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Obtaining representative samples of

reservoir fluids has always been one of the
major challenges in reservoir engineering,
particularly in the complex carbonate
reservoirs of the Middle East. Reservoir
studies, crucial to production planning and
process design, determine and utilize
reservoir fluid properties, such as
pressure–volume–temperature (PVT)
behavior, viscosity and gas–oil ratio, on the
basis of a reservoir at its original conditions.
Knowing that a sample is free of
contamination and is contained at its
downhole PVT conditions when it reaches
the surface, gives confidence in the
analyses that follow.
Here, Fikri Kuchuk, Frank Halford, Murat
Zeybek and Ali Al Shahri explain how
representative sampling is achieved and
illustrate how this has benefited the
operators of a major Middle East oil field.
Focus in on fluids
F
luid samples provide the first look at
a well’s production, and operators
need to be confident that the few liters
of fluid retrieved from their wells are
representative of the reservoir. In the
Middle East, sampling is used
extensively to help determine the
characteristics of complex carbonate
and sandstone reservoirs. The latest
wireline sampling technology helps
asset teams to make informed economic
decisions. This article looks at sampling
techniques and how the MDT* Modular
Formation Dynamics Tester tool is used
to overcome some of the traditional
challenges of downhole sampling.
Good formation-fluid samples are of
great importance to asset teams, and a
representative sample may often be as
useful as results from petrophysical logs.
Modern wireline formation testers are
being used increasingly for downhole
fluid sampling in place of the more
familiar drillstem test (DST) or
production tests. These formation
testers are highly selective, allowing a
series of reservoirs to be tested during a
single trip into the well. Samples can be
taken at low drawdown pressure drop
for greater control, ensuring that the
physical state and the behavior of the
fluid are minimally disturbed by the
sampling process itself. In addition,
downhole sampling operations are easier
to plan, require less lead time, reduce
environmental and safety risks, eliminate
surface testing equipment and reduce
total cost.
Composition is critical
Formation fluid samples help to
establish the physical and chemical
properties of formation fluids, such as
the hydrocarbon type and the
pressure–volume–temperature (PVT)
behavior of the reserves in place.
Hydrocarbon composition can vary
significantly within an oil field and must
be adequately described. Typical
measurements performed on a fluid
sample from an oil reservoir include PVT
relationships, viscosity, composition,
gas–oil ratio (GOR), differential
vaporization, and a multistage separation
test. Fluid samples help asset teams plan
the special treatments required for issues
such as hydrogen sulfide removal. They
also reveal waxing tendencies and
asphaltene content, and facilitate
metallurgy and refining trials.
Paraffin waxes can cause blockages in
production facilities and cold subsea
pipelines. Asphaltene precipitation
produces tar-like solids that can come out
of suspension in crude oil when pressures
are reduced within the formation, in
production tubing or at the surface.
Water samples help to guide
production and process design. The
relevant factors include scaling, hydrate
formation tendencies, compatibility with
possible injected water, corrosivity, the
metallurgy of tubulars, and the design of
the water-handling plant. Knowing all of
these important properties helps asset
managers to ensure efficient field
development, particularly where
investment in facilities and processing
depends on the amount, types and flow
characteristics of fluids in the reservoir.
The challenges of sampling
The main objective of sampling reservoir
fluids is to obtain a sample that is wholly
representative of the original, in-place
fluid. This is essential because reservoir
engineering studies, which are
performed using PVT analysis data, are
always made on the basis of the
reservoir at its original conditions.
Ideally, therefore, sampling should be
conducted on virgin reservoirs or in
new wells in undepleted zones that
contain fluids identical to the initial
reservoir fluids.
Each sampling operation is designed
so that producing conditions will not
alter the phase behavior of the fluid.
This ensures that the sample remains
representative. The pressure drawdown
associated with flow must be controlled
to prevent the fluid falling below its
bubblepoint and into the two- or three-
phase region.
Another concern in obtaining a
representative sample is the degree of
variation in the original fluid throughout
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Figure 2.1: The MDT
tool in single-probe
mode, showing the
hydraulically
operated probe and
two opposing backup
pistons that push the
probe against the
formation
the reservoir. A pattern for the variation
must be established from several
samples or producing characteristics
from various wells completed at
different intervals.
The choice of sampling technique
depends on the volume of sample
required, the type of reservoir fluid to be
sampled, the degree of reservoir
depletion, and the surface and
subsurface equipment. Ideally, both
surface and bottomhole samples should
always be taken.
Surface sampling
Surface sampling involves the
recombination of oil and gas taken
from the separator, along with accurate
measurement of their respective rates.
This method is often chosen when
large volumes of oil and gas are
required for analysis, as is the case for
condensate fluids. Surface sampling is
also selected in cases where the fluid
at the bottom of the well is not
representative of the reservoir fluid,
such as gas condensate reservoirs and
oil reservoirs producing large
quantities of water.
The main difficulties in surface
sampling arise because fluid in the
separator is at its bubblepoint and gas at
its dewpoint. Any slight fall in pressure
or increase in temperature can result in
the fluid becoming diphasic during the
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sampling operation. If this happens the
sample will probably not be
representative. There is a general need
to check for contamination from carry-
over, water or sludge from sampling
points, and for the consideration and/or
removal of any chemicals injected. These
issues underline the importance of all the
equipment used in the surface-sampling
operation being in first-class condition,
and operated by experienced and
competent engineers.
Generally, a bottomhole sample is
preferred if the gas and oil surface
measurement capabilities are in question.
However, reliable surface techniques can
give a statistically valid GOR measured
over a longer period of time.
Downhole sampling
The main challenges in downhole sampling
operations are finding the best zones for
sampling, connecting to the formation,
obtaining acceptably low filtrate
contamination, and transporting unaltered
fluid samples back to the surface.
Conventional downhole sampling
techniques, such as DSTs, require the
well to be ‘conditioned’ before sampling
to remove the nonrepresentative
reservoir fluid around the wellbore with
the original fluid. In this process, the well
is produced at successively lower rates
until further reductions have no effect on
the stabilized gas–oil ratio.
Knowing where to make the
connection to the reservoir fluid is
critical. Conventional resistivity-density-
porosity log and core data help to
identify potential pay zones. Frequently,
the operator knows the target
reservoirs, and other openhole logs may
help to identify the best zones in the
well for sampling. For example, nuclear
magnetic resonance (NMR) logs, such as
those provided by the CMR* Combinable
Magnetic Resonance tool, are
particularly useful for determining the
zones that will be productive.
The MDT tool (Figure 2.1) consists
of a hydraulic sonde and probe module,
pump-out and flow control module and
an OFA* Optical Fluid Analyzer. The
basic MDT probe module that connects
to the formation contains a variable-
rate and volume pretest chamber, a
flowline fluid resistivity measurement
device, a temperature sensor and two
pressure gauges. One of these gauges is
a fast, high-precision CQG* Crystal
Quartz Gauge that allows sensitive
monitoring of drawdown pressures
during the sampling process. The basic
tool can be combined with one or more
sample chamber modules.
After connecting to the formation, the
sampling process involves pumping
formation fluid through the tool to the
borehole, or flowing it into chambers
carried as part of the tool. The first fluid
to flow will be mud filtrate from the
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X
y
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6
0.01
0.10
1
10
100
100% oil-base mud filtrate
Reservoir fluid
1 wt % oil-base mud filtrate
10 wt % oil-base mud filtrate
40 wt % oil-base mud filtrate
Figure 2.2: Sample
compositional analysis
for a hydrocarbon
sample contaminated
with varying
concentrations of oil-
base mud filtrate
Comments
Color
channels
Water,
oil
channels
Optical density
Inflate packer
Packer
pretest
Start
pumpout
Pumping
filtrate
Pumping oil
Stop
pumping
Start sample
Throttling
Change
throttle
Seal sample
Fluid flow
Gas
Gas detector
Lamp
Liquid detector
Light-emitting
diode
Water
Oil
Figure 2.3: OFA spectrometer and gas detector
near-borehole environment. Depending
on a number of factors, such as the
filtrate invasion depth and time spent
pumping, the sample will contain a
mixture of mud filtrate and virgin
formation fluid. Since the objective is to
obtain formation samples with
sufficiently low levels of mud-filtrate
contamination for PVT analysis,
operators must decide what level of
filtrate contamination is acceptable.
This depends on whether the fluids
are immiscible or miscible (see
Figure 2.2). Contamination becomes
much more critical when fluids are
miscible. In this case – either crude oil
and oil-base mud filtrate or connate
water and water-base mud filtrate –
contamination must be sufficiently low to
allow identification of the virgin fluid
properties. Oil-base mud filtrate in a
condensate is extremely problematical
because the small amount of liquid
that drops out of the gas mixes
completely with the filtrate to make a
highly contaminated liquid.
Recent studies have shown, for
example, that the ability to predict GOR
and saturation pressure to within 5%,
requires mud filtrate contamination to be
less than 20% by weight. The level of
filtrate that is tolerable depends on the
PVT precision requirements of end users
such as the reservoir engineer, and on the
nature of the reservoir fluid.Volatile oils
and condensate gases require a much
lower level of contamination.
Recently, several projects have been
initiated, in Norway, the UK and the USA,
to learn more about the effects of oil-base
mud contamination on the prediction of
hydrocarbon properties. One such joint
industry project is being conducted at
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK,
with support from Schlumberger and
several operators including Shell,
ExxonMobil and TotalFinaElf.
From earlier project work, it has now
been established that meaningful PVT
data can be determined for oil-base-mud-
contaminated black oil samples. Miscible
contamination of gas condensate samples,
however, still poses a challenge. The
current research is exploring new
methods, including tracers in the drilling
mud, to be able to back out the original
gas condensate fluid properties.
Understanding the limitations of collecting
openhole samples from wells drilled with
oil-base mud is essential.
Bringing samples to the surface while
maintaining their initial reservoir
properties is a major concern. As fluid
enters the tool, pressure drop must be
kept low to prevent the sampling pressure
from dropping below the formation fluid
bubblepoint or dewpoint. If solids, such as
asphaltenes, precipitate in the sample
chamber or the fluid outgases on its way
to the surface, the sample transfer may
yield fluids that do not accurately
represent those in the reservoir. The
subsequent process of transferring
samples from downhole sample chambers
to transportation containers can lead to
gas components escaping to the
atmosphere or solids being left in the
downhole sample chamber.
If sample fluids undergo phase
changes while being brought to the
surface, it can be difficult to recombine
the separated components. For example,
asphaltene precipitation produces solids
that stick to the chamber walls. Also, if
leakage occurs from the multiphase
fluid the overall composition changes.
However, pumping at downhole
hydrostatic or low differential pressures
into special pressurized sample
chambers helps to maintain reservoir
fluids in their original state.
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Accurate in-situ
measurement by
optical fluid analysis
The OFA module provides the flowline
fluid measurements needed to
distinguish sample contamination in a
wide range of complex environments
(Figure 2.3). It uses a combination of
visible and near-infrared absorption
spectrometry to record the intensity of
light transmitted through the MDT tool
flowline fluid at various wavelengths.
Light from a high-temperature
tungsten–halogen lamp passes through a
rugged sapphire window into the
flowline of the MDT tool. After passing
through the fluid sample, the light exits
through another sapphire and a series of
optical filters that split the transmitted
light into narrow-wavelength bands over
a broad range in the near-infrared
portion of the light spectrum. This is the
heart of the spectrometer.
Photodiode detectors attached to each
filter measure the reduction in light
intensity caused by the fluid moving
through the flowline. The observed light
transmission is controlled by the amount
of light both scattered and absorbed in
the fluid sample. In the spectrometer
measurement, the optical density of the
fluid characterizes the transmission. The
analyzer is sensitive to changes of
0.001% in light transmission.
Gas evolution during sampling must
be avoided, which means that sampling
pressures should be above bubblepoint
pressure. The OFA module has a gas
detector that checks for the presence of
gas in real time in the MDT tool flow
stream. Engineers can establish
sampling conditions, particularly
pressures, for which no gas evolves in
the crude oil. This allows a
representative sample to be collected.
Optical properties of
wellbore fluids
The transmission of light through the
fluid sample depends on the combined
effect of two distinct processes –
scattering and absorption. Both of these
processes affect light transmission and
the optical density measurement, and
can vary with the wavelength of
incident light.
Crude oil preferentially absorbs light
of particular wavelengths. The
absorption spectrum exhibits a series of
peaks with diminishing intensity at
shorter wavelengths (Figure 2.4).
The largest oil peak that can be seen
in the OFA spectrometer is at 1725nm.
Such vibrational peaks – located at
discrete wavelengths, or energies – are
like the resonant frequencies exhibited
by mechanical springs or tuning forks
and are comparable for most oils.
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O
p
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Channel number
Wavelength, nm
Crude A
Crude B
Water
500 1000 1500 2000
0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
1
2
3
4
Oil-base
mud filtrate
Diesel
Condensate
Figure 2.4: Laboratory oil and water optical spectra
Materials that are black, such as tar,
absorb the entire spectrum of visible
light through many different molecular
vibrational and electronic excitations. In
these cases, the absorbed light energy is
converted into heat.
Water also exhibits strong vibrational
absorption peaks that can be observed in
the spectrometer. Therefore, just as an
astronomer can tell what elements are
present in the upper atmospheres of
shining stars by the absorption lines that
Oil cut from flowmeters
O
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1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
Low flow rate
(150cm
3
/min)
High flow rate
(700cm
3
/min)
Figure 2.5: Verifying
OFA module oil-cut
measurements
occur in their continuous spectra,
reservoir engineers can differentiate oil
and water by virtue of their different
absorption peaks. Consequently careful
analysis of the relative contributions in
the near-infrared spectral channels helps
determine the oil and water fractions in
the MDT flowline (Figure 2.5).
If the particles are small compared to
the wavelength of the light, then the
intensity of scattering increases with
decreasing wavelength. This process is
known as Rayleigh scattering. For
example, mud solids – which originate
from other particulate material in the
flowline and clay particles ranging from
less than 400 to 4000 nm in size – are
excellent scatterers of light over the
entire wavelength range of the
spectrometer (Figure 2.6).
On the other hand, the presence of gas
reduces the degree of scattering and light
absorption in general. Gas presence can
often be inferred from the OFA
spectrometer data when the sum of the
oil and the water fractions present are
less than unity.
Muddy, steady, go!
In formations where the invasion is deep,
a large volume of mud filtrate may have
to be removed before sufficiently
uncontaminated formation fluid is
pumped into the sampling tool. The
pump-out module in the MDT tool has a
powerful pump that can discharge the
contents of the flowline fluid into the
wellbore against a differential pressure
of several thousand pounds per square
inch. After identifying a zone with high
production potential from which a
sample is to be recovered, engineers run
the pump until the optical spectrometer
measurements indicate that the mud
filtrate contamination level has stabilized
at a low value. At that time, the flowline
fluid is routed to the sample chamber.
The OFA module provides an accurate
and reliable distinction between gas and
liquid, oil and water, and crude oil and
oil-base mud filtrate. This prevents the
collection of poor-quality samples and
eliminates resampling time.
Clues in crude color
In addition to the strong vibrational
absorption peaks in the near-infrared
spectra, many crude oils exhibit a
continuous monotonic increase in their
absorption at shorter wavelengths
caused by the numerous overlapping
excitations from the large range of
different light-absorbing aromatic
molecules. The largest of these
molecules absorbs the longest
wavelength light, but the continuous
absorption spectrum tails off toward
zero at longer wavelengths because the
number of larger molecules decreases
with increasing size in crude oils.
This continuous tail in the optical
density extends across the spectrum
from the near infrared through the
visible spectrum and into the
ultraviolet. For this reason, the
absorption tail in the spectrum is used
to derive an index of coloration. Strictly
speaking, the observed color of most
substances is due to both wavelength-
dependent scattering and electronic
excitations in the material.
In the scattering process, photons in
the light beam interact with particles
and molecules in the fluid and are
deflected from the beam, reducing the
optical transmission. The extent of
scattering depends on the size of the
scattering particles relative to the
wavelength of the light.
When particles are large compared to
the light wavelength, the light is simply
reflected from the particle surface. For
instance, white paint is an excellent
scatterer of light and is opaque to light
transmission. Its scattering intensity is
not dependent on the particular
wavelength or color. Sand and other
particulate material in the flowline can
cause scattering and, if present in
sufficient quantities, prevent light from
being transmitted in the OFA flowline.
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Wavelength, m
Energy per
photon, eV
Objects of size
comparable to
wavelength Cosmic
rays
X-rays
rays
Ultraviolet
Visible
light
Radar bands
Infrared
UHF
VHF
HF
MF
LF
Television
Television
FM TV
R
a
d
i
o
Water and hydrocarbon
molecules
Sands
Gravel
Boulders
Rigs
Wells
10
–13
10
–12
10
–11
10
–10
10
–9
10
–8
10
–7
10
–6
10
–5
10
–4
10
–3
10
–2
10
–1
1
10
10
2
10
3
10
7
10
6
10
5
10
4
10
3
10
2
10
1
10
–1
10
–2
10
–3
10
–4
10
–5
10
–6
10
–7
10
–8
10
–9
Short
wave
Standard
broadcast
radio
Silts
Clays
Figure 2.6: Range of wavelengths
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In practice
Saudi Aramco’s Ghawar field is a
massive, complex, carbonate reservoir
that has been under flank-water
injection. It has thin, super-permeability
layers (10ft), which are generally
stratiform and in some cases fractured,
that are associated with high
productivity. Laterally extensive, super-
permeability beds in good vertical
communication with the rest of the oil-
bearing reservoir can significantly
increase both well productivity and
sweep efficiency.
However, isolated super-permeability
layers can cause early water
breakthrough, which adversely affects
oil recovery and increases operational
costs. Furthermore, large permeability
contrasts can complicate the effective
drainage of the lower porosity zones in
the lower part of the reservoir that
contain about 35% of the original oil in
place. A typical porosity log from the
Arab-D reservoir is shown in Figure 2.7.
Total flow 1
6600
6650
6700
6750
6800
Depth, ft
0 v/v 1
Limestone vol 1
Zone 2A
Zone 2B
Zone 3A
Zone 3B
Zone 4
Zone 1
Figure 2.7: Typical
porosity log from the
Arab-D reservoir
Determining oil properties in situ
The Shell Oil Company found good correlation between crude oil coloration and both GOR and API gravity. These important
new applications for optical fluid analysis continue to be actively researched.
By measuring differences in color transmission, engineers derived a hydrocarbon optical property (HOP) index. This shows
an excellent correlation with GOR (Figure 2.8).
These correlations were validated by laboratory PVT analysis of samples from formations in the Gulf of Mexico. A high GOR
means that there is a large gas fraction, which in turn means oil of a lighter color.
A crude oil property (COP) index was obtained by comparing the fluid absorption response in the visible wavelength
channels with the response in the longer, near-infrared wavelength channels. Figure 2.9 shows that this index correlates well
with the decreasing API gravity of the stock tank oil. As the API gravity of the crude oil decreases, heavy components such as
dense asphaltene fractions increase. This leads to an increase in absorption at shorter wavelengths and a subsequent
decrease in the color-based crude oil property index.
In-situ values are very important because they reflect the true nature of the reservoir fluid before it is brought to the
surface. Correlations between these measurements and subsequent laboratory PVT values help reduce the uncertainties in
the OFA-derived GOR and API measurements.
Figure 2.8: Correlation between GOR and
OFA-derived hydrocarbon optical property (HOP)
1 10
HOP index
G
O
R
,

s
c
f
/
S
T
B
10,000
1000
GOR = 812e
0.114 (HOP) API = 24e
0.028 (COP)
10
COP index
1 100
O
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g
r
a
v
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,

°
A
P
I
40
35
30
25
Figure 2.9: Correlation between API gravity and
OFA-derived crude oil optical property (COP)
Advanced reservoir
monitoring technology
in the Ghawar field
The main objectives of obtaining MDT*
Modular Dynamics Formation Tester
data in the Ghawar field are:
• to establish the vertical pressure
profile
• to obtain fluid samples in partly swept
zones, and establish water salinity and
movable oil fraction
• to measure the in-situ permeability for
use in reservoir simulation models.
Obtaining the vertical pressure
distribution is a primary focus because
this information clarifies the
communication between the super-
permeability, thin beds and the
surrounding high-porosity zones, as well
as the communication between high-
and low-porosity zones towards the
base of the reservoir.
Quantitative measurement of water
saturation is essential in understanding
water movement in the reservoir,
evaluating flood sweep efficiency, and
choosing future well locations.
The injection water in the Ghawar
field is very low salinity compared with
the connate water. The openhole,
electric wireline logs drilled behind the
flood front are impossible to interpret
quantitatively without a knowledge of
the R
w
. Figure 2.10 shows a vertical
pressure profile and the salinities
determined from MDT samples.
The MDT is able to pump fluids from the
formation until uncontaminated formation
fluid is observed (Figure 2.11). The R
w
determined from the sample can be used
in quantitative evaluation of wireline logs
to determine true water saturation.
The graph for the lowest zone in
Figure 2.11 also indicates that the truer
measured water cut from the MDT
sample, which is uncontaminated by
mud filtrate, shows unswept movable oil
that is not indicated by conventional
sampling methods.
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WC: 48%
Sal: 100 kppm
(60 kppm)
WC: 0%
Sal: 70 kppm
(60 kppm)
WC: 0%
Sal: 130 kppm
(60 kppm)
WC: 92-96%
Sal: 170 kppm
(60 kppm)
WC: 50%
0%
Sal: 300 kppm
(200 kppm)
4050 (psi)
Formation pressure
4200
NPHI
0 0.5
1 : 400
(ft)
6950
2A
2B
3A
3B
4
7000
7050
7100
7150
(ft
3
/ft)
NPHI
0 0.5
1 : 400
(ft)
6950
2A
2B
3A
3B
4
7000
7050
7100
7150
(ft
3
/ft)
WC: 100%
300 600 900 1200
Elapsed pump-out time, sec
1500
1.0
0.6
0.8
0.4
0.2
0
WC: 92–96%
600 1200
Elapsed pump-out time, sec
1800
1.0
0.6
0.8
0.4
0.2
0
WC: 50% (filtrate)
Actual WC: 0%
600 1200
Elapsed pump-out time, sec
1800 2400
1.0
0.6
0.8
0.4
0.2
0
600 1200 1800
Elapsed pump-out time, sec
2400
WC: 48%
1.0
0.6
0.8
0.4
0.2
0
Figure 2.10: Vertical pressure profile also showing
the actual salinity measurements obtained by the
MDT tool. Figures in parentheses indicate salinity
values previously used for saturation computations
Figure 2.11: Water cut measured using
the MDT in dual-packer mode. Note that
the lowest graph clearly shows the
significantly reduced water cut
measurement due to prolonged pump-out
eliminating filtrate in the sample
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In the Ghawar field, pressure and
saturation monitoring have been key
factors in achieving the overall reservoir
management objective of maximizing
recovery at the lowest cost.
Saudi Aramco is currently surveying
key, new wells drilled behind the flood
front using the MDT tester to obtain
pressure measurements, perform interval
tests, and take fluid samples along the
wellbore (see box – page 18). The
primary objective of the surveys is to
establish whether the super-permeability
beds, as well as the lower porosity zones,
are introducing differential pressure
depletion. The answer to this will directly
influence the completion and production
strategy of the field.
Obtaining fluid samples across the
reservoir zones is also a key part of the
surveys. This will establish water salinity
and movable oil fraction in zones such as
those with breakthrough, where the
injection and formation waters are mixed.
Determining the fraction of movable oil in
the lower porosity zones, where the
conventional openhole log results are
uncertain, is crucial in optimizing
recovery. It is also a powerful method for
evaluating the sweep in the matrix of the
lower zones where diffused fracture
density is higher and assists the dynamic
interaction between the two systems.
Ongoing monitoring in the Ghawar field
has shown that there is good vertical
communication in the higher quality zones
at the top of the reservoir, including the
super-permeability, thin beds. However,
local and reservoir-scale barriers as well as
differential depletion have been observed
towards the base of the reservoir.
Locating and identifying the lateral extent
of barriers between zones are among the
main reservoir management challenges in
the Ghawar field.
These barriers have resulted in poor
sweep efficiency leading to the
development of zones containing
bypassed oil. In areas where barriers are
present, dual completions with a
horizontal lateral are proving very
effective in maximizing recovery.
Low-shock sampling technique
P
P
Open valve
Closed valve
Resistivity
CQG
Strain gauge
Contamination
bubbles
Pressure
test chamber
Formation
fluid
Sample
chamber
Pump up/down
module
Sample fluid
Wellbore fluid
at hydrostatic
pressure
OFA
Figure 2.12: The
low-shock
sampling technique
limits pressure
drawdown during
fluid sampling
operations
The low-shock sampling technique was
developed to limit pressure drawdown
during fluid sampling operations. This
would, in turn, avoid phase separation
due to the pressure dropping below the
fluid’s bubblepoint. The shock is
minimized by pumping formation fluids
into the MDT tool against piston
chambers held at borehole pressure,
as opposed to drawing formation fluid
into the chambers at atmospheric
pressure (Figure 2.12).
This technique is frequently used for
sampling in unconsolidated sands,
where a typical problem is breakdown
and mobilization of sand grains. This
problem can be overcome by using a
single large-diameter probe and a
gravel-packed filter screen with a
large zone of the reservoir packed off.
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Density porosity
Depth, m
X100
X125
X150
Neutron porosity
p.u. 45 -15
Borehole
in. 6 16
GR
API 0 150
T
2
log mean
ms 0.1 1000
CMR Timur/Coates
permeability, md
Clean core
permeability, md
Induction
ohm-m
T
a
r
z
o
n
e
s
0.1 1000
TCMR
porosity, p.u. 40 0
CMR-FFI, p.u.
CMR 3-ms porosity, p.u.
Core porosity, p.u.
Density porosity
T
2
cutoff
ms 0.3 3000
T
2
distribution
Five-level averaging
on CMR data
Figure 2.13: CMR–MDT
tool combination used to
sample in a North Sea well
Lessons from Ghawar
Conventional tools for pressure and
saturation monitoring have limitations in
certain situations, and should be
integrated with other dynamic and
geological data when evaluating sweep
efficiency. MDT fluid identification
stations, using dual-packer, optical fluid
analyzer, and sampling, can effectively
quantify the amount of remaining
movable oil. Remaining movable oil
saturations of 5–7%, have been measured
by the MDT in swept areas of the field,
supporting the current reservoir
management practice of allowing water
production to improve sweep.
The existence of a super-permeability
layer can improve well productivity and
drainage (due to its large exposure) if it
is communicating vertically with the rest
of the reservoir layers. Localized
barriers are a very important factor in
vertical reservoir conformance.
Integrated answers
maximize sampling
efficiency
Wellsite efficiency is substantially
increased when MDT sampling depths
are guided by CMR results. The
in-situ dynamic MDT measurements
complement the CMR continuous
permeability log, and help confirm the
presence of producible hydrocarbons.
Modeling fluid flow 1
Figure 2.14: MDT in multiprobe mode
Rig time spent pumping and cleaning
up to minimize contamination has to be
kept to a minimum. Given that the probe
has properly penetrated the mudcake,
that the mudcake provides a good seal
from the borehole, and knowing the
depth of invasion from a resistivity
profile, a good estimate can be made of
how long it will take to remove the
filtrate layer in front of the probe.
To address this challenge and
develop better sampling strategies,
some companies have developed 3D
models to examine what happens to
the formation fluids in the region of the
sampling probe. The effects of various
parameters such as viscosity,
anisotropy and relative fluid
permeability were analyzed by
simulation and verified by sampling
field data. Modeling in this way
suggested a number of practical
methods to reduce cleanup time and
lower contamination levels.
In many wells, the zone of interest is
located between two closely spaced
shale beds. These provide a barrier
that prevents filtrate from flowing
vertically and recontaminating the
sample zone, so formation geometry
provides the solution.
Another approach is to use a
multiprobe tool (Figure 2.14) with one
probe acting as a guard probe to
isolate the sample-taking probe from
the natural vertical flow of the invading
filtrate. The third probe is used to help
in setting the tool and to provide a
monitoring function.
Using the guard-probe technique
reduces cleanup time by up to a factor
of three, and enables sampling in
formations where single-probe
methods cannot be applied.
In the North Sea, for example, CMR
and MDT data have been acquired for
Statoil (Figure 2.13). In this case, the
reservoir had low-resistivity pay zones,
and the 35p.u. well-sorted, fine to very
fine-grained sands contained iron-rich
glauconite and chlorite clay minerals.
The microporous glauconite reduces
the reservoir’s effective porosity. The
CMR tool has helped to identify mobile
oil, and to quantify irreducible water
saturation, effective porosity and bound
fluid volume. Core permeability results
available at the wellsite suggested that
the large high-porosity zone from X102
to X120m should be tested.
However, poor, free-fluid signals, the
absence of porosity and the short
relaxation decay times seen in the CMR
log identified this, and several other
smaller zones, as unproductive tar.
Without the CMR results, core studies
would have prompted multiple-sample
attempts throughout the tar zones. The
cores have been cleaned with a solvent
that removed all traces of the tar,
changing their effective permeability.
With the CMR logs, good MDT samples
were obtained, enabling the operator to
pinpoint a gas zone at X102.8m and oil
at X104.2m, just above the thick tar
zone, and to verify formation water in a
thin sand bed at X130.7m.
The impact of the CMR data in this
well was twofold. First, it provided a
better reservoir description – identifying
tar and gas zones as well as irreducible
water and free-water saturations.
Second, and more importantly, it helped
guide real-time operations with respect
to formation sampling – helping to
identify sampling depths and confirming
the anomalous tar zone.
Reading rainbows
in the mud
A key objective of the OFA measurement
is to distinguish between oil-base mud
filtrate and crude oil. Achieving this
objective is not as straightforward as
differentiating oil and water, where
operators can rely on readily
distinguishable absorption peaks. Oil-
base mud filtrate and crude oil have the
same base fluid – saturated alkanes.
Even though synthetic, oil-base mud may
contain chemical groups not found in
crude oils, such as esters, they are
predominantly alkane. Oil-base muds
exhibit near-infrared vibrational
absorption peaks similar to those of pure
alkanes. Thus, as far as using near-
infrared spectral analysis is concerned,
synthetic oil-base mud filtrates have the
same or a similar signature. On some
occasions, crude oils are used as the base
fluid, exacerbating the difficulties
associated with differentiation.
Nevertheless, an obvious distinction
becomes apparent when looking at the
colors of different crude oils and oil-base
mud filtrates. In fact, crude-oil coloration
extends into the near infrared, some way
beyond the visible range of the human
eye; the crude-oil coloration in the visible
and near-infrared exhibits huge variation
and is readily measured. The color of
crude oils and, to a large extent, filtrates
can be characterized by a single
parameter – coloration – that varies over
many orders of magnitude.
The electronics in the OFA module are
designed to measure slight variations in
coloration by using detection circuitry
with a high signal-to-noise ratio. This
permits sensitive optical absorption
measurements to be made over a wide
dynamic range. In addition, several of the
spectrometer channels are devoted
specifically to measurement of color, and
the wavelength location of these channels
is optimized to enhance this analysis. As a
result, high-precision measurement of
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filtrate decreases significantly at first.
Following this, the coloration usually
exhibits asymptotic behavior over long
periods. The vertical scale on individual
color channels can be expanded to
facilitate monitoring of the asymptotic
behavior. To obtain contamination at the
few-percent level, correspondingly small
variations in coloration are necessary.
When the coloration change with time is
coloration during sampling can be used
to monitor the transition in the MDT tool
flow stream from oil-base mud filtrate to
crude oil.
During sampling in a well that has
been drilled with oil-base mud, the
initial flow of fluid from the formation is
dominated by filtrate, so the first
coloration recorded is largely the color
of the filtrate. Over time, the fraction of
crude oil in the flow increases as the
flow cleans up. The miscible mixture of
crude oil and oil-base mud filtrate
coloration simply reflects the
corresponding fluid fractions. Thus,
coloration provides a continuous
measure of clean-up.
