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Chapter 42

Injection Operations
W.P. Schultz, Core Laboratories Inc.* H . M . Shearin, Subhan Propane Exploration Co. Inc. *

The petroleum industry, like other industries, exists today because it markets desirable products at a profit. To do this, it is extremely important that every phase of an oil company s activity be conducted with this goal in mind. The specific goals and details of operation of a particular company may vary slightly or significantly from those of other companies-depending primarily on economic and marketing structure-but each desires to optimize economics of its detailed as well as its overall operations. There are, of course, many facets to be considered in this program of optimization, and these may vary from one company to the next, from one locale to another, or even with time. No longer can companies analyze their economics considering only development and depletion of their reserves by primary means. World demand and availability of hydrocarbon products; economics of exploration, development, production, and transportation; obligations of drilling and regulation of production operations imposed by various governing authorities; taxation; and competition of other raw materials in the energy market all have had the combined effect on petroleum industry operations of demanding closer coordination and control of activities within a given company. Equally important, more detailed consideration and long-range planning must be devoted to specific projects undertaken. This chapter has been written with these general thoughts in mind. Oilfield development and production operations constitute a major part of most oil companies activities. More probably can be done to improve the overall economics of a company and actually shape its future by critical and thorough analysis of this phase of operations than can be done in any other activity. Every company is well aware of the high cost of finding oil, of developing a reserve, and of producing it. Experience has shown
These authors also wrote ihe otiainal chacster on this lomc m the 1962 edition.

that from most fields primary recovery is not an efficient process and that, usually, large volumes of oil are left underground as unrecoverable at the time of abandonment. The technology of oilfield operations has developed rapidly as a result of research, field application, and engineering and geological analysis. Today, in most field operations, new technology is adopted when the economics warrant it. Petroleum reservoir engineering is by no means an exact science. Probably it never will be since so many parameters that cannot actually be measured or defined are involved; however, research and experience have yielded a substantial knowledge that is quite adequate to serve as a basis for providing management with sound recommendations regarding field development and operations, which on the basis of current technology should result in optimal economic recovery from a reservoir. For many years it has been known that injection of either water or gas into a petroleum reservoir can improve recovery. The general history of field application of these processes is interesting to review. Many injection projects were initiated in fields before reservoir natural-energy-drive mechanisms were understood -even before there was a general awareness of what data were needed to evaluate properly either the possibilities or the results of such processes. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that some projects succeeded in substantially increasing recovery and others failed. As the science of reservoir engineering developed, many injection projects were considered more carefully before they were actually initiated and, as a result. were on a sounder technological and economic basis from the start. Consequently, most injection operations are well engineered. In fact, the development plans of most new discoveries include the option of initiating injection operations right from the start, when feasible. The solution of problems in any technical operation is





dependent on knowing the relevant facts. The oil industry is no exception to this rule, and many critical facts that engineers or geologists must use in their analysis of a reservoir can be obtained best early in the life of the reservoir. Some necessary facts can be obtained at later times. but only at a very large additional expense. It is therefore in keeping with sound business principles for an operator to think ahead when Idrilling wells and to begin planning ahead the very day a new reservoir is discovered. With this philosophy, engineers can be assured that sufficient and necessary information will be available for proper technical analysis when needed, that the best program for ultimate depletion 01 reserves is recognized early in the life of the reservoir, and that the devclopmcnt program for the reservoir is guided toward maximum use in the exploitation program best suited for optimal economic recovery. The thought process involved in this philosophy applied to development of a sound injection operation is discussed in this chapter. always

