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Successful Polymer Gels Application in a Highly Channeled Peripheral Injection Well: Tello Field Pilot
G. Maya, R. Castro, J. Sandoval, Z. Pachon, R. Jimenez, K. Pinto, V. Diaz, J. Zapata, and L. Perdomo,

Copyright 2014, Society of Petroleum Engineers

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Latin American and Caribbean Petroleum Engineering Conference held in Maracaibo, Venezuela, 2123 May
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents
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Tello Field is operated by ECOPETROL S.A. and located in the Upper Magdalena Valley Basin,
Colombia. It began production in 1972 and reached a maximum primary rate of 11, 200 BOPD in 1980.
A peripheral water injection process started in 1997, reaching a maximum secondary production of 15,
552 BOPD in 2000. From this date, water production has increased due to an unfavorable mobility ratio
(M 3.5) and a high permeability contrast (Dykstra-Parson coefficient: 0.8 - 0.9). The current recovery
factor is 22% and water cut is 92%.
This paper summarizes from the laboratory to the field evaluation of a successful polymer gel project
for controlling water thief zones, implemented as a strategy to reduce the phenomenon of channeling
identified between the injection well Te-49 and the producer well Te-46. The design includes laboratory
test (fluid fluid, fluid rock and cinetic reaction) to determine the right polymer and the necessary
polymer and crosslinker concentration to obtain consistency of the gel at the reservoir conditions.
Polymer gel injection began in October 2009, reaching 43, 400 bbl of solution injected (13% of channel
volume) and being the largest Latinoamerican polymer gel treatment until now. Injection strategy
considered a maximal polymer concentration of 7000 ppm and a fixed polymer/crosslinker ratio ranging
from 40:1 to control maximum injection pressure. Field results showed an important increase in oil
recoveries (oil production up to 300%) and a reduction in water cut (3%). Comparing these results to what
is normal obtained with this technology this is one of the most efficient process until now, this is more
relevant when taking into account the peripheral condition of the water injection.
This work led to design and implement processes for water injection channeling control to improve the
efficiency of water injection into other areas of the Tello field and other Colombian fields.

Tello field was discovered in 1972. It is located in the Upper Magdalena Basin (Figure 1). Production
comes mainly from the B1, B2, B3 and C units of the Monserrate formation, quartz arenites intercalateds
with lodolites. The sedimentary despostional enviromet is defined as transitional marine. These flow


Figure 1Tello Field Location.

units are highly heterogeneous (Dykstra Parsons 0.8). The porosity range goes from 16 to 22%, and
permeability of the reservoir rocks goes from 80 to 360 mD.
A peripheral water injection process began in 1997, increasing the field oil production; however, the
water cut increased rapidly to values of 92% due to the permeability contrast and unfavorable mobility
ratios (M 3.5). The field oil recovery factor is estimated in 22% of the OOIP.
The water channelling is one of the factors that mainly affects the water injection of the field, this
chanelling is presented through the sands with better petrophysical properties, specifically those with
higher permeabilities, making the secondary recovery process less efficient. Therefore, and as an option
to the field situation, a search for IOR strategies that would optimize oil recovery was performed. The
selected option is the implementation of polymer gels technology for reducing water channeling in the
injecting areas.
This work includes well to well production - injection history analysis, diagnostic charts analysis, fluid
motion study and geological characterization, which, added to the evidence of interference of wells,
corroborated the existence of preferential flow channels and its negative effects on the performance of
water injection.
According to the analysis, it is evident the presence of thief zones causing severe water chanelling
in different areas of the field, due to preferential flow of injected water to areas of high permeability,
which adversely affects the injection profile; reason why pilot tests were designed to reduce the flow
capacity of the thief zones to improve the efficiency of areal and vertical sweep.
Once identified the channeled sands, experimental studies were conducted (fluid fluid, rock fluid
and kinetics reaction) to determine the type of polymer to be used, and the polymer (partially hydrolyzed
polyacrylamide) crosslinker (Cr3) concentration ratio, to determine the characteristics of the gel that
best meets reservoir conditions (temperature, salinity, and others).
Finally, implementation of the first pilot wells for Ecopetrol S.A. was carried out, including the
peripheral injector Te-49, well QA / QC (quality analysis / quality control) analysis was performed.


