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SPE 165298

EOR: Challenges of Translating Fine Scale Displacement into Full Field


Models-Part 2
Moreno, J., Flew**, S., Gurpinar, O. Schlumberger
**Now with Petrofac
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
Accurate realistic modeling of the physics governing the process occurring during an EOR displacement is an
important challenge the industry is facing when trying to understand and evaluate the potential enhanced-oilrecovery may bring to a given reservoir. Numerical models have been widely used for this task, displacing the
traditional analytical techniques under the premise of more reliable results as a function of a detailed
representation of the reservoir recovery mechanisms within the models, and often time models which, typically
were designed for primary and/or secondary depletion processes are used directly for the tertiary evaluation. This
paper is a continuation of an early investigation aimed to address the main challenges of modeling the fine scale
displacements with a full field numerical model.
The effects of model resolution, relative permeability up-scaling and force balance for immiscible displacements
were investigated in our first paper. Here we concentrate on the effects of reservoir heterogeneity together with
model resolution for both miscible and immiscible displacements. Up-scaling challenges are presented as a
function of the displacement type and force balance, as well as the effect of fine level heterogeneity and viscous
and capillary forces balance during EOR injection processes.
Introduction
Laboratory and small scale field experiment results constitute the foundation upon which EOR proof of concept
and consequently field implementation rests; scaleability of the dominant forces of the laboratory experiments to
those of the full field are key to a robust numerical model. A proper core flood design ensures that the evaluation
represents as similar a set of conditions (as possible) for the application they are intended for thus gas-oil
relative permeability tests measured early in a fields life are often not directly useful for use in screening or
evaluating a late life miscible/immiscible gas injection scheme, and yet, all too often, it appears this is what
happens.
Digital core offers an alternative to model the fine scale displacement of fluids under different conditions in a
numerically created core flood, developing as a complementary option to the time intensive laboratory
experiments (fraught with challenges to fully represent the true reservoir displacement conditions), allowing a
more comprehensive analysis of the likely recovery mechanisms for different rock types and reservoir conditions
in a timely cost efficient manner. While this technology has significantly advanced in the past couple of years,
limited coreflood data is still the main source of information on the design of an EOR flood, and as well show in
the next sections, a structured and rigorous application of them in the prediction models is required to avoid misestimating (and often overestimating) recovery from such processes.
Miscible flooding poses an additional challenge to the upscaling, with the components flowing simulatenously
between phases while keeping the overall composition preserved for a given finite difference grid at each
timestep. Mixing therefore becomes an issue, particularly for MCM (multiple contact miscibility) where a proper
contact of the injected agent with the reservoir fluid is key to ensure miscibility. Grid size, as expected, influences
the problem as the phases and components are assumed to be perfectly mixed within a gridblock, limiting the
concentration of enriching components (in the case of larger grid cells) and potentially underestimating miscibility
and recovery1 2 3even on formations which are thought to be homogeneous.

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The effect of heterogeneity and resolution on oil recovery under an immiscible displacement were investigated on
our previous paper4, demonstrating the importance of heterogeneity and force balance on the recovery efficiency
of immiscible gas and water flooding, at different parts of the reservoir namely close to the injectors, producers
and in the middle of the patterns. It also demonstrated the effect of velocity on the contacted oil at different scales,
starting from core scale all the way to full field scale simulation models. This paper builds on those foundations
and extends the investigation to miscible and partially miscible cases, considering the effect of scale and
compositional variation on the front advancement and oil recovery. Boundary conditions as well as grid geometry
were kept similar to those of the first paper changing only the fluild definition for this investigation.

Measurement Scales
Scale is one of the main challenges when evaluating displacement efficiencies, translating results from core level,
where viscous forces dominate, to injectors, where viscous and capillary forces are stronger, to formation and
field level where gravity has a stronger component and the balance among the three (viscous, capilary and
gravity) forces determines the real efficiency of the displacement.

