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SPE 165277

Integrated Approach in Deploying Low Salinity Waterflooding

T.G. Sorop1, B.M.J.M. Suijkerbuijk1, S.K. Masalmeh2, M.T. Looijer1, A.R. Parker1, D.M. Dindoruk3, S.G. Goodyear4,
1
and I.S.M. Al-Qarshubi
1

Shell Global Solutions International, Shell Technology Oman, Shell International Exploration and Production, Shell Global Solutions (UK)

Copyright 2013, Society of Petroleum Engineers


This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Enhanced Oil Recovery Conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2-4 July 2013.
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 of the paper have not been
reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of SPE copyright.

Abstract
Low Salinity Waterflooding (LSF) is an emerging IOR/EOR technology that can improve oil recovery efficiency by lowering
the injection water salinity. Field scale incremental oil recoveries are estimated to be up to 6% STOIIP. Being a natural
extension of conventional waterflooding (WF), LSF is easier to implement than other EOR methods. However, the processes
of screening, designing and executing LSF projects require an increased operator competence and management focus
compared to conventional waterflooding. This paper discusses the practical aspects of deploying LSF in fields, focusing on the
maturation stages, while highlighting the key success factors.
LSF deployment starts with a portfolio screening against specific surface and subsurface screening criteria to
prioritize opportunities. Next, the identified opportunities are run through reservoir conditions SCAL tests to quantify the LSF
benefits, while de-risking the potential for any injectivity loss due to clay swelling or deflocculation. Standardized LSF SCAL
protocols have been incorporated into the general WF guidelines, so that any suitable new WF project conducts LSF SCAL.
For mature waterfloods, this SCAL program provides additional reservoir condition relative permeability data, enabling
operating units to optimize well and reservoir management (WRM). The next steps in the process are production forecasting,
facilities design, and project economics for the LSF opportunity. The multidisciplinary nature of LSF deployment requires
integrated (sub)surface technology teams closely collaborating with R&D and asset teams. The standardization of the facilities
design, including cost models, can significantly accelerate the deployment effort.
In Shell, LSF is currently at different stages of deployment around the world and across the whole spectrum of WF
projects, from the rejuvenation of brown fields to green field developments (offshore and onshore). The LSF deployment effort
is combined with the screening of other EOR technologies, to identify where LSF may be able to unlock additional value by
creating the appropriate conditions for subsequent chemical flooding.
Introduction
Low Salinity Waterflooding (LSF) is a rapidly emerging Improved/Enhanced Oil Recovery (IOR/EOR) technology that
improves microscopic sweep efficiency by lowering and optimizing the injection water salinity. There is increasing
experimental and field evidence that in sandstones LSF improves the oil recovery by wettability alteration of the reservoir rock
towards a more water-wet state. Direct evidence for this wettability change has been provided by Berg et al. (2010) and Cense
et al. (2011) see Figure 1.
In order to change the wettability brine salinity needs to be reduced below a threshold level, believed to be around 5,000
mg/L. If the salinity is further reduced to very low values (well below 1,000 mg/L) this may lead to clay swelling and/or
deflocculation, which in turn may plug the rock pores and lead to injectivity decline. Consequently, there is a relatively narrow
salinity window in which LSF maximizes recovery, yet avoids clay swelling and/or deflocculation. While the exact values of
these thresholds depend on the types, structure and distribution of the resident clays on the pore surfaces, and have to be
established experimentally for each candidate field, most of the field cases investigated so far indicate that the optimal salinity
is around 1,0002,000 mg/L.