Important Factors in the Design of Injection Operations

lndlvidual oil and gas reservoirs, like human beings, are each different, and the reservoirs present a wide variety of properties for the engineer to consider. Of prime importance in making an analysis of these properties for the design of an injection program is establishing the objective of the operation. The establishment of a proper objective for a given operator depends on the particular circumstances. An operator with limited investment opportunities might favor improvement in reserves. One with ample reserves for the current rate of production would favor an improvement or maintenance of production rate. Another, having insufficient rate and reserves, would favor improvement in each. The objective of the injection operation will likely be (1) sustaining the rate through pressure maintenance, (2) increasing ultimate recovery through a more efficient displacement process, or (3) combining improved rate and recovery to lead to the accumulation of maximum present worth. In many Instances. injection operations have been undertaken in reservoirs simply because nearby propcrties have responded favorably to injection. This same line of incomplete reasoning is then generally carried one step further. and it is concluded that the reservoir conditions are unknown because of variable physical propertics and past production practices; therefore. no proper engineering analysis can be made and injection must be tried to see Mshat will happen. Projects initiated with this reasoning arc almost always injeciion operations without an objective. This cart before the horse philosophy is to see what will happen. then decide what is desired. Without an oqjcctivc the engineering analysis will result in nebulous conclusions. for the ob,jctivc influences both the timing and the choice of the Injection process.

recognize the need for injection in a reservoir to obtain specific objectives as early in the life of the reservoir as possible. Early planning, even if not in great detail, will make it possible to obtain adequate basic data for proper engineering analysis at the only time such data arc available. In many instances, such planning may dictate a modidication of the development program so that wells will be located and completed to provide maximum the injection program with a minimum amount of costly redrilling or workover expense. The optimal time to start an injection project is often related to the best-suited process for the given field. For example, an immiscible displacement with gas might .bestsbe undertaken in some high-permeability sands after ithe reservoir reaches a low pressure, since at low ,:pressures, the cost of compressing gas to replace a reservoir barrel of volume is low. Low-pressure waterflooding might perhaps be started when the optimal amount of free gas is present. Low-permeability reservoirs or those with high-shrinkage oil might call for the immediate use of a pressure-maintenance project in maintaining well productivity and in preventing high shrinkage losses. Some injection operations may require high reservoir pressures to accommodate the process. For older fields, in which the optimal time to start a project may have long passed, the question becomes not one of optimal time but of the best process to employ. At times, the question is whether a change in the conditions of the reservoir, such as rcpressuring. can re-establish the opportunity for conducting an improved operation.

Injection Fluids
In any injection project, certain parameters arc fixed and are beyond the control of engineers. These include fluid properties of the reservoir oil, rock properties, geologic stratifications, faulting. and depth. On the other hand, engineers can vary such items as injection fluid, injection pressure, pattern. and injection rate. Selection of the proper injection fluid for a given reservoir is probably the most difficult part of the design of any injection operation. Generally, air and water are the only materials considered inexpensive enough to use in large quantities for the displacement of crude oil. Current prices of natural gas make it an expensive in.jection fluid. However, when it exists in arcas where there is no market, its greatest economic benefit may be as an injcction fluid. It is in this area, however. that the knowledge. imagination, and ingenuity of the reservoir engineer can be used to develop injection programs that will greatly improve recovery and profit from most reservoirs. The project should be designed to allow for the possible use of small amounts of more expensive materials. such as propane, butane, liquefied petroleum gas, CO?. wetting agents. and polymers.

Projected Recovery
oil recovery from a reservoir in which injection operations are to bc conducted rcquires an estimation of (1) the amount of oil in place initially, (2) the recovery by any primary depletion that occurred before the start of injection, (3) the oil saturation at the start of injection and the residual oil saturation after the displacement process and how it is distributed

Data Required. Projecting

Care must be taken to ensure that the planning of the program is not delayed past the optimal time to start the injection physically. In all cases, it is desirable to




through the reservoir, be swept. and (5) the Sufficient data are tities. Some sources

(4) the fraction of the reservoir to injection and production rates. needed to determine these quanof these data are listed in Table


Oil lnitiallv in


42.1. Engineering Analysis. The prediction of the performance of an injection operation is derived by (1) preparing an estimate of the oil moved as a function of the volume injected and (2) defining the injection and production rates and related volume injected to time. The details of the calculation procedures are presented in the six chapters that follow in this handbook. In general, the amount of oil recovered is determined from materialbalance calculations applied to the fraction of the reservoir swept by the injected fluid. The potential injection and production rates are calculated from equations or measurements on models. The rate may be reduced through proration or through limitation in sizing equipment. Optimizing an Injection Operation
The decision as to the optimal injection program for a given reservoir involves selection of the best process and of the best manner for conducting that process. The selection of the best process requires a study of (1) primary performance, (2) source of injection fluid, (3) cost of injecting various fluids, and (4) unit displacement efficiency of various fluids. The selection of the best manner for carrying out the operation requires a study of (I) the time to start injection, (2) pressure maintenance, (3) partial pressure maintenance, (4) well stimulation, (5) additional drilling. and (6) pattern choice. After the best manner for conducting each process is developed, a comparison of the economics of the optimal plan for each process will show the most desirable program.

