Improved Oil Recovery

The use of reservoir energy to produce oil and gas generally results in a recovery of less than 50% of the original oil in place. The primary recovery mechanisms of solution gas drive, gas cap drive and water drive, or a combination of one or more of these and gravity drainage, account for most of the world's oil production. Secondary recovery techniques, in which external energy is added to a reservoir to improve the efficiency of the primary recovery mechanisms, have been in use for many years. The injection of water to supplement natural water influx has become an economical and predictable recovery method and is applied worldwide. Less commonly, gas injection has been used to displace oil downdip in "attic" oil recovery projects or to maintain gas cap pressure. Still, both primary and secondary recovery techniques have only been effective in producing roughly one third of the oil discovered. The remaining two thirds, more than 300 billion barrels (4.7696 × 1010 m3) in the United States alone, is a target for more sophisticated processes. Such processes, developed to increase recovery from reservoirs considered depleted by primary mechanisms and secondary methods of water or gas injection, were historically termed tertiary recovery techniques. However, because some of these processes may be applied earlier in the life of a reservoir, perhaps even in the first day of production, the "tertiary" term is no longer appropriate here, and as a result, the term enhanced oil recovery methods has been introduced as the term to be used for all processes that attempt to alter the physical forces that control the movement of oil within the reservoir. Both conventional water and gas injection, and the more unconventional enhanced oil recovery methods can collectively be termed improved oil recovery methods.

Waterflooding and Recovery Efficiency
All improved recovery methods involve the injection of fluids into the reservoir via one or more wells, and the production of oil (and perhaps ultimately the injected fluid) from one or more other wells. The methods differ in the nature of the fluids used and the physical changes they bring about in the reservoir, but water usually plays a part in helping to displace the oil. The amount of oil recovered (and obviously the success of the project) is dependent upon the percentage of oil in place that is contacted and moved by the displacing fluid. This concept is represented by the equation: Np = N EV ED where : EV = EAS EVS The oil recovered (Np) is the product of the volume of the oil in place (N), the fraction that is contacted (EV), and the fraction of the oil contacted that is displaced (ED). The volumetric sweep efficiency (EV), given as a fraction, is the product of the areal sweep efficiency (EAS), and the vertical sweep efficiency (EVS). Usually all of these values (except N) increase during the life of an improved recovery project, until an economic limit is reached. Enhanced recovery methods differ in the manner in which they attempt to improve either EV or ED. We will discuss each factor separately. VOLUMETRIC SWEEP EFFICIENCY: The volumetric sweep efficiency (EV), at a given point in time, is the fraction of the total reservoir volume contacted by the injected fluid during an improved recovery project. It is the composite of the areal sweep efficiency (EAS), and the vertical sweep efficiency (EVS). When oil is swept from a reservoir by water, an important factor in determining the areal and vertical sweep efficiencies is the difference in the mobilities of the two fluids. The mobility of any fluid in a porous medium such as reservoir rock is directly proportional to its velocity of flow and is equal to the effective permeability to that fluid divided by the fluid viscosity. For oil this would be equal to k0/0. Because our reservoir permeability information is available in terms of relative permeability, the mobility is expressed as: (1)

(2) The mobility ratio is defined as the mobility of the displacing phase in the portion of the reservoir contacted by the injected fluid, divided by the mobility of the displaced phase in the non-invaded portion of the reservoir. In the case of water displacing oil (waterflooding):

If M is less than or equal to one, it means that the oil is capable of traveling at the same or greater velocity than the water, under the same conditions. The water, therefore, will not bypass the oil and will instead push it ahead. If M is greater than one, the water is capable of moving faster than the oil and will bypass some of the oil, leaving unswept areas behind. We can see that an increase in the viscosity of the oil will cause the mobility ratio to increase. This is logical, as we can imagine attempting to push a viscous, heavy oil through a pore system and having the less viscous water "finger" through or around the slow moving oil. An obvious approach to improving

the mobility ratio would be to decrease the difference in oil and water viscosities, by increasing the water viscosity and/or decreasing the oil viscosity. We can also imagine that the areal sweep of water through an oil reservoir would also depend upon where the water is injected relative to where the oil is produced. A wide variety of flooding patterns have been used in the oil field and some of these are reproduced in Figure 1 and Figure 2 .

Figure 1

Laboratory models have enabled researchers to measure the areal sweep efficiencies for different mobility ratio/flood pattern combinations.

0. the sweep of a five-spot model as the injected fluid moves to breakthrough. the areal sweep efficiency at the point in time when the displacing phase breaks through to the producing well has been shown to be about 68% to 72% for a mobility ratio of 1. . Figure 3 (M=1.0) shows. if we have wells spaced in a five-spot pattern and are producing from a homogeneous uniform reservoir.Figure 2 For example. in stages.

Figure 3 Figure 4 shows how the areal sweep efficiency at breakthrough for this pattern changes with mobility ratio. .

. It should also be pointed out that areal variations in permeability will have a major effect on the ability of the displacing phase to sweep the reservoir. generally. The laboratory determined areal sweep efficiencies mentioned above assume a homogeneous reservoir. If the permeability varies vertically. an injected fluid will move through the reservoir with an irregular vertical front. Figure 5 shows how changes in the mobility ratio can affect vertical sweep. on the vertical distribution of permeability within the reservoir. the reservoir engineer now works closely with the development geologist to define the reservoir environment. little additional oil is recovered by injecting water after a channel of water flow exists between injector and producer. Vertical sweep efficiency (EVS) also depends upon the mobility ratio and. as is often the case in a real reservoir. For this reason. moving more rapidly in the more permeable sections. The sweep efficiency at breakthrough will depend on the degree of difference in permeabilities and on the mobility ratio. in addition.Figure 4 We are interested in the sweep efficiency at breakthrough because.

oil is preferentially adsorbed on the grain surface. the displacing phase has more mobility than the displaced phase.0. When breakthrough eventually occurs. As water displaces oil through the . In an oil-wet reservoir. Wettability pertains to whether water or oil preferentially "wets" the reservoir rock grains. simply getting the injected fluid to contact a given volume of the reservoir does not mean that all the oil in that volume will be displaced.0. through intermediate gradations to strongly water-wet. When M is less than 1. the converse is true. Displacement efficiency is a function of fluid viscosities and the relative permeability characteristics of the reservoir rock (mobility ratio). In a water-wet system. as displacing fluid enters the high permeability zone. the channeling effect is less pronounced. The displacement efficiency refers to the fraction of the oil in place that is swept from a unit volume of the reservoir. the oil exists in the middle of the pore system with water distributed between it and the rock surfaces. Thus.Figure 5 When the mobility ratio is greater than 1. of the "wettability" of the rock. and of pore geometry. Oil reservoirs range from strongly oilwet. DISPLACEMENT EFFICIENCY: Unfortunately. the total resistance to flow decreases in that zone and the flow in that zone increases. a greater portion of the lower permeability zone is left unswept. For a water-wet reservoir. Most are water-wet.

Figure 6 We can also see the role of wettability in the capillary effects in a reservoir. . Figure 6 ((a) water-wet rock (b) oil-wet rock) illustrates the difference between these two extremes. Figure 7 shows a microscopic view of a water-wet pore system. some of the oil is left in globules at the center of the pores. In an oil-wet system. the residual oil clings to the rock grains and is left as a film on the pore walls.porous medium.