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HS = Oil wet

LS = Water wet
Figure 1 Experiment showing explicitly a wettability change from a more oil-wet situation (top) to a more water-wet situation
(bottom) during exposure to low salinity brine.(See Mahani et al. 2013)
While currently there is no general consensus in the industry about the exact microscopic mechanism which causes the
LSF effect, a number of publications have indicated that double layer expansion is key (Ligthelm et al. 2009; Nasrallah et al.
2012; Hassenkam et al. 2012). The challenge remains to effectively screen or prioritize fields with respect to their LSF
potential based on certain a priori criteria, let alone to accurately predict the incremental recovery to be gained by LSF. For
this reason Special Core Analysis Laboratory tests (SCAL) play a crucial role in quantifying the LSF effect.
Typical field scale incremental oil recoveries for LSF are estimated to be up to 6% of Stock Tank Oil Initially in Place
(STOIIP). While generally lower than the incremental oil from other EOR techniques, there are important additional benefits
associated with LSF deployment that also make the technology attractive (partly discussed in Collins 2011):
lower CAPEX and OPEX costs than the alternative EOR technologies;
reduced potential for reservoir souring (depending on the LSF water source);
reduced scaling (depending on the LSF water source);
improved injectivity (due to lower suspended solids content);
lower corrosivity of injection brine;
synergy with polymer flooding and other chemical EOR technologies.
Despite these beneficial factors, LSF deployment can be a slow process (see Reddick et al. 2012).
Some of the aspects that make the deployment process slow are generally valid for any new EOR technology such as the
fact that asset teams dont normally have the specialist knowledge to progress these options as an integral part of life cycle
development planning. Since EOR deployment is targeting maximizing oil recovery over the duration of the production license
it requires maintaining a long-term vision. Moreover, the lack of expertise with IOR/EOR operations in the field leads to a
conservative approach by decision makers and delays deployment.
LSF deployment also carries a few specific risks. For instance, fresh water injection is sometimes associated with
formation damage. A successful LSF project requires designing the flood in such a way that additional oil is generated, while
remaining outside of the clay damage salinity-composition envelope, under normal operating conditions and in all possible
transient and upset conditions. Another important challenge is that the upfront estimation of incremental oil is (often) based on
limited information. While being a natural extension of conventional waterflooding (WF), the processes of screening,
designing and executing LSF projects require an increased operator competence and management focus compared to
conventional waterflooding.
While our recent paper (Sorop et al. 2013) focused on ways to accelerate the LSF deployment in fields across the Shell
portfolio, this paper focuses on integration and the decision-driven approach the as key success factors.

Deployment Process
In order to be successful any technology deployment has to be aligned with the general decision-driven opportunity
realization process (ORP), which is the framework used in Shell to facilitate any decisions on capital projects. For LSF
deployment this has the advantage of ensuring commitment from management at both local and central level, providing

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alignment between different parts of the organization. In order to achieve this, we have developed a deployment workflow
with clear steps, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. The main steps in this workflow are:
1. High level portfolio screening (to identify field candidates)
2. Execution of the LSF SCAL program (to assess the size of the LSF effect at coreflood level)
3. Subsurface production forecast (to determine the size of the prize to the field level)
4. Facilities line-up and cost estimate
5. Project Economics
We describe below in detail each of these steps. Once these are completed a decision to move to the next (Assess) and
subsequent phases can be made.
Step 1: High level portfolio screening
The first deployment step consists of screening LSF opportunities against a set of screening criteria. This is part of the
"Identify" phase of the ORP framework and its primary goal is prioritizing the fields/reservoirs with respect to their LSF
potential.
The main subsurface screening criteria have been established based on the increasing consensus in the industry (see, for
instance, Hughes et al. 2010 and DECC LSF Workshop 2012). These are the following:
i. Formation brine should be of (relatively) high salinity. (While no clear cut boundary has been defined, the currently
accepted level seems to be of total dissolved solids concentration (TDS) higher than 10,000 mg/l, although there seem
to be exceptions to this rule.)
ii. Injected brine should be of low salinity, below a certain threshold TDS (empirically found to be between 3,000-5,000
mg/l).
iii. The reservoir rock should contain active clay minerals, dispersed over the pore surface.
iv. The reservoir wettability should be non-water-wet.
Note that the last two criteria often require performing laboratory tests and may not be always readily available for all the
relevant rock types or classes.
These criteria need to be considered together with other surface and/or practical screening criteria, such as:
the field should be a waterflood candidate or waterflood is already ongoing;
the field should have a relatively good (projected) waterflood sweep efficiency (since LSF increases primarily the
microscopic sweep, a poor volumetric sweep would erode the benefit at the field scale);
the throughput of water (in terms of, for instance, HCPV per year) should not be too low; a low throughput may have a
negative impact on the timing of arrival of the incremental oil and on the NPV
the project should be in the early phases in ORP so that LSF can be considered alongside other options prior to reaching
concept selection;
the size of the prize should be large enough to warrant LSF implementation;
there should be a large enough LS water source either readily available or that can be produced cheaply;
there should be enough space available to fit the desalination facilities (for the cases that LS brine is not readily
available);
there should be readily available disposal option for the highly saline reject stream produced by the desalination unit.
A good example where working in an integrated way makes a difference in Shell is the fact that LSF screening has been
incorporated in Shells global waterflood health checks, which are regularly conducted by experts on all its assets. The result is
that any new waterflood candidate or any waterflood redevelopment is screened against the criteria listed above, reducing the
likelihood of missing opportunities. Once the candidates have been identified and ranked, the most prominent candidates are
further selected for implementation and follow the steps 25 as described below.
Step 2: Execution of the LSF SCAL program
An essential next step in the deployment process is collecting data to reduce the subsurface uncertainties, addressing in
particular the items (iii) and (iv) listed under subsurface screening criteria. This is done by executing SCAL tests for each
selected field opportunity.
There are other additional reasons for performing SCAL tests. Firstly, the current understanding of subsurface screening
criteria is not complete and leaves sufficient uncertainty in a priori predictions of incremental recovery with LSF. Therefore,
reservoir conditions SCAL tests are required to determine the size of the prize. Secondly, given the potential risks of about
subjecting a reservoir to relatively fresh water the SCAL program helps to demonstrate that injection of low salinity brine, if
designed properly, does not inherently lead to formation damage, and in fact it rarely does so.
Therefore, the main objectives of a LSF SCAL program are the following:
Determine the relative permeability and capillary pressure curves for high and low salinity brine; this makes possible
scaling up the size of prize from core-plug to field scale by using reservoir simulations.
De-risking the potential injectivity decline due to clay swelling or deflocculation by performing brine compatibility
tests. If injection is just going to be in the oil column it is important that these tests are also performed in cores