Residual Nonwetting or Wetting Saturation, %

The results of our previous paper confirmed the importance of displacement velocity (and therefore capillary
number) on the overall process efficiency, with a scaleable increase in pore level sweep efficiency as the capillary
number increases. Core plugs are exposed to a capillary number (viscous force dominated) often orders of
magnitude higher than ones expected in the reservoir (away from injectors and producers). As a result, a more
efficient sweeping of the pore space with a high velocity
45
front ensues, as it is likely to contact most of the pores in
the core.
40
Due to the size of the sample, and the duration of the test,
35
the effect of gravity is negligible. Several authors have
studied the effect of force balance (at a core scale) on
30
Snwr
displacement efficiency and the concept of de-saturation
5,6,7,8
25
curves is widely accepted in the industry
, where the
Swr
balance of the viscous and capillary forces is taken into
20
account to determine the pore level sweeping efficiency.
15
As a result, areas with 100% contacted hydrocarbon (with
the EOR agent) will have, at a pore level scale, different
10
displacement efficiencies (depending on the force balance
5
which is dominating); furthermore different displacement
processes (i.e. water, gas, solvent injection) would follow
0
different de-saturation curves requiring not only a static
1.E-07
1.E-06
1.E-05
1.E-04
1.E-03
1.E-02
1.E-01
but dynamic estimation of the pore level sweeping
Nvc
efficiency.
Figure 1 shows a typical example of a de-saturation curve.
Figure 1: Example of a de-saturation curve

Nonwetting
critical (Nvc)c

Wetting critical
(Nvc)c

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Reservoir heterogeneity adds to the complexity of the displacement, and often times are not adequately captured
in numerical models- due in some occasions to the nature of the process the numerical models were initially trying
to address, and in other to the limitations of the tools used to image and describe the reservoir4. The first issue is
easier to address than the latter, and this paper focuses on gaining an insight to vertical dimensions which retain
the displacement character of much finer models in miscible to near miscible displacement types. With current
limitations, fully capturing the natural heterogeneity on any model is challenging; however, the underlying
heterogeneity needs to be considered in the screening and design so that the selected EOR technique(s) is
flexible enough to adapt and mitigate to such unfavorable displacement occurrences.
Dispersive and convective flows are two of the main contributers to the amount of hydrocarbon the EOR agent
contacts in the reservoir. The first is related to molecular diffusion between the EOR agent (solvent) and the
reservoir fluid, and the latter dominated by reservoir heterogeneity1. Mixing on the dispersive flow is closely
related to the contact area between the hydrocarbon fluid and the injected agent, and it naturally increases as the
EOR agent moves through the reservoir, making it scale dependent. Moreover as heterogeneity increases, the
more different the velocity vector is in the
reservoir and the higher the likelyhood of
increasing the contact area between the two
fluids making the permeability field and
subsequent
upscales
an
important
component of the dispersive flow.
Figure 2 shows a schematic representation
of the resolution and depth of investigation of
several measurements taken in the field, and
it highlights the need of a proper
representation of the reservoir heterogeneity
at the different scales of investigation. These
issues have been recognized by several
authors9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16
and
different
approaches or technologies are being
developed to bridge the gap between the
high resolution characterization observed at
the thin section-core-well level to the full field
scale greatly contributing to the success of
any EOR project.
Figure 2 Comparison between the different scales of measurement17
Displacement Processes
Incremental recovery from a displacement process (miscible and immiscible) is strongly determined by the oil
which is contacted by the EOR agent; even more when dealing with several components which may move
independently between the liquid and gas phase as they advance into the reservoir. In coarser scale models, the
assumption is usually implicitly made that both fluids are fully mixed within a given cell (unless some mixing
parameter is used to slow this effect). There have been many papers looking at the benefits of utilizing pseudo
relative permeability curves to such scales9,10,13, but these are not commonly used in practice, often due to
challenges in construction, and their applicability over displacement conditions they were not designed for.
Miscible models add a higher degrees of complexity to these displacements, where individual component
interactions are assumed to happen under a steady state condition within a given cell, assuming, as it was with
the immiscible flooding18, full contact exists between the injected EOR agent and the reservoir oil. This behavior
has been addressed in several numerical simulators (by reducing the mixing of the reservoir oil with the EOR
agent to prevent a portion of the hydrocarbon from ever be contacted),. It does not, however, fully address the
changes of miscibility issues experienced at different resolutions resulting in challenges similar to those
experienced by the immiscible flooding in terms of vertical sweep19,20.
Several authors have investigated the effect of different degree of mixing on the ultimate recovery1,19,20,21
postulating the scale dependeability of the molecular dispersion as well as the close link to reservoir
heterogeneity, defining both convection and dispersion as key processes to the ultimate recovery under miscible
and near miscible conditions. Scaling groups based on dispersive transport, heterogeneity, aspect and mobility
ratios have been proposed to aid on the optimum selection of model resolutions1,22 making upscaling an iterative