The advance is greatest in the pore with the smallest radius. and saturation history on the fluid flow behavior of the rock-fluid system. the pressure gradient pushes it along toward the outlet.2.Figure 7 As the invading water reaches the intersection of the large diameter and smaller diameter pore channels. Figure 6 shows examples of relative permeability curves for both strongly water-wet and strongly oil-wet rocks. relative permeability is a measure of the rock's ability to conduct one fluid when two (or more) fluids are present. fluid distribution. the individual pores "pull" the water phase ahead in a manner similar to that of water rising in a capillary tube. It reflects the composite effect of pore geometry. The interface reaching the outlet first (probably the smaller capillary) rushes through the outlet to the next pore and isolates the oil in the other capillary. The relative permeability characteristics of a reservoir rock and the fluid viscosities are the properties used to determine the displacement efficiency. The isolated oil will not be moved by normal pressure gradients in the reservoir unless the resistance of the water-oil interface can be broken down by reducing the interfacial tension at the interface. Once the water-oil interface has reached a capillary equilibrium position in a pore. On a three-dimensional level. wettability.1. the isolated oil is referred to as ganglia and collectively it makes up the residual oil saturation in the swept portions of the reservoir. As we mentioned in section 2. .

Usually the displacement is not so efficient. The procedure is to construct a fractional flow curve. the displacement of oil by the water is "piston-like". that is. all the recoverable oil in the swept portion is displaced at breakthrough . For a strongly water-wet reservoir with relative permeability characteristics. as shown in Figure 8 . the fractional flow of water versus water saturation. it can be shown that the displacement efficiency at breakthrough is higher the lower the oil viscosity. If this approach is utilized. . and the average water saturation in the invaded portion of the rock increases with continued injection ( Figure 9 ) .002 Pa s) or lower. Figure 8 if the oil viscosity is about 2.The displacement efficiency for a waterflood can be calculated using the fluid viscosities and the water-oil relative permeability characteristics.0 cp (0.

Figure 9 Figure 10 and Figure 11 shows schematically the difference between ideal and nonideal displacement. .

.Figure 10 The flood front is shown as a vertical line representing the discontinuity of water saturation behind and ahead of the front.

and • improving the relative permeability characteristics. • altering the interfacial tension of the water-oil interface.80 Our overall recovery efficiency is then: ED EAS EVS = 0. EVS = 0. .85.51 or 51 % and we might expect to recover 51% of the oil in place as a result of water-flooding. and permeability distributions. the expected sweep efficiency factors for a proposed waterflood are: ED = 0.80 = 0.75 x 0. This means that only half the oil can be recovered even when we have a good level of efficiencies. • reducing the mobility ratio by decreasing oil viscosity. EAS = 0. fluid viscosities.Figure 11 We might find that. based on measurements of relative permeability. The task of recovering the balance of the oil is formidable! Enhanced oil recovery methods attempt to improve these efficiency factors by: • reducing the mobility ratio by increasing water viscosity.85 x 0.75.

Table 1 (below) lists the enhanced recovery methods that are of importance today. Enhanced oil recovery methods: Chemical Recovery Processes • Polymer flooding • Surfactant-polymer flooding (microemulsion flooding) • Caustic flooding Thermal recovery processes • Steam flooding • In-situ combustion Miscible recovery processes • Miscible hydrocarbon displacement • Carbon dioxide injection • Inert gas injection Table 14 (above) .

and by improving the displacement efficiency through surface active agents.Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) Enhanced oil recovery processes attempt to alter the physical forces holding oil in a reservoir by improving the volumetric sweep efficiency through mobility ratio control. the value of all enhanced oil recovery techniques ultimately is determined by the degree to which they are economically applicable in the field. It may be possible to maximize recovery by initiating an enhanced recovery project early in the life of a field. heat. but the additional early capital cost with delayed return may make it economically unattractive. By providing guidance throughout the development of a reservoir. Economic applicability is critically dependent on an accurate geological interpretation of the reservoir. . geologists can help provide for the maximum recovery of the oil they have found. Regardless of laboratory performance. and miscible displacement.

Apparently this is accomplished by adsorption of the polymer onto the rock grains. at very high velocities. the most economically attractive examples are polysaccharides (xanthan gum) and polyacrylamides. that is. dishes. or . because of the existance of micelles. lowering the velocity of flow and increasing the sweep of the lower permeability zones. This solution is also called a microemulsion. Polymer flooding is most efficient when begun early in the life of a waterflood. particularly when mobility ratios are poor (2 to 20) and significant permeability variations exist. are compounds that can act to reduce the interfacial tension at the interface between the oil and water in the reservoir. SURFACTANT POLYMER FLOODING: Surface active agents. etc. A commercial polymer solution is a non-Newtonian fluid. Detergents are examples of an everyday use of surfactants to allow water to displace oil (and the accompanying dirt) from clothing.0% NaCl at 74° F) shows the effect of polymer solution concentration on viscosity at a given shear rate. Reduction in interfacial tension improves the displacement efficiency of the flood and reduces the residual oil saturation. (Where high velocities might cause bypassing. by entrapment of polymer molecules in pore throats. (Normal formation water viscosity is about . its resistance to flow and its apparent viscosity is lower at low flow velocities than at high flow velocities. called polymers (the jelly-like component in your tube of shampoo). such as those that may exist near the injection wells. Polymer flooding does not decrease the residual oil saturation significantly in the swept zone. Overall.) In addition to increasing water viscosity and thereby reducing the mobility ratio. and by the inability of the polymer-laden solution to enter small pore channels. or surfactants. or a micellar solution. The polysaccharides are produced by microbial action while the polyacrylamides are synthetically produced chemicals with a wide range of molecular weights and chain lengths. the polymer solution increases viscosity and slows down!) Figure 1 (comparison of viscosities of two types of polymers at 1000 ppm in 1. polymer flooding also improves areal and vertical sweep efficiency by reducing the relative permeability to the polymer solution. Its primary importance is in the improvement of the areal and vertical sweep efficiencies and the acceleration of oil production before the economic limit of water-oil production ratio is reached.2 to 2 cp. Its behavior is generally characterized as pseudoplastic. This can be done by the addition of long chain molecules. POLYMER FLOODING: An obvious approach to improving the mobility ratio would be to increase the effective viscosity of the injected water before injection into the reservoir. but are sensitive to shear and salinity. Polysaccharides stand up to salinity and shearing rates but are prone to bacterial and thermal degradation.Chemical Recovery Processes Several approaches that improve the mobility ratio in a waterflood and reduce the interfacial tension at the oil-water interface have involved the addition of chemical agents to injected water. Surfactants are usually introduced to a waterflood as components in a water-oilsurfactant solution. aggregates of surfactant molecules surrounding microscopic oil droplets in water. the reduction in permeability allows the preferential filling of the high permeability streaks or zones in the reservoir with a viscous slug. the polymer solution can act as a dilatant fluid and its apparent viscosity will increase. However. Although there are many polymers available for this approach. Polyacrylamides are relatively economical and stable.

microscopic water droplets in oil. CAUSTIC FLOODING: The fact that the addition of sodium hydroxide (caustic) to injection water improves oil recovery for many reservoirs has been recognized for many years. but it reverts to a low-concentration flood as the surfactant slug becomes diluted by formation fluids. Some surfactant solutions have cosurfactants (usually alcohol). and others have been suggested.5 to 2. A slug of this solution is injected into the reservoir. Figure 2 shows schematically how a microemulsion and a polymer solution. or inorganic salts added to improve performance. although sodium orthosilicate. which form at the oil-water interface.0 wt%) appear to offer the best results for interfacial tension reduction. at least five methods are believed to act in the process: • lowering of interfacial tension by reaction of the caustic with acidic crude oil components usually found in heavier. Adsorption of surfactants onto the rock surface can be an important reason for slug breakdown. Crude oil acidity is also important. — reversal of rock wettability. or in a low volume (3% to 20% of reservoir pore volume) with a high concentration. viscous crudes. the reduction in interfacial tension increases oil recovery gradually with the passage of increasing volumes of surfactant solution. — solubilization of rigid films. plugging the injection wells. allowing mobilization of the residual oil. the mechanisms involved in displacement of the oil are complicated. In the high concentration case. — in-situ emulsification and entrainment of residual oil into the flowing caustic water phase. — emulsification of residual oil and entrapment in small pore throats to reduce water mobility. The reaction of the reservoir rock with the chemical is an important factor that must be considered in designing a caustic flood. carrying the oil out of the rock. At present. usually in a high volume (15% to 60% of reservoir pore volume) with a low concentration. electrolytes. The most commonly used caustic chemical is sodium hydroxide. ammonium hydroxide. In the low concentration case. or else precipitates of calcium hydroxide may form. followed by water injection. the surfactant solution rapidly displaces water and almost all the oil contacted. the hardness of the injection water must be controlled. . are used in sequence to improve the mobility of the flood. Also. Surfactant slug size and composition must be tailored to the specific reservoir rock and fluid properties. The subject of surfactant solutions is complex and their behavior in the reservoirs is not easily predicted. to create surfactants in situ. Low concentration caustic solutions (0. Although the process appears simple and relatively inexpensive. and improve areal and vertical sweep efficiency.

Chemically enhanced oil recovery processes act to improve mobility ratio. except for caustic flooding. Screening criteria for chemical processes: Surfactant/Polymer Oil properties • Gravity ° API >25 • Viscosity cp <30 • Composition light intermediates desired Reservoir • Oil saturation >30% characteristics • Formation type sandstone preferred • Net thickness ft (m) >10 (3) • Average >20 permeability md • Depth ft (m) <8000 (2400) • Temperature ° F (K) <175 (353) Polymer Alkaline (caustic) Oil properties • Gravity ° API >25 13-35 • Viscosity cp <150 <200 • Composition not critical some organic acids Reservoir characteristics • Oil saturation >10% mobile oil above waterflood residual . recovery costs can be somewhat high. increase volumetric sweep. Compared with other methods. Table 1 (below) shows some generalized reservoir criteria for screening reservoir candidates. and improve displacement efficiency.

1983) . sandstone carbonate preferred possible • Net thickness ft (m) not critical not critical • Average permeability >10 (normally) >20 • Depth ft (m) <9000 (2700) <9000 (2700) • Temperature ° F (k) <200(367) <200 (367) Table 1 (Taber and Martin.• Formation type sandstone preferred.

7 K) is about 100.4 K). The most important effect of adding heat is the sharp reduction in the oil viscosity and the resulting decrease in the mobility ratio. 10API crude oil at 60 F (288. or by generating heat within the reservoir by burning some of the oil in the formation. but drops to about 10 cp at 360¡F (0. STEAM FLOODING: Steam flooding consists of the continuous injection of steam into a reservoir with an injection-production well pattern similar to a waterflood. It also vaporizes some of the oil (lighter ends) as it moves forward in the formation where it condenses to form an "improved" oil.01 Pa s at 455. As the steam moves out into the reservoir away from the injection well.Thermal Recovery Processes Thermal processes attack the problem of an unfavorable mobility ratio by heating the reservoir and its fluids. its temperature . Increasing the reservoir fluid temperature also reduces interfacial tension and increases the relative permeability to oil. either by adding heat via steam or hot water. Figure 1 Note that the viscosity of a heavy.000 cp (100 Pa s). Figure 1 shows the effect of temperature on oil viscosity.

All of these effects improve oil recovery. the oil expands. and then back-produce the less viscous hot oil and water located near the wellbore. its viscosity drops.drops from heat losses and it begins to condense as hot water ( Figure 2 ). the residual saturation is lowered.086 kPa). Table 1 (below) gives some data comparing successful steam floods worldwide. depth because of the critical pressure of steam (3202 psia or 22. oil is actually vaporized. "huff and puff. Other major steamflood areas include the United States (particularly California) and Venezuela. producing 300. In the steam zone. The primary factors limiting the application of steam injection to oil reservoirs are depth and thickness. This cycle is repeated many times and is termed cyclic steam injection. the . Operators can begin with this procedure but later must ultimately convert to a pattern steam flood to maintain oil production rates.000 STB of oil per day. In the hot water zone. and thickness because of excessive heat loss to underlying and overlying rock formations in the reservoir. the world’s largest steamflood project was in the Duri field in Indonesia. As of 1995. and the relative permeability increased. Steam flooding is currently the principal enhanced oil recovery technique. One of the California examples. shut it in for a period of time." or steam stimulation. Figure 2 An alternative to pattern steam flooding is to inject steam into a well.

600 120 83 Slocum.Sand Depth Reservoir h (ft) Pressure Net Pay (psig) (ft) Kern River. and within 4 1/2 years. WY 1.600 100 189 Coalinga. CA 900 35 60 Inglewood. CA 1. AR 2. but the effectiveness of successive steam cycles diminished. 1600 cp viscosity crude using normal production methods had peaked.600 50 350 Schoonebeck.Permeability (md-ft/cp) cosity (cp) (md) .200 210 73 Field.500 300 35 Yorba Linda. Field.600 300 125 Winkleman Dome. CA 2. Venezuela 1. CA 650 325 South Beldridge.Sand 0 k. Cyclic steam injection was introduced and increased rates during the late 1960s. Holland 2. TX 535 110 40 Smackover.South Belridge field. CA 1.100 200 32 San Ardo Auginac. CA 1.000 120 43 Brea B. CA 1. production of the heavy 13 API. CA 1. was developed in the 1940s. kh/0 Oil Vis.350 250 150 Mount Poso. CA 2.100 180 91 Midway-Sunset. Continuous steam injection began in 1969.800 100 60 Yorba Linda.000 5 20 Tia Juana. the oil recovery exceeded the total oil recovered during the preceding 25 years by both primary recovery and cyclic steam stimulation (Van Poollen 1980). CA 4. but by 1952.

0 0.000 170 Midway-Sunset. CA 6 70 2.50 Brea B. CA 1.21 Coalinga. AR 75 5.8 0.000 3.21 San Ardo Auginac.0 0.Sand Oil Content Steam/Oil Oil Steam (bbl/acre-ft) Ratio Ratio (bbl/bbl) (bbl/bbl) Kern River.000 225 Mount Poso. Holland 180 5. CA 4.21 . CA 6.200 6.300 3.000 1. CA 2.Kern River. CA 1.250 2.000 60 Inglewood.200 Coalinga.800 70 Winkleman Dome.000 4.000 2. CA 1.210 Yorba Linda. CA 940 4.36 Yorba Linda. CA 100 5.360 4.750 Yorba Linda.25 Inglewood.330 Tia Juana. CA 4.600 3.300 Slocum.070 4.8 0.400+ 600 South Beldridge. CA 600 500 27 San Ardo Auginac. CA 280 15.000 4. CA 1.8 0.000 220 Brea B.000 350 Schoonebeck. CA 1.080 Smackover.000 3.500 1. WY 900 600 50 Field. CA 1.480 4.8 0. CA 1. TX 1.690   Mount Poso. CA 1.000 1.000 2.580 2. Venezuela 5.

CA    Schoonebeck. and then igniting the crude oil-oxygen mixture. CA 1.6 0. reverse combustion.660 1. Figure 3 shows schematically how the combustion zone is propagated outward in the direction of the injection in the dry forward combustion process.28 Midway-Sunset. Continued injection of air will cause the burning front or combustion zone to propagate out into the reservoir.0 0.0 0. and wet combustion. WY 1.6 0. . heating the oil ahead of it.20 Table 1 (above) IN-SITU COMBUSTION: Another way of obtaining the beneficial effects of heat in the reservoir is to generate the heat in situ.18 Smackover.820 3. This can be done by injecting oxygen (air) into the reservoir by using compressors. Venezuela 1.33 Tia Juana.980 2.Yorba Linda. or within the reservoir itself.400 5. TX 1. There are three basic forms of in-situ combustion: dry forward combustion. and producing steam and hot gases that drive the oil out of the reservoir. AR 1.960 3. CA    South Beldridge.450 5.83 Winkleman Dome. Holland 1.7 0.2 0.37 Slocum.

Immediately ahead of the combustion zone is the coke region. Water is injected after the front has been propagated and is converted into steam in the reservoir by the hot rock behind the combustion zone. However. more of the lighter portions of the crude are consumed by the process. Wet combustion is an attempt to transfer the heat from the burned out portion of the reservoir behind the combustion front in a dry forward process to the oil ahead of the burning zone. after the heat from the approaching combustion zone has "cooked" the oil. Economic comparisons of in- . Important considerations in selection of reservoirs for in-situ combustion and steamflooding processes are generalized in Table 2 (below) . In the reverse combustion process. In-situ combustion is particularly appropriate when there is less rock to heat. light hydrocarbons distilled from the reservoir crude. where the heavier portions of the crude oil are all that remain to be burned. allowing easier flow of extremely heavy crudes. now the producing well. and a bank of oil being pushed ahead by the front. This approach forces the oil to move through the preheated reservoir. This partially quenches the combustion zone and spreads the generated heat more evenly through the reservoir.Figure 3 Behind the combustion zone the sand is "burned out" and the combustion zone is the hottest portion of the flood. Vertical sweep in very thick formations is likely to be poor due to segregation of the steam and combustion gases. that is. the air is injected from the opposite direction but ignition is at the same point. when the porosity and oil saturations are high. Ahead of the coke zone are steam and hot water generated by heat from the combustion zone.

situ combustion versus steam injection depend heavily on the cost of fuel to produce steam. improve relative permeability. . Screening criteria for thermal processes: Combustion Steamflooding Oil properties Gravity API <40 <25 (10-25 normally) • Viscosity cp <1000 >20 • Composition some asphaltic not critical components Reservoir • Oil saturation >40%-50% >40%-50% characteristics • Formation type sand or sandstone sand or sandstone with high porosity with high porosity • Net thickness ft(m) >10(3) >20(6) • Average permeability md >100* >200** • Depth ft (m) >500 (150) >300-5000 (90-1500) • Temperature >150 (340) F (K) not critical *Transmissibility>20 md ft/cp **Transmissibility>100 md ft/cp Thermal processes rely on heat primarily to reduce oil viscosity but also to reduce interfacial tension. and vaporize and expand portions of the oil. Both volumetric sweep efficiency and displacement efficiency are improved.

a gasoline flood is absurd from an economic standpoint. but several other methods approach the goal of complete oil displacement. the Enriched Gas Process. so that the oil is dissolved. MISCIBLE HYDROCARBON DISPLACEMENT: There are three different miscible hydrocarbon displacement processes: the Miscible Slug Process. These methods differ primarily in the type of solvent used to achieve miscibility: refined hydrocarbons. followed by natural gas. Of course. In the Miscible Slug Process. to drive the solvent through the reservoir. Miscibility means that the interface between the displacing and displaced fluids disappears. but a little gasoline (while not recommended) will clean up every trace of oil. a slug of hydrocarbon gas with large amounts of C2-C6 components is injected in place of the propane slug. a propane slug of perhaps 5% of the reservoir pore volume is injected. In the Enriched Gas Process. carbon dioxide. or gas and water.Miscible Recovery Processes Washing one's hands with detergent after an oil change will get the worst of it off. and the High-Pressure Lean Gas Process. and the result is 100% displacement efficiency. That's the difference between surfactants and miscible displacement. or inert gases. The High-Pressure Lean Gas Process substitutes a lean natural gas mixture in order to cause vaporization of the C2-C6 components from the oil to the gas. forming a miscible phase at high-pressure. Figure 1 . Figure 1 shows schematically what happens sequentially in a Miscible Slug Process. liquified hydrocarbon gases.