SPE 165277

conditioned to Swi with oil, since measurements with 100% brine saturated cores may lead to overly conservative
results.
Typically a LSF SCAL program consists of a combination of core flooding, spontaneous imbibition and centrifuge
experiments. For core flooding it is important to perform both tertiary and secondary mode unsteady-state (USS) tests to be
able to measure independently the relative permeability curves for high and low salinity brines. Note that tertiary mode
flooding experiments alone cannot be used to measure the relative permeability curve of the low salinity waterflood because it
only spans a narrow saturation range.
The experimental data need to be interpreted by using numerical simulations to get the true relative permeability and
capillary pressure curves and to eliminate the impact of the capillary end effect, which can otherwise lead to unrealistic
relative permeabilities not representative of reservoir displacements. This feature is particularly important for experiments
performed at low (i.e. field representative) rates (Masalmeh, 2012).
To improve the quality of the SCAL data and interpretation, we strongly recommend using in-situ saturation monitoring
during core flooding. This (i) improves the uniqueness of the history match of the numerical simulation and (ii) it provides
direct evidence of the LSF effect, i.e. it shows whether the additionally swept oil is produced uniformly along the core (and
hence may be representative for reservoir scale) or only from the region close to the outlet (as a result of a change in a
capillary end effect which is, not relevant to the reservoir scale).
Based on the above mentioned considerations, in Shell we standardized the LSF SCAL protocols. To ensure the quality
of the experiments and the validity of their interpretation, centrally appointed teams of experts closely work in an integrated
way with both the operating units and with the laboratories executing the experimental work. As a further step in making LSF
deployment successful, the LSF protocols have been incorporated into the general WF guidelines. As a result of that any
suitable new WF project conducts LSF SCAL as part of the general WF SCAL.
Since SCAL may often be time-consuming, conducting full experimental programs on all LSF opportunities may lead to
project delays. To address this important issue, in parallel with the LSF deployment, Shell R&D is continuing its research on
the LSF mechanism (Mahani et al. 2013) while investigating ways to prioritize fields with regards to their LSF potential on the
basis of relatively easy to measure variables (Suijkerbuijk et al. 2013). This would enable a better a priori ranking of the
candidates and running the full SCAL programs selectively on these prioritized candidates and highlights the importance of
close collaboration between R&D and technology deployment teams.
Our experience shows that, in order not to delay the deployment process, it is important that SCAL is commenced as
early as possible in the ORP while being accompanied in parallel by facilities design, production forecasting and project
economics (steps 3-5, below). Strategy-wise, the question is whether SCAL should be the first step towards field trials or is it
sufficient to provide an indication for the LSF potential of a field to open the road to field implementation. For LSF several
field trials have been reported in the literature such as log-inject-log (Vledder et al. 2010; Webb et al. 2003) or single-well
chemical tracer tests (Seccombe et al. 2008) as well as an inter-well test (Seccombe et al. 2010). Without discussing the merits
and the differences between the various methods, we recognize that in the demonstration phase of the technology field trials
are a necessary requirement. However, past the demonstration phase, in the deployment phase one has to weigh the benefits of
acquiring field data against the potential erosion of the value of applying LSF that may be incurred when a field trial is
performed in a challenging environment. Especially in deepwater offshore environments field trials may be prohibitively
expensive or extremely difficult to execute and subsequently interpret. Moreover, for major projects delaying the start of
waterflooding may lead to additional losses in NPV.

