 27 Lower-. Tie-line slopes are negative. increasing salinity of an aqueous phase (brine) decreases the solubility of an ionic surfactant. The surfactant on a pseudoternary diagram is composed of surfactant plus cosurfactant (alcohol) at a fixed ratio. At any concentration in the multiphase region. it resides below the oil phase and is call a lowerphase microemulsion. such as Point S2. The rules that apply to tie-lines and the lever-arm rule (described in Chap. however. Thus. 7. Tielines have a positive slope. The dashed line connecting Points S1 and STrepresents all mixtures of these two compositions. implying that the actual compositions of equilibrium phases lie on the ternary diagram. as Point S1 on Fig. water (brine) phase.15. and oil. The microemulsion concentration point. 7. the system separates into an oil-external microemulsion (hydrocarbon or oleic phase) and an excess. it is called a middle-phase (or midphase) microemulsion and is designated by M* on the figure. Point M*. cosurfactant.4. Fig. an infinite number of pseudoternary diagrams with surfactant as the pseudocomponent exist that will have three-phase regions.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful