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A New Approach for Offshore Chemical Enhanced Oil Recovery

Eric Delamaide, IFP Technologies (Canada) Inc.; Patrick Moreau, Solvay; Rene Tabary, IFP Energies nouvelles

Copyright 2015, Offshore Technology Conference

This paper was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, USA, 4 7 May 2015.
This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents
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Chemical Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) has seen numerous applications worldwide onshore but very few
offshore. The reasons for that are mostly related to the technical and logistical challenges that need to be
overcome for the successful implementation of chemical EOR: transporting various chemicals to the
platforms, the need for space for the mixing skids and storing chemicals on the platforms, the need to use
sea water as the injection fluid among others. As primary and secondary recovery reach their technical and
economical limits in offshore fields, the operators are faced with the dilemma of abandoning the field and
the platforms or resorting to EOR to increase recovery and extend the life of the field. Non chemical EOR
techniques face their own challenges such as the need for large gas supply for gas injection so chemical
methods cannot be ruled out so easily. However new approaches need to be defined to make chemical
EOR a realistic method for offshore reservoirs. A large part of these issues arise from the mindset which
associates chemical EOR with Alkali-Surfactant-Polymer injection. The approach proposed is to use only
surfactant in cases where polymer is not absolutely required and to eliminate alkali altogether. This will
eliminate various obstacles such as deck space limitations and the need to soften the injection water. This
approach opens new doors for chemical Enhanced Recovery offshore. Such an approach is possible thanks
to the progress in surfactant formulation and the development of adsorption inhibitors which allow dealing
with seawater as an injection fluid. The novelty is not the technology but the way the standard approach
is discarded to the benefit of a simpler solution.

Chemical Enhanced Oil Recovery (cEOR) consists in injecting chemicals in a reservoir in order to
increase recovery (Green and Willhite 1998). It usually consists in the injection of three components polymer, surfactant and alkali - either together (the ASP process) or separately for instance when polymer
alone is used.
Polymer is a water viscosifier that is used for mobility control; it allows improving the mobility ratio
between the oil and the water and thus the sweep efficiency. Surfactant is used to reduce interfacial tension
between oil and water and thus to reduce residual oil saturation - oil trapped in the reservoir due to
capillary effects. Alkali can be used to reduce surfactant adsorption and/or to generate surfactant in-situ
by reacting with acid compounds contained in the oil.


Chemical EOR has been widely applied onshore for many years and numerous successful applications
- mostly polymer flood projects - have been reported in the literature (Saleh, Wei and Bai 2014). ASP
injection being a more complex process involving several chemicals has not enjoyed the same level of
success but the products and technology are improving and the process is getting more mature (Vargo, et
al. 2000) (Qi, et al. 2000) (Bou-Mikael, et al. 2000) (Pratap and Gauma 2004) (Pitts, et al. 2006) (Chang,
et al. 2006) (Lewis and Sharma 2012) (Finol, et al. 2012). Compared to onshore applications, offshore
projects have been very few, and mostly at the pilot scale. Key issues to be faced offshore are the well
spacing, typically 500 to 2000 m instead of 150 to 400 m onshore and thus the quantity of chemicals to
manage are significant and their resistance in reservoir conditions has to be ensured over long periods.
Raney and co-workers (Raney, et al. 2012) recently reviewed some of the issues facing the implementation of chemical EOR offshore. The logistical aspects of transporting, storing and mixing chemicals in
difficult environments and on platforms where space is always at a premium are probably the most
problematic issues.
The need to use seawater as an injection fluid and the impact of the produced chemicals on the oil/water
separation are also significant issues that have to be dealt with and make offshore applications more
challenging than onshore ones. The aim of this paper is to analyze these challenges and offer some
potential solutions to make cEOR more widely used offshore.
The first part of the paper will consist in a review of the existing chemical EOR projects offshore. Then
we will review the main issues with the conventional approach and propose an alternative. The proposed
strategy is based on the use of surfactants (S) with no added alkali and polymer. Adsorption inhibitors (I)
are added to mitigate adsorption. The application range of this alternative, later referred to as IS process,
is further discussed.
Review of existing offshore chemical EOR projects
In this section we will focus on actual field trials and neglect projects that have not yet taken place. Kang
and co-workers (Kang, Lim and Huh 2014) recently presented a partial review of cEOR offshore
applications. Some foam injection projects have also taken place in Snorre, Ula, Bohai Bay but foam
injection will not be addressed in this paper.
Colloidal Dispersion Gels (CDGs) and BrightWater also represent polymer-based processes but
remain different in terms of technology and implementation. These technologies are dedicated to
improving volumetric sweep efficiency in reservoirs with high permeability contrast and presence of thief
zones but injected volumes are usually small so logistical challenges are less severe.
Smart water process is also a process based on an improvement of the water wetness due to addition
of sulfate ionic species. The difficulty for applying such process in offshore reservoir may lie in the fact
that addition of sulfates could lead to scale damaging (Bourdarot and Ghedan 2011).
West Bay and Quarantine Bay, Louisiana
To the best of our knowledge, the first cEOR pilots offshore took place in the West Bay and Quarantine
Bay fields in the shallow water offshore Louisiana in 1981 (Boardman, et al. 1982). The projects consisted
of two polymer injection pilots (in West Bay) and a caustic-augmented waterflood in Quarantine Bay. A
mix of bay water and formation water was used in the projects for chemical mixing and injection. The
chemicals were delivered by b arge and dedicated injection facilities were built for both fields.
Dos Cuadras, California
A polymer flood project was implemented in Dos Cuadras field offshore California in 1986 (Dovan,
Hutchins and Terzian 1990). The project consisted in the injection of 0.5 PV of low viscosity polymer
which followed shorter duration (30 days) injectivity tests. The polymer used was in emulsion rather than
in powder form. Produced water was used for injection. The project went on for at least three years with
0.16 PV injected (last information available).


Bohai Bay, China

Bohai Bay is an area offshore China which contains numerous oilfields, mostly heavy oil. Chemical EOR
has been applied in several fields in Bohai Bay since 2003 (Zhou, et al. 2008), first with a single well test
of polymer injection. Polymer injection was later expanded to several patterns and fields (Kang, Zhang
and Sun, et al. 2011) corresponding to 27 injection wells in total. In 2010 four polymer injection wells
were converted to surfactant-polymer injection and over the next two years over 0.07 PV of solution were
injected (Kang and Zhang 2013). The main concerns have been 1) the polymer selection taking into
account dissolution times, performances as viscosifier, mechanical and chemical stability and price; 2)
injections facilities: size of preparation skids and maturation tanks; 3) produced fluid treatment. Due to
the large well spacing, high injection pressure and late response were observed. The issue of limited space
on the platform was solved by using a portable automatic skid injection unit (Chen 2005).
Dalia/Camelia, Angola
The Dalia polymer flood project in Angola is the first polymer flood in deep offshore (Morel, Vert, et al.
2008) (Morel, Vert, et al. 2012). Due to the relatively high oil viscosity (3 to 7 cp in reservoir conditions)
polymer injection was considered very early as a way to increase recovery. De-sulfated seawater (to
prevent the risk of barium sulfate deposits) was injected at the beginning and would have progressively
been mixed with produced water after breakthrough. The project started with a single-well injectivity test
successfully achieved. Injectivity was found better than expected in the unconsolidated sands.
Larger scale injection was then operated in 2010 into three wells. More than 3 million bbl of polymer
were injected without any injectivity problem.
A new well was drilled to monitor the polymer propagation through periodic sample collection. Full
field injection has not been sanctioned yet and is awaiting the results of the first phase. For the full field
development, more than 30,000 to 90,000 tons/year would be injected. Polymer would be either stored on
board a barge or a dry powder carrier located at the field, or on a skid on the floating production storage
and offloading (FPSO). The barge or carrier would be equipped for processing the polymer solution and
transferring the solution to the FPSO (Morel, Vert, et al. 2008). Current project status is unknown.
Captain, North Sea
A polymer flood pilot has been ongoing since 2011 in the Captain heavy oil field in the UK North Sea
(Poulsen 2010). The objective of the pilot is to demonstrate technical feasibility, to provide data to
evaluate economic viability for further expansion and to reduce the range of key uncertainties. Due to the
high viscosity of the oil (up to 150 cp) a polymer flood was considered very early in the life of the field
(Osterloh and Law 1998). Produced water is used for polymer mixing and injection because of incompatibility between formation water and seawater. Offshore logistical considerations led to the selection of
liquid hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) as a basis for the polymer flood design. In terms of logistics,
the polymer was transported via road and rail from France to Aberdeen, supply vessel to Captain and
offloading to FPSO. Very little information is available on the results of the project however it appears
that Chevron sanctioned the extension of the polymer flood to larger parts of the field (Chevron United
Kingdom 2014).
Smaller projects
A number of smaller projects, single well chemical tracer tests (SWCTT) and conformance control tests
have also taken place in particular in Angsi (Abdul Manap, et al. 2011) and Beatrice (Clifford and Duthie
Angsi The aim of the Angsi cEOR SWCTT was to evaluate the effectiveness of an AS process and also
to acquire experience in the perspective of a field extension. The results obtained in a harsh environment
were considered as encouraging with 14.6% OOIP incremental recovery. Lessons learned from the pilot
encompass a good engineering design and a well- defined planning and organization.


Beatrice Beatrice is a small oilfield consisting of 3 platforms located 24 km off the north east coast of
Scotland. A polymer injection treatment was carried out in 1985. The aim of the treatment was to improve
vertical sweep in the heterogeneous sands between an injector/producer pair.
Heidrun Key issues for Heidrun offshore reservoir concern injection of large quantities of polymer
considering both stringent environmental regulations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and the existing
very harsh climate. In December 2007, a polymer and LPS (Linked Polymer Solution) injection test was
decided. The first objective consisted in determining logistical and operational feasibility, meaning
transport, mixing, storage and pumping, the second objective in observing reservoir and near well bore
responses. The polymer used is a HPAM and the LPS a HPAM crosslinked with aluminium to form
nano-sized particles. The pilot took place in 2010. The mother polymer solution was prepared onshore at
a concentration of 5000 ppm and shipped and stored at Heidrun platform. The injected polymer
concentration was 300 ppm and 600 ppm in desulfated seawater. A total of 3 polymer/LPS batches were
injected at injection rates of 1500, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 4500 m3/day. Polymer and LPS injection
improved well injectivity due to dual fracturing.
Analysis of ASP process issues in an offshore environment
In this section we discuss the challenges and issues encountered in an offshore environment to deploy an
ASP process as a motivation to identify alternatives.
In offshore conditions, the obvious injection water candidate is seawater but due to regulatory constraints,
produced water can be mixed with seawater in varying amounts. As a consequence, hard brines as
injection fluid is a common situation in these environments with severe consequences on ASP process
potential and reservoir integrity (see below). If water treatments can be applied to soften the seawater, they
are associated with significant cost and logistical issues.
Desalinating and softening injection brine may also be envisioned using nanofiltration alone or
combined with reverse osmosis. In an economic study performed for an SP process (Henthorne, et al.
2014), the costs using softened seawater were projected to be 28% lower than those using a non-treated
seawater. In fact, the cost of water softening needs to be evaluated and compared to the potential benefits
considering the reservoir properties and the logistical issues. In an offshore environment, in most case,
water softening is associated with significant logistical issues (chemicals requirement, membranes
logistics, byproduct disposal) and will thus not be considered in most cases especially on already existing
platforms that would require a refit. This paper proposes an alternative that does not require water
Use and application Alkalis are used to reduce the required amount of injected surfactant. Surfactants
generally represent a significant share of the total cost of an ASP process. This is mainly due to the
significant degree of adsorption of these chemicals on reservoir rock, either sandstones or carbonates.
Thus alkali is used in cEOR because it is a cheap product which can reduce surfactant costs by either
generating surfactant in-situ by combining with acid elements in the oil and/or reduce adsorption by
increasing the negative charge of rock surfaces (Baviere, et al. 1995).
Technical issues On the other hand alkali is also causing significant issues that are difficult to deal with
in particular in offshore environments. Water needs to be softened because of the reactions between alkali
and divalent ionic species (Ca, Mg) leading to the generation of insoluble precipitates, i.e. scales. Chinese
operators among others (Sheng 2013) have experienced severe scaling and emulsion problems in their
surface facilities caused by strong alkalis such as sodium hydroxide (also called caustic soda, NaOH). A
weak alkali is thus preferred to a strong alkali.


Transportation and mixing In almost all cases, the optimum delivery and site-handling method for
alkali is bulk. Pneumatic bulk trucks deliver the dry product without disruption of the alkali dissolving
process. The alkali is generally supplied in powder form and mixed with de-aerated water at the floater.
In geographical locations where bulk deliveries are not possible, bulk bag off-loading systems can still be
used to transfer alkali from one ton bags to bulk storage silos. It should be noted that the alkali in solid
form is very sensitive to water or humidity.
The solubility of soda ash (Na2CO3) increases with increasing temperature until 36C. When storing
soda ash as a slurry or concentrated solution, it is very important that the temperature of the solution or
slurry not drop below 36C.
It is very important that the batch make-up tank has adequate mixing capability to ensure complete
dissolution of the soda ash. Alkali concentrations are generally relatively high (5,000 to 10,000 ppm) so,
in an offshore context, a large storage volume and weight are required.
Separation A number of issues are usually experienced with produced fluids from alkalis flood,
including: scales formation, corrosion and, in some cases oil/water separation issues. Alkali are in the
water phase and might require specific treatment to achieve efficient separation (Kang and Wang 2001).
Alkali can chemically react with crude oil components (e.g. acids through saponification) and generate
surface active compounds which in turns stabilize emulsions. This can lead to severe separation issues.
Note that this aspect is highly case dependent.
Use and application Polymer is generally considered an indispensable component of the process. As
mentioned in the introduction, polymer is used to improve the Mobility Ratio between oil and water and
thus the sweep efficiency (Green and Willhite 1998). The Mobility Ratio is defined as the ratio between
water mobility (water relative permeability divided by water viscosity) and oil mobility (oil relative
permeability divided by oil viscosity). Sweep efficiency is the product of microscopic sweep efficiency
- at the plug scale - and volumetric sweep efficiency - at the reservoir scale. It has long been established
that sweep efficiency increases when the mobility ratio decreases (Craig. Jr. 1993).
Polymer needs to be available at large scale considering the large tonnages required. Polyacrylamidesbased polymers are preferred to xanthan for their industrial availability, their price and their proven track
record. In 2006, a hydrophobic associative polymer was selected for Bohai Bay (Han, et al. 2006).
On the other hand the use of polymer has significant issues that are adding complexity in offshore
Transportation and mixing Depending on the field location, polymer can be transported from Europe,
the United States or China under powder or emulsion form. The emulsion type of HPAM has been the
preferred way of transporting the polymer offshore. Powder is somewhat more difficult in terms of
preparation/dissolution because it requires dedicated facilities but this option was selected for Dalia due
to lower effective cost of the raw material and much smaller volumes required.
Powder polymer supply is achievable with specific bulk carrier or using standard international
containers for big bag transportation (750 kg). In the case of Dalia, space limitations on the FPSO (Morel,
Vert, et al. 2008) led the operator to take the decision to store the polymer powder onboard a barge
permanently moored. The polymer solution was prepared on the barge then transferred through flexible
pipes to the FPSO.
The preparation of the polymer solution is critical and specific equipment is required to accelerate
polymer hydration and achieve high mother solution concentrations (up to 15,000 ppm). The concentrated
solution is then discharged to a maturation tank during approximately one hour. Maturation time depends
upon water quality, temperature and product molecular weight. To prevent the polymer degradation by


oxygen, the polymer make-up water and the dissolution equipment usually need to be kept under a
nitrogen blanket.
In offshore conditions, long distance transport of polymer is often desirable and require a design of the
pipe network taking into account drag reduction phenomena, mechanical degradation of the solutions
during their transport in turbulent conditions (Jouenne, et al. 2014). Problems may also occur due to
polymer viscoelastic behavior. Sheng (Sheng 2013) describes issues causing pump vibrations when
polymer solution flows into a branch line.
Regulatory Polymer is non-classified (not toxic neither bioaccumulation) but is not readily biodegradable. The polymer macromolecule, neutral, fully hydrated (i.e. solubilized in water) will be dispersed into
the sea, quickly below detectable level, and little by little degraded by UV, sediment absorption and redox
reactions, without any bio-accumulation as the polymer remains systematically in the aqueous phase.
Separation Produced fluids from polymer floods have an impact on oil/water separation and influence
the separation process. The presence of polymer is quite detrimental to flotation efficiency (Argillier, et
al. 2014). Typically, produced water viscosity is increased which requires longer separation time,
emulsions can be stabilized and oil droplet size reduced. Xiang, et al. (Xiang and Zhou 2011) relate the
fluid treatment problems correlated to an early polymer breakthrough in an offshore polymer flood.
Use and application Surfactants used in SP/ASP processes are mainly anionic and zwitterionic surfactants. Their performance is strongly increased by mixing two or more surfactant types (Moreau, et al.
2010). Obtaining an ultra-low interfacial tension (IFT) between oil and brine is critical for the success of
the process and depends on several criteria such as: surfactant structures and mixing ratio, temperature,
oil properties and brine composition. A properly designed surfactant system can provide ultra-low IFT in
a limited range of conditions.
Different surfactants have been used in field ASP projects. The surfactants used included Olefin
Sulfonates, Alkyl Aryl Sulfonates, Alkyl Glyceryl Ether Sulfonates, petroleum sulfonate, Alkyl Ether
Sulfates, lignosulfonates, sulfobetaines, etc. Some cosurfactants were used, for example, isobutanol,
n-butanol, and isopropyl alcohol. Recent developments in surfactant selection, production (feedstock,
production process) and formulation (Tabary, Bazin, et al. 2013) (Delbos, et al. 2014) allow to target
previously challenging conditions, including hard brines and high temperature typically encountered in
offshore conditions.
Technical issues The main issue with use of surfactant in offshore conditions is the adsorption on
reservoir rock. Surfactant adsorption is one of the main parameters impacting the cost/efficiency of cEOR
processes. Adsorption of surfactants increases with both increasing hardness and salinity and seawater
which is often used as the injection fluid contains significant quantities of both Calcium and Magnesium.
Classical injection strategies, such as salinity gradient, have shown good performance with soft brines but
are not applicable in offshore conditions (brine composition is essentially constant). In presence of
divalent ionic species, a high adsorption of surfactant is observed, all the more so when hardness
increases, resulting in an early loss of surfactant during the flooding process. This consequently reduces
drastically the oil recovery.
Transportation and mixing As for polymer, surfactants need to be available at large scale considering
the large tonnages required. Surfactants are generally available as concentrated liquids. Typically,
surfactants are delivered in liquid form with 30-90% active concentrations, so significant storage space is
required in most cases. Many stock surfactants require insulated and heated tanks to keep product
viscosity within specifications for pumping and efficient dilution. As mentioned above, the surfactant may
be a single stock product delivered from the manufacturer or multiple surfactant components delivered


from separate manufacturers to be combined at the injection facility. Under liquid form, surfactants can
be directly metered to the injection system. The footprint area required for the process needs to be
evaluated but it is typically less than for polymer or alkali.
Regulatory Surfactants regulatory classification heavily depends on local regulations and precise surfactant structures. Some surfactants can be considered as polymers in some areas (e.g. European REACH
regulation) and each global zone tend to have specific rules for these chemicals. As a general guideline,
EOR surfactants tend to bio-accumulate (due to the long alkyl chain, or other hydrophobic segments,
required to achieve ultra-low IFT with most crude oils). Toxicity and biodegration heavily depend on
selected surfactants. As regulatory frameworks also greatly differ depending on field location, it is not
possible to give generic representative guidelines. A dedicated study is thus required, in parallel to any lab
study to identify candidate surfactants which will fulfill local environmental rules.
Separation Production of more or less stable emulsions could be a significant issue when implementing
a surfactant-based process (Wu, et al. 2001). Difficulties related to transport and oil/water separation
efficiency could happen and need to be evaluated at lab scale as part of the final process selection. When
significant issues are anticipated, it is very important to prepare a well-designed strategy combining a
chemical treatment and a mechanical separation in order to solve downstream problems. Emulsion testing
is necessary as part of the cEOR lab program. The surfactant may partition into the oil phase due to
salinity changes or other. This could lead to off-spec crude oil. Emulsion breakers are used for faster
separation of oil and produced fluid. The ability of emulsion breakers or demulsifiers is related to how
well they absorb at the oil/water interface, how it spreads toward the interface to form a film, and how
much it can affect the interfacial intensity.
As discussed above, use of alkali is not feasible when hard brine, e.g. sea water or production waters, is
used as injection brine. The use of an alkali will thus not be realistic unless water treatment/softening is
applied. Water softening is associated with significant logistical requirements and is thus not considered
by most operators especially for existing platforms. Use of polymer is associated with significant space
and logistical challenges and has been shown in some cases to lead to surfactant-polymer interactions in
hard brines (phase separation). Surfactants can also be associated with different challenges; however, their
use tends to be relatively straightforward if associated hurdles are properly anticipated and managed.
New proposed approach
The new approach Given the technical and/or logistical issues linked to the use of alkali and polymer
we propose a simpler approach which consists in using adsorption inhibitors (I) in combination with
surfactants (S), in replacement of the standard ASP or SP process. This strategy relies on the good
performance expected from ultra-low interfacial tension brought by surfactants if adsorption is properly
managed. No water treatment and no polymer are required. This approach, later referred to as IS process,
will not be applicable in every situation (this will be discussed below) but recent progress in surfactant
design and formulation and the development of new adsorption inhibitors have enlarged the field of
application of surfactants. In the following, we will consider development of an IS process in non-treated
sea water without mobility control agent (polymer).
Surfactant formulation Surfactant formulations in hard brines and specifically sea water can now be
developed for a variety of conditions (temperature, composition of crude oil, etc.) using an extensive
portfolio of chemicals. As an illustration Figure 1 presents a series of surfactant formulations developed
for different crude oils at different temperatures in sea water.


Figure 1Illustration of WIII microemulsion of different oils with sea water in different conditions. a) Dodecane 60C, b) Light crude
oil (Middle East 56C), c) light crude oil (North Sea 100C), d) Medium crude oil (Gulf of Mexico 110C), e) Medium crude oil (Middle
East 100C).

As can be seen, a middle-phase microemulsion can be achieved if surfactants are properly selected and
formulated. Typical selection criteria are similar to classical criteria for ASP/SP formulation designs,

Ultra-low interfacial tension between brine and crude oil (typically 10-2 mN/m);
Excellent solubility in injection brine (sea water in the present paper);
Good thermal stability (typical criteria for long term thermal stability is persistence of performance
properties over 3 months at reservoir temperature). Note that thermally stable surfactants, e.g. IOS,
AAS and/or AGES, are required at high temperatures (typically over 70C).

Achieving these performances while not highly challenging is not straightforward and will require for
all case extensive studies including development and characterization of a specific surfactant blend,
implying hundreds to thousands of test tube experiments.
Adsorption inhibitors As stated above, surfactant adsorption is one of the main parameters impacting
the cost/efficiency of cEOR processes.
Adsorption inhibitors are additives which can be used to mitigate adsorption in hard brines (Tabary,
Douarche, et al. 2012). These chemicals do not require water treatment and are injected in the same
make-up water as the surfactant. Their main attractiveness lies in the fact that they allow a higher
efficiency of the chemical enhanced oil recovery process by reducing the quantity of injected surfactant.
These chemicals need to be carefully selected through series of static adsorption tests. Figure 2 presents
the results of such tests. As can be seen, high performance additives can significantly reduce surfactant
adsorption on reservoir rock. Their performance in representative conditions later needs to be demonstrated through dynamic adsorption tests and oil recovery experiments. Figure 3 present results of oil
recovery experiments performed without and with an adsorption inhibitor in terms of oil recovery and
surfactant adsorption/retention. Use of adsorption inhibitor strongly enhances process global performance.


Figure 2Screening of Adsorption inhibitors in Sea water on reservoir rock. Red bar correspond to the static adsorption of selected
surfactant formulation on reservoir sandstone for case c) in Figure 1. Other bars correspond to static adsorption of the same surfactant
formulation with different adsorption inhibitors. AI#5 induces a strong reduction in surfactant adsorption (~ 60%).

Figure 3Results of il recovery experiments in terms of original oil in place (%OOIP) and surfactant adsorption (mg/g) without (No AI)
and with (AI) adsorption inhibitors. All other experimental conditions are kept constant.

Depending on the impact of the selected adsorption inhibitor on surfactant formulation phase behavior,
these additives can be used either as a main slug (IS slug followed by chase water) or post-flush additives
(S slug followed by I slug).
Conditions for applicability of the new approach
The main concern and limitation with this new approach is the issue of mobility control without polymer.
Achieving an acceptable sweep efficiency without polymer especially when surfactant is present will not
be possible everywhere and will require a combination of low oil viscosity and moderate heterogeneity.
In order to evaluate the range of applicability of surfactant processes without polymer we have used some
reservoir simulations at the core scale as well as simple analytical calculations. Analytical methods are not
as accurate as reservoir simulations but they allow focusing on single factors and are less cumbersome to
Classically in reservoir engineering the efficiency of a process is measured by the recovery factor, i.e.
how much oil can be produced from a reservoir. The recovery factor is the product of microscopic sweep
efficiency (measured at the plug or the core scale) by the volumetric (macroscopic) sweep efficiency. The
volumetric sweep efficiency reflects the ability of the injected fluid to contact the reservoir (Green and
Willhite 1998) and can be expressed as the product of the areal sweep efficiency by the vertical sweep
Microscopic sweep efficiency in chemical flooding Microscopic efficiency refers to the displacement
or mobilization of oil at the pore scale and measures the effectiveness of the displacing fluid in moving
the oil at those places in the rock where the displacing fluid contacts the oil (Green and Willhite 1998).



In surfactant flooding, microscopic efficiency can be increased by reducing capillary forces, hence
interfacial tension between the displacing fluid and oil.
Series of 1D simulation have been performed considering a homogeneous core. The conditions of
injection and the surfactant properties (ultra-low IFT) lead to a calculated capillary number supposed to
be enough to mobilize all the residual oil in place. Adsorption is set at 0.1 mg/g. Brine viscosity is 0.78
cp. Surfactant is injected alone and the viscosity of the residual oil in place was taken as: 0.78, 1.5, 3, 6,
10 and 30 cp. The results of the simulations are given in Table 1, showing that the surfactant performances
begin to be significantly degraded when oil viscosity is 4 to 5 times higher than that of the injected fluid.
Obviously this consideration strongly depends on the relative permeabilities of the rock (wettability, shape
of relative permeability curves in non-miscible and partially miscible conditions). As a rule, to check
applicability of an IS process, mobility of the oil under non-miscible and partially miscible conditions
should be carefully investigated to check that oil will be mobile enough to guarantee efficient recovery.
This is illustrated in Figure 4 and 5, which show the impact of crude oil viscosity (a) and water relative
permeability endpoint (b) on water and oil fractional flow, respectively fw and fo. The fractional flow of
oil should be high enough to allow oil production in a limited timeframe. It should thus be high at low
and high capillary numbers (i.e. under non-miscible and miscible conditions). As shown on Figure 5, oil
fractional flow becomes unfavorable when oil is viscous. This is specifically true in miscible conditions,
hence at high capillary numbers.

Table 1Percentage of residual oil in placed recovered by a

surfactant injection (0.78 cp) through 1D simulations (homogeneous core) and varying the oil viscosity
Oil viscosity (cp)

ROIP (%)

Figure 4 a) oil (red) and water (blue) relative permeabilities of a water-wet sandstone outcrop (Bentheimer) under non-miscible (dots)
and miscible (squares), expected when in surfactant flooding, conditions. b) Corresponding oil (red) and blue (water) fractional flows
vs. water saturation (Sw). Conditions: oil viscosity: 0.78 cp. Water viscosity 0.78 cp. Miscible flooding has a strong impact on shape
of the fractional flow curves. However, limited impact on fractional flow values is observed at intermediate Sw values expected in the
oil bank.



Figure 5a) oil (red) and water (blue) fractional flows vs. water saturation (Sw) under miscible conditions for oil viscosities: 0.78 cp,
3 cp and 10 cp. Water viscosity is kept constant at 0.78 cp. Oil fractional flow is much lower when mobility control is poor (oil viscosity
~ 3 cp and 10 cp). Subsequent oil production upon injection of a limited size S or IS slug will be delayed and incomplete.

Note that 1D simulation can be used to better define target mobility control requirements for a specific
project when lab data are available.
Provided capillary number is high enough (depending on Capillary Desaturation Curve), all trapped oil
can be produced in all swept zones of a given reservoir. However, oil desaturation is not sufficient to
guarantee full recovery at the reservoir scale. Indeed, desaturated oil should be displaced efficiently to be
produced within a reasonable timescale.
Areal sweep efficiency Areal sweep efficiency has long been studied by reservoir engineers and it has
been showed to be linked to the mobility ratio (Craig. Jr. 1993); this is of course valid in homogeneous
reservoirs only. Several correlations have been established depending on the well pattern to predict areal
sweep efficiency as a function of the mobility ratio. Dyes and co-authors (Dyes, Caudle and Erickson
1954) developed the first relations which were later modified by Claridge (Claridge 1972) and curve-fitted
by Fassihi (Fassihi 1986). We used these correlations to calculate the areal sweep efficiency at various
Water-Oil Ratios.
Vertical sweep efficiency Vertical sweep efficiency depends not only on the mobility factor but also on
the vertical heterogeneity. One of the most commonly used method to account for reservoir heterogeneity
is that of Dykstra and Parsons later improved by Fassihi (Fassihi 1986). This is what we used to estimate
sweep efficiency. The Dykstra-Parsons coefficient (VDP) would be zero for a perfectly homogeneous
reservoir and one for a perfectly heterogeneous one.
Volumetric sweep efficiency Figure 6 to Figure 9 show volumetric sweep efficiency plots in 5-spot
patterns versus Water- Oil Ratio for various mobility ratios and Dykstra-Parsons values of 0.5, 0.7, 0.8
and 0.9. The examination of Figures 6 to 9 confirms what was intuitively expected: the more heterogeneous the reservoir gets the lower the mobility ratio needs to retain acceptable sweep efficiency.



Figure 6 Volumetric sweep efficiency for VDP 0.5

Figure 7Volumetric sweep efficiency for VDP 0.7



Figure 8 Volumetric sweep efficiency for VDP 0.8

Figure 9 Volumetric sweep efficiency for VDP 0.9

Applicability of proposed approach

The question that now obviously arises is where surfactant flooding alone (or with adsorption inhibitors)
can be applied with some measure of success. In order to answer this question we will first review some
of the published tests where surfactant has been used alone and then review the relevant reservoir and fluid
properties in some offshore provinces.
Revue of existing surfactant flooding tests
Although the addition of polymer to improve the mobility ratio has been the rule for a long time, injection
of surfactant without polymer has also been applied in the past, in particular in low permeability reservoirs
where the use of polymer is problematic. Note that most of these tests have been performed a few decades
ago and that high chemicals dosages where used in those times. Recent progresses in chemicals selection,
formulation design and appropriate injection strategies (e.g. adsorption inhibitors) now allows to target
significantly lower required surfactant amount. Some of the corresponding tests are described below:
Borregos (Pursley and Graham 1975) A surfactant flood was conducted in 1965 in the Borregos field
in Texas. The target reservoir was the F-4 sand, a thin (net thickness 4 ft) light oil reservoir (oil