Step 3: Subsurface (production) forecasting


The next step in the workflow is using the results provided by SCAL for subsurface /production forecasting. The most
accurate way is to directly use the measured relative permeabilities and capillary pressures in representative full field or sector
reservoir models. This has the advantage of using realistic project constraints, such as contract length, in-fill drilling, water-cut
constraints, etc It is essential that this type of modeling is done in integrated fashion with petroleum engineers, geologists and
petrophysicists from the asset.
In terms of modeling, the Shell in-house simulator has been adapted to capture key aspects of low salinity flooding such
as local wettability changes the effect of mixing between the injected brine and the connate brine, heterogeneities-induced
dispersion and the effect of water-oil gravity drainage.
It is worth mentioning here that currently there are at least two different ways of modeling the wettability change at the local
scale. One can either adopt a sudden relative permeability (relperm) switch, in which the relperms switch from the high
salinity relperms to the low salinity relperms if a critical concentration of low salinity brine in a grid block is reached, or a
gradual relperm switch between high salinity and low salinity, in which the relperms are interpolated in between the high
salinity and low salinity end members as a function of the salinity in the grid block. Both methods have their merits and our inhouse simulator has the flexibility to use either.
In close collaboration with Shell R&D, clear guidelines on how to set-up and run such models (including detailed
guidelines on the grid sizes and time stepping) have been released allowing operating units and study teams to quickly perform
simulations and produce subsurface forecasts of the required granularity.

SPE 165277

Finally, another important aspect covered by guidelines is how to generate quick provisional subsurface forecasts in case
the SCAL program is delayed and the relative permeabilities and capillary pressure curves are not yet available during the
Identify phase. This is done by projecting analog core scale recoveries and linking them to the expected areal and vertical
sweep efficiency in the field. Although analog core data may be used during the Identify phase, the proper SCAL procedures
need to be executed to progress to the next phase.
Step 4: Facilities design
Power
gen

clean-in
place skid

Desalination

Coarse
filtration

Fine
filtration

RO
pumps

Customized
RO

Caisson

Riser

Sea water
lift pumps

Pipeline

O2
removal

Injection
pumps

Riser
Dispersion
system

Flow
lines

Injection
wells

Figure 2. High level LSF facilities block diagram for an offshore opportunity with seawater as water source (here grey color
is used for "conventional/standard WF and red is used for LSF incremental. For LSF the size of sea water lift pumps and
filtration units is larger than for conventional W.
The facilities design concept used in Shell for LSF deployment is based on the novel desalination scheme pioneered by
Ayirala et al. (2010). The advantage of this process is that it provides the desired injection water composition to suit the
specific formation, avoiding clay-swelling and deflocculation, while at the same time mitigating other critical issues such as
reservoir souring and scaling.
A typical (high-level) diagram for desalination facilities is shown in Figure 2 in which the conventional waterflooding
facilities (shown in gray) are compared to the LSF facilities (the incremental facilities are shown in red). While this particular
example refers to an offshore development in which the injection water source is seawater, the LSF facility block diagram is
sufficiently general to illustrate the main features.
The key component of the surface facilities for desalination (shown schematically in Figure 2, in red) is the Reverse
Osmosis (RO) unit, which is a semi-permeable membrane (usually used for drinking water purification from seawater
removing salt). The conventional waterflooding contains here both a coarse filtration unit (often present in waterfloods) and a
fine filtration unit (less often present). However, for LSF the fine filtration is a requirement since the water quality
specification required for an optimal operation of a RO unit is very tight.
While similar to a Sulphate Removal Unit (SRU), the RO unit is able to achieve much lower salinities that are well
below the threshold value required for the LSF effect to occur. In addition to reducing the salinity, just like the SRU, the
benefits of having a RO unit for waterflooding are that it removes sulfate and divalent cations, reducing very significantly the
souring and scaling risks. Since the output water resulting from the RO is extremely clean, the risk of injectivity decline due to
plugging of the formation with particles in the injection stream is reduced very significantly, which could enable the field to
operate (at least for some significant period of time) in matrix injection mode. If matrix injection cannot be maintained (due to,
for instance, higher rate requirements), the water quality provided by the RO unit would lead to less risk of out-of-zone
injection (both vertically and longitudinally) making fracture injection easier to manage. These benefits need to be
considered/added to the improved microscopic sweep increase when the LSF option is weighed against other developing
options of the field. Especially, the impact on both the CAPEX and OPEX has to be considered together when assessing the
additional costs of the LSF facilities.
While being a robust design, the use of a RO unit comes with a few key challenges, which need to be addressed. The
desalination process (reverse osmosis) has an inherently low efficiency (of 4050%), requiring 22.5 times more source water
intake (e.g. seawater) to be lifted and filtered. This leads to a large reject stream of concentrated seawater to be disposed of.
The process is also relatively energy-intensive, requiring additional MWs of power generation capacity. Here integration
plays a key role, as all these challenges need to be addressed considering the economics as well as environmental implications.

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Locationfor
desalination unit
coast
field

Watersource

Rejectsink

sea

sea

Producedwater
sink
sea

aquifer

aquifer

aquifer

surface

oilreservoir

oilreservoir

Table 1. Reject waste choices for an onshore project displaying different options for location of desalination plant, water
source as well as for produced water disposal. The choices highlighted in red have been ranked as least favorable.
An example of the type of choices considered in an ongoing onshore project is shown in Table 1. This table focuses on a
few key surface issues such as the location for the desalination unit, the injection water source and the type of RO reject and
produced water sinks. The decisions to select/de-select the various options require very close collaboration between facilities
and concept engineers, production chemists, production technologists and reservoir engineers, clearly illustrating the
interdependencies between surface- and subsurface disciplines.
Finally, our experience shows that, especially for offshore projects, the additional requirement for space, weight, power,
risers/caissons is best planned for from day one, as retrofitting desalination facilities later in the project life is not
straightforward.

Step 5: Project Economics


With the required injection capacity specified (at step 3) and the injection facility line up determined (at step 4), it is
possible to perform CAPEX and OPEX analyses. Since cost and production are assessed as incremental relative to the base
waterflood, economics will be incremental as well. Note that for offshore projects, facilities CAPEX is mainly determined by
(topsides) weight. Therefore, a quick way of estimating CAPEX is by converting installed dry weight into dollars.
For pre-tax economics, a practical way of evaluating economic attractiveness of an LSF opportunity is to plot the
incremental Unit Technical Cost (UTC) against a range of incremental recoveries. By including a target UTC value or range
one can quickly assess the economics value, even before the final SCAL results are available, based on the minimum and
maximum analog values.
For post-tax economics Net Present Value (NPV) and Value Investment Ratio (VIR) need to be generated. These require
work in integrated teams in which the "cost estimator" will need to provide a time profile (annual) of CAPEX and OPEX, the
reservoir engineer will provide the production in nominal terms as input and the economist will generate NPV and VIR for
low-mid-high case.
Finally, after completing steps 1-5, a Technical Assurance process takes place in which individual deliverables are
assured by the appropriate Technical Authorities. Integrated Technical Reviews with all relevant disciplines are held prior to
the decision session. The success and the timely delivery of the study depend critically on the ability to progress each of the
steps described in the workflow in a truly integrated team.