Figure 2Methodology for the control of water thief zones in injection Wells

Results were evaluated by estimating the increase in oil production, the reduction in water cut and a
financial assessment involving surface facilities and necessary pumping equipment costs. Final result was
that the technology generates feasible technical and economical results.

Tello Field Evaluation

The selection of the pilot area was based on an analysis of field Tello, developed to demonstrate the
technical and economic feasibility of executing conformance treatments using gels. This analysis was
developed taking into account the current state of operation, including field visits to determine potential
benefits and limitations therein. The methodology used for the evaluation of the field is presented in
Figure 2, which was adapted from literature.


Figure 3Conformance pilot area

Figure 4 Production rates vs. Time (Te-46)

Diagnostic and candidates selection

This phase involved different stages, within which an analysis of influences between injectors and
producers, identifying direct relationships between them. Plate A of the field has two areas: north and
south sector (Figure 3), a review of type maps was performed, which allowed to identify candidates for
conformance treatments in the northern sector. Similarly, production curves were very useful for
establishing zones for possible conformance jobs. This zoning was necessary to connect producers with
injectors and verify the direct effect of every injector on the diferent influenced producers. The irregularity
of the patterns is mainly because the water injection project in this field has been carried out peripherally
(edge-water injection).
Once selected Plate A of the Field, it was observed that in the northern sector there is strong evidence
of injected water channeling to the producers. As shown in production vs. Time (Figure 4) and WOR vs.
Np charts (Figure 5), there is a strongly marked change in the slopes of these curves approximately 7
months after the start of water injection (December 1998) in the peripheral injector I-49 to the producer


Figure 5WOR vs. Np (Te-46)

I-46. This change is due to premature water breakthrough in the producing well, which, at the moment,
was the only well draining the area.
Injection logging tes records (ILT) of the I-49 well, corroborated the results of the analysis with
production curves, indicating that much of the injected water is being preferentially taken by sands B1
(80%). This analysis (ILTs) combined with the distribution of open to injection and production intervals,
contributed to the selection of the candidate well for the assessment of technology well conformance to
improve the profile injection.
In general, the criteria for selection of wells candidates for application of conformance treatments are
summarized below:

Wells located in areas with high mobile oil remaining

Wells with clear evidence of injected water channeling
Wells with a history of poor vertical injection distribution
Low secondary recovery efficiency in the pattern (low recovery factor)
High flow rates with low pressure injection
Injection pattern preferably confined

Having into account the above parameters, the I-49 well was confirmed in order to improve the
volumetric sweep and evaluate the benefits to be obtained with the application of conformance treatment.
However, it was clear that as the injection well is peripheral there was a risk of losing the chemical
materials into the aquifer.

Polymer Gels Technology

The technology of polymer gels in hydrocarbon industry had its beginnings in the 60s. In 1968 Donald
C. Goetz, in the U.S. Patent 3, 383, 307, explained the formation of polymer gels and their use both, to
replace the water in a displacement process (polymer flood) and to blockage (chemical conformance). In
1973, James W. Gall Patent wrote the U.S. Patent 3, 762, 476, concerning to groundwater permeability
correction, by injecting polymer gels in the producing formations. The aforementioned first paper raises
the possibility of correcting the permeability of a formation by obtaining a gel formed by binding of a
polymer with a metal ion, called crosslinker. The invention assigned to Gall detailing the need to inject
a first volume of polymer - water solution at a specific concentration follow by the injection of a metal