Adequate number of wells to define areal extent Well logs to define productive section and sometimes content Core measurements for porosity. interstitial water, oil saturation, and sometimes capillary properties; these data also serve as a basis for well-log calibration Material-balance calculations based on reservoir pressures and production history to confirm volumetric estimates of oil in place Primary Performance

Production of oil, gas, and water by wells Pressures from periodic pressure-buildup tests Fluid properties Relative-permeability measurements on cores for displacing and displaced phases Geologic data from nonproductive wells outside the productive limits to assist in the determination of the primary drive mechanism Fraction of the Reservoir to be Swept for variation in permeability and

Core measurements

Cross sections and pressure interference tests to determine the reservoir continuity between wells Stratification from core measurements and logs Orienlatlon of permeability Selected injection pattern Fluid viscosities and relative permeabilities Areal sweep performance of injection pattern models Injection Rate and Production Rate

Effective reservoir permeability from cores, pressure-buildup tests, and productivity-index tests Relative-permeability curves on displactng and displaced phases Wellbore conditions from pressure-buildup analysis Injection pressure Fluid properties Throughput rate from model performance or calculations

Analysis of a Reservoir Injection Operations

Beginning the Analysis Data Gathering and Testing.


Some reservoirs may be similar in many respects but completely different in others. Because of this, it is necessary to obtain information that experienced geologists and engineers can use to define the character of each specific reservoir. Much of the information is obtained during the development portion of a reservoir s history. Some types of information are collected periodically throughout the producing life of the reservoir. Certain types of data arc needed to evaluate the probable economics and producing characteristics of the reservoir by natural depletion. and additional information is necessary for proper analysis of potential recovery and economics under various injection programs. It is a responsibility of the engineer and geologist, as a team. to outline a long-range program of data requirements early in the life of every reservoir and a schedule of how and when these data arc to be collected. The details of this program should be modified continuously as more knowledge of the reservoir is gained. If conducted properly, the initial development program can contribute substantially to the early recognition of both primary and injection-operation potential of any

reservoir. This program should be designed to yield (1) the broad specifications of the reservoir, such as general field limits, general reservoir geometry, (2) general rock properties of the producing formation, (3) approximate location of reservoir gas/oil and water/oil contacts if present, (4) characteristics of in-place reservoir fluids, (5) initial reservoir pressure and temperature conditions. and (6) general information pertaining to average well productivities. Quite obviously, if this program is to accomplish its economic and informative objectives, no consideration should yet be given to ultimate well spacing. In the case of large structures this initial program should consist of carefully planned, bold stepouts and, in all cases, obtaining as much information as needed to direct properly further field development and datagathering techniques. Often, sufficient information can bc obtained from a well-planned data-gathering program conducted during the early portion of development of a reservoir to permit intelligent preliminary examination of the probable need for injection and the general feasibility of various types of injection. Early data-gathering efforts should result in the accumulation of sufficient information to permit selection of those techniques that will yield required and reliable information as other wells are drilled. Such information also can be used to refine the preliminary conclusions pertaining to probable reservoir potential under