viscosity 0.36 cp). The 5-spot pilot area was waterflooded to residual oil saturation before surfactant
injection. A total of 0.47 PV of surfactant at a concentration of 2.3% wt was injected and followed by
chase water. An oil bank was successfully generated and incremental recovery was 9.2% OOIP although
this number could be higher; there was a significant uncertainty in the OOIP numbers. Cores taken after
the flood consistently showed residual oil saturations of 0.091 PV on average. Sweep efficiency was
estimated at 60%.
Bottahmshall (Cooper, Walsh and Morgan 1985) A surfactant flood was conducted in 1983 in the
Bottamshall field in the East Midlands area in the UK. The target reservoir is a low permeability sandstone
(14 md on the average for the best of 3 sands) which had been waterflooded for many years and as a result
oil saturation at the beginning of the project was estimated at 40%.
The pilot was an inverted 4-spot pattern of which one of the wells had been used as a disposal well;
this well was returned to production for the pilot, producing initially at 98% water-cut. A short injectivity
test was performed during the pilot.
A total of 0.25 PV of surfactant at 2% wt concentration followed by lower salinity water was injected
over the course of the pilot. Polymer was not used due to the low permeability of the reservoir. Rapid
communication occurred between the injection well and the producing well which had been converted
from an injection well, suggesting the presence of fracturing around the wells resulting from injection.
Injectivity and productivity issues were experienced in particular due to wax deposits in the production
wells. Surfactant retention appears to have been higher than anticipated and maybe as a result there was
no clear response to the test. Oil cut increased slightly from 2% to 4% in the well where the rapid
communication was observed while remaining stable in the other two.
Chao-522 (Yin, et al. 2010) The Chao-522 oil field located in the Daqing area in China is a low
permeability reservoir (18.5 md average) and because of that was suffering from reduced injectivity. As
a result it was selected for a surfactant field test aiming at increasing injectivity. A surfactant injection
pilot took place in 2005. A slug of 0.10 PV of surfactant at a concentration of 1.0% wt was injected. The
pilot was successful with an increased injectivity, increased oil rate and lower water-cut.
Review of relevant properties in some offshore provinces
North Sea North Sea fields encompass a variety of lithologies (both sandstone and carbonates) and
fluids. Although some of the reservoirs contain heavy oil (such as Bentley, Mariner, Captain) oil viscosity
is usually low; Akervoll and Bergmo (Akervoll and Bergmo 2010) presented viscosity data for 55 oil
reservoirs in the North Sea: average live oil viscosity is 0.55 cp while average water viscosity is 0.37 cp.
This suggests that a mobility ratio close to 1 could be achieved even in the presence of surfactant. Even
though North Sea reservoirs are usually quite heterogeneous (Awan, Teigland and Kleppe 2008)
reasonable sweep efficiency could still be achieved.
Gulf of Mexico DiPietro et al. (DiPietro, Kuuskraa and Malone 2014) recently presented data for 352
reservoirs in the Shallow Offshore and 76 reservoirs in the Deep Offshore. Fifty percent of the total OOIP
is found in reservoirs having Dykstra- Parsons coefficients less than 0.82 in the Shallow offshore and less
than 0.88 in the Deep offshore. A summary of DiPietro et al. data is presented in Table 2.
Table 2Distributions of Dykstra-Parsons heterogeneity coefficients in the Gulf of Mexico
Percentile of OOIP

Shallow Offshore
Deep Offshore













Separately, Dindoruk and Christman (Dindoruk and Christman 2004) published viscosity data for Gulf
of Mexico oils; their data suggest that live oil viscosity is mostly below 1 cp resulting here again in
mobility ratios around 1 or 2.
Thus is spite of the high degree of heterogeneity in the Gulf of Mexico reasonable sweep efficiency
should be achievable in a number of fields without polymer in particular in the Shallow offshore region.
Discussion on proposed approach
The aim of the proposed approach is to reduce the logistical and capital expenditures constraints that limit
the use of chemical EOR offshore. It would be illusory to pretend that surfactant alone could be as
efficient as surfactant plus polymer, not even mentioning alkali; the proposed approach does not pretend
to achieve maximum recovery in all cases. On the other hand when the choice lies between doing nothing
and using surfactant alone, then it should be considered. With limited capital expenditures required and
limited requirements in terms of platform space the potential of increasing recovery even by 5% OOIP in
offshore reservoirs deserves some consideration. This approach is thus recommended for low viscosity
offshore oil reservoirs. A specific attention should be paid to relative permeabilities before going to an IS
process to check that mobility control will not jeopardize project economics. In those cases, the use of
adsorption inhibitors can strongly improve the performances of a surfactant process and allows using
untreated water, including sea water.

The proposed approach, IS flooding, using a combination of properly selected surfactant formulation and
adsorption inhibitor without polymer or alkali, is expected to bring significant value whenever mobility
control remains favorable under partially miscible conditions encountered in surfactant flooding. For
heterogeneous reservoirs or viscous oils, the performance of this approach could be limited and addition
of polymer could be envisioned (ISP process). The IS approach is however expected to be applicable in
a variety of conditions encountered in offshore reservoirs. Due to its relative simplicity and limited
requirements in terms of platform space as well as logistics, this approach should be considered to prolong
production of declining offshore fields.

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