Figure 6 Mechanism of gelation process for polymer gels

ion, hoping that both react in the formation to obtain the gel. The field applications of Galls invention,
however, did not yield positive results for the reduction of water associated with oil production.
In 1987 a new patent was granted in the United States for the application of polymer gels in
hydrocarbon reservoirs to R. Sydansk and P. Argabright. In this case the chemistry of polymeric gels
remains unchanged in its concepts, but this time the polymer and the crosslinker are mixed from surface,
and are injected into the formation at the same time (water polymer crosslinker), then, a soak period
is given for the formation of the polymer gel.
The technique developed by Sydansk & Argabright showed its efficiency when used in 29 treatments
in the U.S. state of Wyoming. The greatest benefit was obtained when the polymer gels were used in
injection wells, so that the production of water associated with oil production influenced by the process
considerably decreased. In total, 29 treatments produced 3.7 million of additional barrels at an average
cost of 0.34 USD per barrel.
Because of the results described in the preceding paragraph, the technology of polymeric gels became
an important option for treating water injection process with characteristics of preferential flow. Numerous applications have been carried out since then, with positive average results.
The technology of polymeric gels (mixture of a high molecular weight polymer poly partially
hydrolyzed acrylamides - and a crosslinking agent - chromium triacetate - Figure 6) is a design to reduce
the flow of water in high permeability formations. They have the ability to form in extreme conditions
such as high concentrations of H2S, CO2, dissolved solids, and moderate temperatures ( 220 F). Once
the gelation occurs at site, the water inflow into the well are usually reduced to less than 25% of the rates
of production pretreatment. This reduction in water permeability increases permeability to oil and allows
the water injection process contact unswept areas.

Polymer Gel Laboratory Evaluation for Tello Field

Before the polymer gel pilots, experimental procedures were developed to optimize the design and
implementation of the chemical injection process.
Fluid fluid tests
Initial solutions were prepared with 12000 ppm of polymer (partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide) and
5000 ppm of crosslinking agent in the injection water. From these solutions four sets of gels were
prepared, for which the polymer concentrations ranged from 2000 to 8000 ppm, with a polymercrosslinker ratio 20:1, 40:1 and 80:1. Two sets of gels were stored at room temperature, while the other
two were stored at reservoir temperature (160 C in this case).


Table 1Gel evaluation Tello Field.

Figure 7Visual gel evaluation Tello Field.

To the gels preserved at reservoir temperature potassium thiocyanate (KSCN) was added to act as
oxygen scavenger, in a polymer: KSCN relation of 10:1, in order to consume the dissolved oxygen present
and to minimize gel degradation. Additionally vacuum was generated to evacuate possible air (oxygen)
present in each solution and sealing the tubes under partial atmosphere of nitrogen.
Subsequently, the samples were kept under observation by the methodology of Sydansk at periods of
4, 24 and 48 hours, 1 week, 2 weeks and 1 month as shown in Table 1 and in Figure 7.
Through these analyzes and experimental evaluations, it was found that the polymer formed stable and
strong gels when interacting with the cross-linker in different waters and reservoir temperature, so it might
be recommended for the treatment of the field, preferably at concentrations less than or equal to 7000 ppm
of polymer and crosslinker relation 40:1.
Fluid rock test
This stage consists of displacements in real formation plugs, previously characterized (basic and special
core analysis) with a permeability contrasts that allow represent different layer flow capacities. These
plugs are placed in parallel, as illustrated in Figure 8.


Figure 8 Parallel core holder equipment.