Status of LSF deployment in Shell


While there have been some examples in the past of waterfloods in which the injected water was of low salinity flooding (see
for instance the Omar field case mentioned by Vledder et al. 2010 or the examples reported by Robertson 2007), the only
project (to our knowledge) to have passed FID, as a dedicated LSF deployment project to be fully implemented at the field
scale, is Clair Ridge, with first low salinity brine injection expected to start in 2016.
Based on our recent experience in Omar (Vledder et al. 2010; Mahani et al. 2011) through the successful field trial in
Isba (Vledder et al. 2010), and on a solid research program including numerous laboratory tests, in Shell, LSF technology is
considered mature enough to be ready to be applied in the field. As a result of that, Shell has recently started a campaign to
screen and deploy LSF technology across the whole spectrum of WF projects, focusing first on sandstone reservoirs. LSF is
currently at different stages of deployment around the world and across the whole spectrum of WF projects, from the
rejuvenation of brown fields to green field developments, both offshore and onshore assets. Figure 4 gives an overview of the
deployment matrix.

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Fieldname

Location

FIELD1

Onshore

FIELD2

Offshore

FIELD3

Offshore

FIELD4

Onshore

FIELD5

Onshore

Step 1:
Screening

Step2:
SCAL

Step3:
Subsurface
Forecast

Step4:
Step5:
Facilities
Economics
design

POS

Figure 4. Status of LSF deployment in fields across Shell (green means here completed, whereas yellow means in progress;
POS = probability for success)
Organization
Integrated surface and subsurface technology teams are currently taking the lead, working in close cooperation with R&D and
individual asset teams to further LSF deployment. This integration is key to facilitate communication and decision making,
and thus increasing the likelihood of success.
Part of the screening criteria mentioned above have been built around the knowledge provided in literature, while key
new aspects are being added with the help of continuing LSF R&D (Suijkerbuijk et al. 2013). At the same time R&D helps to
sped up the LSF deployment by reducing the number of LSF SCAL programs that need to be conducted. Given the current
shortage of appropriately equipped SCAL facilities internally and externally to meet the increasing demand, the fields on
which LSF SCAL is done is prioritized.
On the subsurface side, the current research effort is focused on deepening the understanding of the microscopic
mechanism behind LSF, improving SCAL protocols and providing updated guidelines for screening and deployment. Surface
R&D relating to LSF is focused on customized desalination technology for LSF and more efficient pre-treatment, both
resulting in reduced weight, space and energy requirements. Moreover, asset demands and questions are coupled back by the
deployment teams to R&D
The technology deployment teams ensure that all the steps of the workflow are followed. They actively engage with the
operating units (OUs)/assets on a continuous basis. Depending on the specific nature of the project they either do the work
directly or enable, through providing guidelines and support, the operating units/assets to perform the deployment study. For
instance, on the SCAL program execution (which is the big enabler) the technology teams are currently designing, supervising,
and quality controlling the tests execution and their outcomes. As the technology matures and the protocols become
standardized some of these roles will be transferred towards the assets. Guidelines have been released to enable Shell/JV
operating units to identify LSF opportunities in their own asset base, such that these can then be matured through to concept
select.
In terms of the way the deployment effort is linked to the overall field project the studies are led by a Front End
Development Manager, who has subsurface and surface reporting into him/her. This insures a proper level of integration on all
aspects, such as, for instance, technical vs. non-technical, risk assessment, HSE, etc.

Synergy with chemical EOR technologies


While LSF is a natural extension of WF, in Shell the LSF deployment effort is combined with screening for other EOR
technologies. One of the main reasons is to identify where LSF may be able to unlock additional value by creating the
appropriate conditions for subsequent chemical flooding. Since there are a variety of waterflood-based EOR techniques to
choose from, it is helpful to understand how LSF relates to those other techniques
For facilities design, we show in Figure 5 a staircase of distinct IOR/EOR options with progressively increasing
complexity and potential benefits. In the first step a conventional waterflood is shown with a conventional cartridge or dual
media filtration. The next step consists of using membrane based ultra filtration instead of the conventional filtration. The
advantage is that these membranes provide ultra clean water leading to improved injectivity, which has a positive impact on
production and costs. In addition to that in an offshore setting this is particularly attractive due to its smaller size and weight
relative to dual media.
The next step (step 3) is to install a Sulfate Removal Unit. While this may not have a (direct) additional impact on
production, it is very effective in souring mitigation (as alternative to nitrate injection; see Henthorne et al. 2011) and scaling
mitigation.
Low Salinity Flooding (step 4) provides, compared to the previous steps, an increase in recovery factor, with a relatively
small incremental facilities costs compared to step 3. Therefore, if a waterflood already has an SRU installed (or in the base
design of the project) the LSF option requires only upgrading the SRU to a reverse osmosis unit, which takes out sodium

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chloride in addition to sulfate. As discussed already, since an RO is an even finer filter than an SRU, it has a larger reject
stream as well and, as a result, the capacity of the upstream seawater intake and filtration facility needs to be increased.