Frequently, the initial flow in the MDT
flowline exhibits rather large changes in
coloration, indicating that the fraction of
Modeling fluid flow 2
250-cm
3
monophasic
sample
'Floating'
piston
Pressure-
charged
nitrogen
Nitrogen pressure
transmitted to
the sample
through the
buffer fluid
'Floating'
piston
Reservoir fluid
Buffer fluid
Nitrogen
Recovering downhole samples for accurate PVT and
compositional analysis can be a problem as the single-phase
fluid cools during the journey to the surface. Even though the
sample has been trapped at the downhole conditions, the fall
in temperature results in a pressure drop within the sealed
chamber and causes the sample to pass its bubblepoint and
separate into gas and liquid (Figure 2.15).
The precipitation of asphaltene and paraffin causes major
problems in recombination and requires a lengthy
repressuring process.
One solution to this involves overpressuring the sample
chambers with nitrogen after they are taken at reservoir
conditions. Sample chambers are pressurized across two
pistons with a nitrogen gas chamber. This compensates for
the temperature-induced pressure drop as the samples are
returned to surface. The pistons act on a synthetic oil buffer
that ensures the sample is not contaminated by nitrogen.
The SPMC* Single-Phase Multisample Chamber (Figure 2.16)
is designed for use with the MDT multisample module.
L
i
q
u
i
d
f
r
a
c
t
i
o
n
,
%
Ambient temperature
Reservoir temperature
A. Initial reservoir conditions
B. Nitrogen-charged
D. Multiphase sample
C. Single-phase sample
Liquid
Conventional
SPMC
Multiphase zone
Gas
75%
Liquid %
50%
25%
0%
Critical point
100%
Temperature
P
r
e
s
s
u
r
e
Figure 2.15: Phase diagram of a typical crude oil indicating
the effects of possible sampling methods
Figure 2.16: Single-phase
sample chamber SPMC
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sufficiently small, sampling is performed.
With this method, sample contamination
levels below 10% are consistently
obtained in oil fields around the world.
Flow-stream analysis
The optical density and coloration
sampling method described previously is
used for most wells. However, in a well
drilled with synthetic, oil-base mud, the
OFA measurements show that base-oil
filtrate and other contaminants decrease
rapidly as they are pumped through the
MDT tool. In the field example in Figure
2.17, the MDT flow stream was
monitored with the OFA spectrometer.
The responses in channels 3 to 7 evolve,
indicating crude oil as the flow cleans up.
The OFA log suggests that after about
30min of pumping, little filtrate
contamination is present and the
coloration channels indicate that a
medium-gravity hydrocarbon sample is
flowing through the tool. In this well, the
optical density readings in all channels
have stabilized after 40min, indicating
that additional pumping would not
significantly reduce contamination
further. A formation sample was
collected at this time. After being
pumped into a sample chamber held at
wellbore hydrostatic pressure, the
sample fluid stayed single phase.
Laboratory analysis of the recovered
sample confirmed low synthetic, oil-base
mud contamination – less than 15%.
In some cases, engineers observe
different behavior. This is related to the
optical scattering process discussed
earlier. For particle sizes that are large
compared to the wavelength of light, the
scattering is independent of wavelength.
For example, when the MDT tool is
lowered into the well, the flowline fills
with mud. The OFA module records the
maximum optical density on all channels.
No light passes through the sample
because of scattering by the mud solids.
Once the mud in the flowline has been
flushed, the filtrate and formation fluids
obtained generally do not have
suspended solids, so the scattering
gradually diminishes to zero.
The future of sampling
Although there have been many
advances in sampling technology,
reservoir engineers, production
Elapsed time, min
O
p
t
i
c
a
l

d
e
n
s
i
t
y
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
0 10 20 30 40 50
Channel 3
Channel 5
Channel 4
Channel 7
60
chemists and process engineers who
use formation fluid data remain
concerned with the range and quality
of the PVT and compositional analyses
they obtain from sampling.
The main area of concern is the effect
of the level of contamination on fluid
analysis. Experts believe that they
understand what the acceptable levels
of contamination from water-base mud
and miscible, oil-base-mud filtrates are,
and that they know how to obtain
representative samples from formations
with black and volatile hydrocarbons.
With gas condensates, however, a
low level of oil-base mud filtrate
contamination can alter sample
behavior from a gas condensate to a
volatile oil. This problem is the subject
of continuing research.
Ongoing cooperation between those
who design and use equipment for the
acquisition of samples and sample data,
and the people who request and make
use of the data is the key to continuous
improvement in sampling technology.
Figure 2.17: Oil-base mud field example