A displacement test is run to look for the tendencies that govern the phenomena involved. The
test starts with the restored plugs to conditions of
irreducible water saturation (Swir), and proceeded
to perform a common water injection for the three
core holders until total water cut, adding all effluent,
of 98%, thereby obtaining a baseline and injection
profile. The system is brought back to Swir restarting the water injection process. When breakthrough
of water in the first core holder is present proceeds
to inject to the entire system the polymer gel in the
selected test fluid - fluid, such as performed in field
applications, water injection resuming again until a
Figure 9 Injection profile comparison.
total water cut of 98%, resulting in the injection
profile modified by the polymer gel. Results from
both stages are compared to determine the benefit of
the gel injection based on the total recovery system.
A comparison of the results obtained clearly demonstrates the benefit of the polymeric gel injection.
The plug that in the first stage did not allow water injection showed a recovery of 70% and; as expected,
the other two plugs improved their sweep. The total recovery increased from about 40% to 78%. Figure
9 presents a comparison of the injection profile before and after gel injection.
Reaction Kinetics
The velocity of a gel - formation reaction is studied in literature in terms of the storage modulus (G) for
the same. In this analysis the phase angle () between the storage modules and loss (G) is also important.
Figure 10 shows the values of G and phase angle () in function of time. The behavior obtained identifies
the polymer forming reaction as of pseudo gel order. As the polymeric component is in excess in the
solution, stoichiometry is not considered. In the same figure, the behavior of the phase angle is important;
going down and staying near zero values gel tendency to behave as a solid rather than a fluid. Reaction
velocity could be obtained from the natural logarithm of G, which presents different linear trends.


Figure 10 G y showing a seudo order relationship.

Treatment Design
An estimation of the treatment volume to be injected was made. For this, the volume of the channel is the
most important factor, because the gel volume injected is based primarily on a percentage of the total
volume of the thief zone or channel (5% to 30%). This volume was estimated from WOR vs Np charts
for well channeled Te-46. It is assumed that the channel volume is the volume of oil displaced from the
beginning of the process of water injection and the abrupt change in the slope of the curve (see Figure 5).
An increase in the slope of the curve WOR vs. Np means an increase in water production accompanied
by a decrease in oil (channeling effect).
According to available literature, the critical parameter (apart from economic considerations) that
dictates the amount of gel in most cases is the pressure response during gel injection. Typically, a rapid
response and abrupt pressure rise indicates the volume of the channel is relatively small, while if the
injection of the gel is not accompanied by a response of pressure, or slightly increased at the beginning
of the injection, it is most likely to be an extended channel and hence higher volumes of gel are required.
Therefore, it is of vital importance to determine the fracture pressure and the highest operating pressure
to compare every moment with the injection pressure along the treatment, which dictates necessary
variations in terms of gel concentrations. Generally, wells with high delta pressure will be accompanied
by high concentrations of gel. This analysis is essential to check the possibility of application of any gel

Pilot Implementation and Monitoring

Field application began in October 2010 in the peripheral injector Te- 49. For the implementation of the
pilot, it was necessary to have the services of a specialized company in the application of technologies
designed to increase the recovery factor and improve the performance of water injection projects, which
include mobility process and polymer gel systems.
During the treatment in Te-49 1000 Bbl / day of gel where injected at an initial concentration of 2000
ppm that rose to 7000 ppm. For monitoring, physicochemical analyzes were performed by the QA / QC
(quality analysis / quality control) team to the water injection equipment used to prepare the polymer and
the properties of the polymer and crosslinker solution (polymer concentration, density checked, viscosity,
concentration of cross-linker) were verified all the time. Operating parameters were checked to ensure



Figure 11Pumping conditions T-49.

compliance in the times, amounts of materials and pumping volumes as scheduled to inject a volume of
43, 400 barrels of polymer gels (Figure 11).
Field operation is simple, surface equipment consists of a system for receiving and storing water (Frac
Tank), an electric generator and an electronically controlled injection unit, which consists of a feed hopper
polymer, a crosslinker dosifier system, a mixing of the injected fluid (water, polymer and crosslinker) and
a pumping unit triplex type.