carbon dioxide injection followed by a less expensive gas. or "flue gas. . and not all carbon dioxide floods are miscible processes. and have a larger volume than the gas burned to produce them. making it a candidate for use in miscible floods.Unfortunately. carbon dioxide injection followed by water. or will soon undergo. and can be miscible with oil. other factors that allow carbon dioxide to improve oil recovery include: reduction of crude oil viscosity. In addition to miscibility. the carbon dioxide will extract components from the oil in a manner similar to that mentioned earlier for lean gas displacement. Alternate injection of gas and water is used in an attempt to improve this situation. however. Another major problem is the poor mobility ratio that exists between the solvent and the gas that follows it. under the right conditions of temperature and pressure. CO2 injection. Although carbon dioxide is not immediately miscible with crude oil. and solution-gas drive effects. leaving the inert gas in the reservoir at abandonment. CARBON DIOXIDE FLOODING: Carbon dioxide is soluable in both oil and water. For example a 30 API oil requires 1200 psi while a 27 API oil requires 4000 psi at 120F. This mixture forms a miscible front that efficiently sweeps the oil to the producing wells. INERT GAS INJECTION: The use of nitrogen. increased injectivity. swelling of the crude oil. Pipelines from Colorado to west Texas are now carrying CO2 to fields that are currently undergoing. The lean gas or enriched gas processes are particularly suited for areas where there is no ready gas market and the necessary size of the propane slug is economically unattractive. has been tested in the laboratory and the field. Nitrogen does not achieve miscibility as easily as carbon dioxide. but it can effectively displace the reservoir gas for sale. Combustion gases from boiler flues or gas engine exhausts are primarily nitrogen and carbon dioxide. and simultaneous or alternate injection of carbon dioxide and water (called the WAG process). the solvent becomes con-cent rated with oil as it moves through the reservoir and its ability to dissolve the oil is reduced. The required pressure for miscibility varies with oil composition and temperature." as a cheaper substitute for carbon dioxide. or light hydrocarbon mixtures. Miscibility of carbon dioxide and oil is pressure dependent. Carbon dioxide flooding can be applied in a variety of ways: continuous injection of carbon dioxide.

While miscible displacement holds the promise of improving the displacement efficiency.C7 >30% PV sandstone or carbonate Net thickness ft (m) thin unless dipping not critical >2000 (600) for LPG to >5000 (1500) for H. but particularly so in miscible displacement processes where discontinuities can result in the bypassing of costly injectants. Reservoir heterogeneity is an important factor in all improved recovery projects. in most applications the cost of the miscible fluid is high and much of it is not recoverable. power compressors to inject the inert gas (Van Poollen 1980).An inert gas injection project in the Hawkins field.P. Table 1 (below) gives some generalized criteria for the selection of candidate reservoirs for miscible recovery projects. in turn. Gas not critical Nitrogen & Flue Gas Oil properties Gravity API Viscosity cp Composition Reservoir characteristics Oil saturation Formation type >24 >35 for N2 <10 high % of C1 . Screening criteria for miscible processes: Hydrocarbon Oil properties Gravity API Viscosity cp Composition Reservoir characteristics Oil saturation Formation type Average permeability md Depth ft (m) Temperature F (K) >35 <10 high % of C2 .C12 >30% PV sandstone or carbonate thin unless dipping not critical >2000 (6000) not critical Net thickness ft (m) thin unless dipping Average permeability md Depth ft (m) Temperature F (K) not critical >4500 (1370) not critical . The steam boilers that produce the flue gas also drive turbines which. is designed so that steam boiler exhaust gas is injected into the gas cap of a water drive reservoir to prevent loss of gas cap pressure. Texas.C7 >30% PV sandstone or carbonate Carbon Dioxide >26 <15 high % of C5 .

Table 2 (Taber and Martin. 1983) .