va;ious operating methods begun earlier on the basis of initial data, Recommendations concerning selection of the best program of operation for a particular reservoir normally should be based on behavior forecasts that of primary producing involve detailed analysis performance. The economic potential of injection operations can suffer materially in many cases if such operations are not initiated early in the producing life of a reservorr. Thus an urgency exists to determine early the economic potential of various operating programs; one often cannot wait for primary performance information covering a majority of the reservoir s primary life and still reap the benefits that might have accrued by early initiation of some form of injection. Engineers, therefore, have quite a large responsibility to obtain sufficient information and to recognize when enough is available for making sound recommendations concerning future operations in any given reservoir. The relative timing for when this can be done in a reservoir s life may be considerably different for different reservoirs, depending primarily on the ability to recognize and define the natural forces contributing to production in each case. From a technical standpoint, full development of the field on some arbitrary spacing decided without regard to reseyoir characteristics and potential should not be undertaken until it can be guided by the needs of the operating program best suited to the reservoir. The initial-development portion of any reservoir s history is therefore a critical period. The information that should be obtained during this period includes the following. 1. Detailed routine core analysis in sufficient volume and with sufficient well logs of different types permits selection of those data-gathering techniques that when used on later wells will ensure obtaining necessary and accurate interpretations and measurements of rock properties such as porosity and permeability. Data about the initial wells should be adequate for general definition of such things as structure, gross formation thickness. net productive formation thickness, field limits, porosity, permeability, lithology, and the homogeneity and continuity of the producing formation. 2. Drillstem tests define the general productive characteristics of various zones and help establish the location of gas/oil and water/oil contacts if present. 3. Periodic static-subsurface-pressure surveys establish original reservoir pressure as well as subsequent pressure history. 4. Temperature surveys establish reservoir temperature . 5. Reservoir fluid samples establish the physical properties of hydrocarbons present in the reservoir as functions of pressure and temperature and the variation of these properties with depth and area. Also, formationwater samples establish chemical composition. 6. Controlled periodic production tests of wells provide such information as general production characteristics. GOR, and water cut. 7. Special well tests such as productivity-index measurements, pressure-buildup tests. and interference tests provide information regarding efficiency of completion techniques, average formation productivity. and formation continuity.

8. Special core-analysis tests on selected, and in some cases specially preserved, core samples help determine such things as interstitial water saturation, gas/oil and water/oil relative-permeability characteristics, residual oil saturation by waterflood, and permeability reduction caused by flooding with water of various salinities. 9. Monthly oil-, water-, and gas-production histories by well are also useful. The engineer must use judgment with regard to exactly how much of each kind of basic data is required in any particular case. In general, the volume of data needed varies more with complexity of the reservoir system than with size. Complexity of reservoirs is often disregarded. Usually, more different types of data should be obtained early in the development period so that economy and reliability can be built into subsequent completion techniques and data-gathering programs.

Type of Injection
Many factors are involved in determining the data needed to analyze properly the potential of various injection programs for a specific reservoir. Experienced engineers with proper data at hand should be able to recognize early the types of injection programs that might prove worthy of detailed consideration. Often, new reservoirs are discovered in the same formation and in close proximity to existing fields for which detailed performance information already exists. Unless factors point to differences between the two, in his preliminary thoughts, the engineer usually can consider that the new field probably will behave in a manner similar to the other. If existing injection projects are successful or if they are failing, the preliminary thinking on a new reservoir, unless obvious differences exist, will be that similar projects in the new reservoir probably would behave in about the same manner. This thought process is a normal one but can be dangerous in that the results of a specific injection project many times are actually a function of the original thought, evaluation, and planning of the project as well as the engineering control exercised throughout its life. Proper engineering control of injection projects in practice varies considerably, and for this reason, thinking based on analogy is good for preliminary screening but should not be the prime consideration in evaluating the need for or the potential of various injection programs. Prime consideration should be given to the physical characteristics of the particular reservoir being evaluated. One of the first questions that should be answered by engineers concerns the technical feasibility of various forms of injection. This involves preliminary analysis of reservoir rock and fluid characteristics and early interpretations of reservoir geometry. Engineers should be on the lookout continuously for characteristics such as high interstitial water content, unfavorable water/oil or gas/oil relativepermeability properties, unfavorable mobility ratios, indications of natural formation fracture and fault systems, unusual area1 and vertical variations of porosity and permeability, and lack of vertical and areal formation continuity. None of these situations rule out the technical possibilities of injection projects, but they are warning signals to engineers and may complicate their problems.

Reservoir Fluid and Rock Characteristics.




Engineers know, for example, that if (I) the reservoir appears to have fair continuity and shape, (2) permeability is reasonably distributed. and (3) relative-permeability relations and oil properties are favorable, then either water-, gas-, or enhanced-recovery injection projects are possibly feasible from a technical standpoint. If the reservoir oil is viscous, then mobility-ratio characteristics normally favor water over gas injection, and thermal processes might increase recovery. If a high interstitial water saturation exists. then under certain conditions this can be more of a disadvantage for water than for gas injection. Benefits often can be derived through enhancedrecovery operations in reservoirs containing highly, undersaturated oils. Through experience engineers have learned that low formation permeability in itself is not a factor that eliminates injection possibilities but that often a more critical factor can be extreme variation of permeability. All these factors, along with others, can be available for the engineer s scrutiny early in the development period and, if used properly, can guide the early thinking about overall plans for a reservoir.

Availability of Injection Fluids. In viewing the possibilities of injection operations, engineers must also consider the availability of fluids for injection. This factor alone can sometimes eliminate further evaluation of some particular form of injection or, in other cases. materially affect the economics of a project. A waterinjection operation might appear very attractive from a technical standpoint; yet if water cannot be made available in required quantities and at reasonable cost, further consideration of the process would be only academic. Engineers should certainly consider the possibilities of gas-injection and miscible-drive projects when gas or liquid plant products are available in the area. Of course it is impossible to set forth a checklist of factors that could be used early in the life of every reservoir to determine the absolute need or feasibility of injection projects. Each factor discussed here is important, and variations of any one or of all the pertinent parameters can affect results to various degrees. Predicted Reservoir Performance During Primary Operations
Another important consideration that must be an integral part of the engineer s appraisal of possible injection projects is the need for the project. This can be a very complicated part of the overall analysis and should involve not only technical aspects of the project itself but also the effect that the project s results might have from an overall company standpoint. The latter is treated in more detail along with a discussion of economics in this chapter. Technical need for injection projects involves analysis of past reservoir performance, recognition and definition of the natural energy forces contributing to primary production, and evaluation of the efficiency and forecast of performance of the primary production operations. Other chapters in this handbook deal with the types of drive mechanisms that can be present individually or in combination in any given reservoir. Engineers must have a detailed understanding of these natural processes before they can recognize the need for application of supplemental recovery processes to a reservoir. General-

ly speaking, the depletion- or solution-gas-drive process is an inefficient one, but coupled with good segregation and oil and gas counterflow, the process can be much more efficient. In general, better recovery efficiency is usually expected by a natural water drive than by any other natural process, and gas-cap expansion-drive processes are usually intermediate in effectiveness. Engineers know, however, that these are generalizations and that the existence and effectiveness of each must be evaluated for each reservoir. They can make reasonable guesses of possible future primary pet-formance on the basis of behavior of analogous fields and on preliminary evaluation of data acquired early in a reservoir s life, but these guesses can be translated into sound engineering conclusions only through a detailed study of the particular reservoir s performance. When they are able through intelligent use of available information concerning basic properties of the reservoir system to calculate accurately and match the actual past performance of a reservoir, then they gain confidence in any predictions they might make of future primary performance. An experience factor is involved, however, that cannot be overlooked. Engineers must be able to recognize whether a match of calculated and actual performance is a real match such that the solution is reasonably unique and their understanding of the primary production process is good or whether there actually could be several widely different solutions that could result in equally good matches of performance. In the latter case there is either a lack of understanding of basic reservoir parameters and a need for more basic data. or there is insufficient production performance available for analysis at that time. Often, it might be possible to plan early production from the reservoir in such a manner as to aid in reservoir evaluation. Extreme changes in production rate (upward or downward or both) and maintenance of those rates at reasonably constant levels for a period of time can often result in changes in observed reservoir pressure or well performance that are extremely useful in early recognition of prevailing natural-energy forces. Since treatment of the various methods of analysis appears in other chapters, there is no need to discuss them at this point. Emphasis, however, should again be placed on the urgency of early recognition and definition of the efficiency of the primary production process because it is of prime importance in ascertaining the need for injection.

Predicted Reservoir Performance During Injection Operations

The next step in the process of determining the best method of operation for a given reservoir is the prediction of performance for various injection programs that are considered technically and practically feasible on the basis of preliminary examination of available information. Normal methods of accomplishing this objective are discussed in later chapters; however, the following philosophy should be a normal part of engineers thinking processes. An injection program is not to be designed for the reservoir at hand because a similar project appeared successful in some other reservoir; it is not developed simply because the process is one that has been used extensively in the past; it does not follow that,





just because a certain pattern of injection and production was good for one reservoir, it should also be the best or even good in another reservoir. Each reservoir must be examined in the light of its character and needs. Many injection projects are hampered by inadequate programs borrowed from yesterday (a period when reservoir fluid-flow processes were not well understood) and applied to reservoirs without appreciation of differences in rcscrvoir detail or other pertinent circumstances. Engineers should strive to be current in thinking and original in ideas. A surface map showing Incation of injection and production wells for a project might appear to be extremely radical on first examination: however. if sound technical procedures show that it could result in better economic recovery than any other scheme. the plan is not radical. Programs are developed for obtaining desired results in underground reservoirs and not to be or appealing with regard to symmetrical, uniform, topography or property lines. At the time engineers make detailed analyses of the potential of injection operations, they should have already answered, by means of the planned data-gathering program. as many pertinent details as possible about characteristics of the reservoir rock, reservoir fluids. reservoir geometry and continuity. and well-behavior characteristics.

Although technical analyses of possible future operations in a reservoir must be thorough and sound, an equally important consideration during overall evaluation is economics. Any project might be an outstanding success from a technical standpoint, but its real value is measured in terms of income and expense. In designing the general specifications of an injection program, engineers should first recognize or ascertain some of the overall objectives of their company. Usually engineers find that there is considerable latitude with regard to some important considerations in a study that are well within the limits of sound technology but that with varying assumptions could represent quite a spread in the economic results of a given project. This is particularly true of factors that influence production rate. As stated earlier, it might be more desirable from an economic and marketing standpoint in one company to recover as much oil as possible and as fast as possible whereas in another company the interest may be for long-term maintenance of stabilized high production rates. Knowledge of this is important in designing an injection project. Engineers should be cautious in their economic analysis and not permit conclusions to be drawn that on the basis of the project alone might be reasonable but that with broader consideration could be invalid. An example of such a case might be the prediction of a water-injection project that would recover large volumes of additional oil. The economics of such a proj-

ect might appear to be very favorable: however. if the company cannot market the additional oil at the forecasted rates and values, such a pro,jcct could not possibly result in the indicated benefits from an overall company standpoint. Wells arc often drilled that are not needed from the standpoint of producing reserves. The surplus wells are there because economic and marketing differences exist between companies. because of regulations concerning drilling requirements, because wells drilled for primary operations arc not suitable for later operations, and in some cases because of false economic reasoning. Many wells have been drilled simply because they pay out in a fairly short period of time. Sonic of these wells may have benefited companies from a current-income standpoint, a lesser number from a present-worth standpoint, and probably very few from an ultimate-recovery standpoint. Unnecessary drilling is a waste of money and should be eliminated: engineers can be very instrumental in such a program through efforts to appraise the potential of reservoirs early in their life and to forestall complete development until the future plan for the reservoir is known. At that time only the necessary additional wells can be drilled and they can be located strategically according to need. The benefits of additional oil recovery and reduced costs that can be obtained through cooperative or unitized operations should bc uppermost in engineers minds. Many times variables exist in the engineers technical analyses that seem to defy definition. Engineers must know how critical reasonable variation of such parameters is in the overall analysis. Sometimes results pertaining to such cases can be derived only through pilot applications. These pilot operations serve the primary purpose of reducing risk that might be involved in a fieldwide program. This is particularly true for EOR projects where injection of expensive chemicals, steam, or oxygen is involved. In those cases where it is necessary to resort to a pilot program. it should first of all have specific objectives, detailed engineering control to ensure early obtainment of the ob,jectives. and planning to make it an integrated part of the expanded fieldwide program. Petroleum engineers today are no longer just professionals with technical experience or background relating to oil production. They must also understand principles of finance. They not only must be able to know what yardsticks are used by their company and by others to evaluate the benefits of a specific project. but also must be able to design the project so that maximum benefits can result. Engineers can play a major role in the future of the oil industry. Rewards will certainly come to individuals who recognize the existing challenge and who, with know-how, good judgment, and new ideas, are always striving to improve the specific facets as well as the overall complexion of the industry.