Polymer Gel Pilot Results and Project Expansion

The evaluation of the conformance treatment in the I-49 well is conducted by comparing the production
of oil and water, before and after the process, besides the analysis of variables such as oil water ratios and
water cut. Evaluating information, practically, it is the same as discussed in the candidate selection
process; however, it is complemented with economic evaluations and comparison with other similar
For evaluation, every well was reviewed individually; then, an overall assessment of the pattern was
developed, including all the production wells associated with the injector. Subsequently, a collection of
events from all wells involved in the pilot to abort the phenomena that may mask the response to treatment
(extraction system changes, well repairs, etc.) was performed. Events in the wells were analyzed to reduce
uncertainty about the increase or decrease in production from closures or openings of sands, reperforating, isolations, packings, sand control, dropouts, etc., knowing in this way clearly when improvement is due to the direct effect of the gel injection.
The main objective of the infrastructure installed in southern Colombia is to increase by 2% the
recovery factor of the intervention area. According to the pilot phase results some wells have increased
production by 300% and decreased water cut by 3%. In Figure 12, the current production trend of oil rate
and water cut from Te-46 well, well directly influenced by injection into the TE -49.
To date there have been produced 173,000 bbl of incremental oil in the Te- 46 well of 340,000 from
all wells influenced by the pilot, and a total of 450,000 Bbl expected to December 2014 (10 times the
volume of injected polymer gel, surpassing results reported in literature for this type of projects, where
between 2 and 3 incremental oil barrels per barrel of injected gel are expected). Table 2 presents treatment



Figure 12Production trend in proucer T-46.

Table 2Bulk gel treatments in matrix rock with crossflow.

MPV, Bbls

Gel Volume
% MPV*

Inc. Oil
% Gel Vol



Other Polymer

Ag Farms
Indian Tree
N. Rainbow
Raven Creek
Minnelusa #1
Breed Creek
Hawk Point







Time to Gel


6 Months
18 Months
1 Month
1 Month
6 Months
3 Months
1 Month
6 Months

9 Months
2 Months

2.5 Years
2 Years
3 Years
3 Years
2.5 Years
2.5 Years
2 Years

*MPV- Moveable Pore Volume in Channel

**Gel treatment cost per incremental BBL of oil recovered as a result of the treatment

conditions of polymer gels injected around the world, including the case study of this paper. From these
data it can be analized the relationship between some design variables, such as channel volume and the
percentage of injected treatment gel, and its influence on the incremental oil that can be obtained. A
comparison between the treatment performed on Ag Farms, which has a recovery factor close to the
Tellos pilot, and a small percentage of gel used, the results of incremental oil for Te- 49 are much better.
Having into account data presented in the table above and establishing a relationship between the
amount of injected gel and the recovered oil, there can be obtained a graph as shown in Figure 13 where
the trend line shows that for small percentages of the volume of the channel injected as gel treatment,
small values of incremental oil are obtained; while if the percentage of the injected gel is above 30 % the
values of incremental oil obtained are much larger, making the cost per incremental barrel recovered much
lower. The chart also shows that a pair of points are above the trend, in the case of Minnelusa # 1 and Te49 where greater oil recovery in relation to the volume of gel used is shown, these results are attributed



Figure 13Relationship between gel volumen injected and incremental oil recovery.

to the gel volume applied, although Minnelusa #1 differs from Te- 49 because it had already previously
had other polymer treatment.
Due to good results, expansion of the process was designed for the Te-4, I-7, I-61, I-23, I-37 and I-38
wells of the field and for other Ecopetrol S.A. fields, MG-54, MG-1, SF-179, SF-104, SF-13; in which,
in general terms very good technical and economic results have been obtained.
In terms of net present value results are 9.1 MUSD with an investment efficiency of 7.94 (2.58 USD
per incremental oil barrel).

The technology of polymer gels for thief zones control is an option that can be used as a complement to
optimize water injection processes, also applies to peripheral injection processes in highly heterogeneous
The designed methodology reduces the inherent risk of applying chemical conformance treatments.
The steps described in this work increase the chances of achieving positive results in optimization of water
The study developed not only allowed to implement the first pilot of the technology in Ecopetrol S.A.,
also allowed the incorporation of laboratory protocols and engineering analyzes required to return feasible
the technology and make it an option for optimizing reservoir.

The authors express their gratitude to Ecopetrol S.A. for allowing the publication of these results and for
their generous support throughout the project. Particularly to the Reservoir Management (GDY), Huila Tolima Superintendence (SOH) and the Colombian Petroleum Institute (ICP). Also to the production
chemistry laboratory of the ICP and the Company TIORCO for its accompaniment and support in the
design and execution of the field work.

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