Step3
SRU
Step2
UF
Ultrafiltration

Step1
WF

Increaseinjectivity
Newtechnology

Step4
LSF
IncludeReverse
OsmosisUnit

Sulfate
RemovalUnit
Mitigatesouring

IncreaseRF

Mitigatescaling
Additionalunit
35%SWintake
SRUreject

Additionalunit
150%SWintake
ROreject

Step5
PF

Step6
ASP

PolymerFlooding

Alkaline
Surfactant
Flooding

IncreaseRF

IncreaseRF

Additionalunit
Polymerstorage
Polymercosts
Potentialfacilities
issue

Additionalunit
ASPstorage
ASPcosts
Potentialfacilities
issue

Figure 5. Staircase for facility design for EOR processes. The text in green stands for advantages/benefits, while the one in
red mentions the main potential challenges.
If the field is a polymer flood candidate, LSF is an enabler for Step 5, since the injection of low salinity water requires a
significantly lower concentration of polymer chemicals to increase the viscosity of the injectant (Mohammadi and Jerauld
2012; Vermolen et al. 2011). Since chemicals consumption is a key cost driver for polymer floods, this might improve very
significantly the economics of a polymer flood opportunity.
The last step (step 6) of the staircase contains the potential for ASP flooding. While from facilities perspective this is the
next level of complexity, from subsurface development perspective an ASP flooding may not necessarily require or provide
favorable economics scenario if a significant reduction in salinity is established in the reservoir (by LSF) prior to ASP flood
(given the higher salinity associated with alkalinity). Therefore a careful study is required to optimize the precise sequence
between LSF and ASP, weighing the potential NPV versus UR benefits, if a decision is made to move directly to ASP.

Conclusions
Building on the very solid basis provided by the R&D program, Shell is currently starting to deploy the LSF technology across
its asset base. Below we share a few key lessons accumulated over multiple projects in different stages of project cycles.
To make LSF operationally ready a few important challenges need to be properly addressed. On the surface side,
retrofitting LSF later in project life is not simple or straightforward, especially for offshore fields where re-designing or adding
new facilities may come with a very high cost. It is important to realize that the desalination module is not a simple add-on. A
careful design needs to consider significant increase in seawater intake and pre-treatment capacity, which with the current
efficiency of RO membrane would require (at least) doubling of its size. While research is ongoing to reduce that, the current
projects need to consider large additional (RO reject) waste stream, additional risers and caissons and expanding the power
generation capacity. All these mean additional operations and maintenance people onboard.
On the subsurface side it should be stated that likewise, where possible, secondary LSF deployment is preferred over
tertiary deployment because: the incremental oil reaches producers earlier and it allows time to produce the LSF oil bank
before the end of field life. More generally, the injectors used for LS water injection should be drilled in the oil bearing zone,
rather than in the water-leg, to prevent the loss of efficiency caused by dilution of the LSF slug with formation water.
From the deployment process perspective, an important learning is that the chances of LSF being properly evaluated and
considered as a viable development option are optimized if it is included as an option from the first moment a project is
considered for waterflood. This can only be achieved if the deployment is approached in an integrated fashion, with
complementary efforts conducted in parallel to speed up the process. We therefore believe that having a clear and structured
approach to screening as the one outlined in steps 15 above is a necessary requirement.
Finally, we mention that the success of the LSF deployment requires developing and maintaining a long term vision
inside the organization towards the technology. This requires long term commitment from management to mature the
technology, which is often necessary to overcome inherent conservativeness or risk-averseness in applying new technologies
and to achieve the "buy in" from the assets in order to maximize field-life recovery.
Acknowledgements

SPE 165277

The authors would like to thank Cor van Kruijsdijk and Diederik Boersma for critically reviewing the paper and are grateful to
Shell Global Solutions International for permission to publish the work.
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