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process which involves not only reservoir heterogeneity (as it was the case for immiscible floods4) but also nature
(composition) of the EOR injectant and reservoir fluid.
In order to address the issue of scale and compostion, similar models to the ones used on our immiscible
investigation4 were used, starting at a very fine scale and gradually coarsening until a typical full field model cell
size thickness was reached (Table 1). Half of the models were constructed at a scale finer than that typically used
to construct fine scale geological models, with the aim of ensuring the transition from actual core plug to
simulation model scale was correctly covered. The overall model dimension, ignoring the additional well cells, was
240ft x 10ft x 20ft (length, width, height), typical in X, Y and Z dimensions of a cell from the full field model. A
structural dip, typical of the reservoirs being screened, of 6, was added. Rock properties were constant by layer
for this work.
X cell length
(inch or feet)

Z cell thickness
(inch or feet)

#cells in I Direction*

#cells in K direction

#cells
(incl well cells)

6 (0.5ft)

2 (0.167ft)

480 + 2

120

57840

12 (1ft)
18 (1.5ft)
3ft

4 (0.33ft)
6 (0.5ft)
1ft

240 + 2
160 + 2
80 + 2

60
40
20

14520
6480
1640

6ft
15ft

2ft
5ft

40 + 2
16 + 2

10
4

420
72

30ft
10ft
8+2
2
60ft
20ft
4+2
1
*a separate column of cells for both the injector and producer was added, always 1ft in length

20
6

Table 1. Cell Dimensions for models used in this work

Figure 3 : Model Rock Property Distributions and cross section of finest scale model (240ft long by 20ft thick)
The finest model, where rock relative permeability curves should be most applicable, had cell sizes close to a 2
diameter core plug and was taken as the reference case for the subsequent analysis. The other models were
designed to match the typical geo-cellular (1-2ft) and fine simulation model sizes (5-20ft).

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CO2/N2 20/80

CO2/N2 40/60

CO2/N2 60/40

CO2/N2 80/20

CO2

100

95

Oil Recovery (%)

Two different fluids were tested


on the investigation, the first one
with 13 components and 33API
(used in previous paper) and
another with 18 components and
36API.
MMP for CO2 in the second
sample was estimated at nearly
3800psia (previously calibrated
with a slimtube test). CO2
injections on the models were
designed to be performed at
pressures greater than MMP,
while
hydrocarbon
injection
aimed for a MMC. Simulations
were performed using a fully
implicity
compositional
formulation. PVT behavior of the
latter fluid is shown in Figure 4

90

85

80

75
200

300

400

500

600

700

800

Injection Pressure (ATM(a))

Figure 4: Reservoir Fluid Phase Envelope 36API sample along


with Slimtube matching results
Results
Figure 5 shows the result of the low, mid and high partially and miscible gas injection rates into an un-swept oil
and connate water filled model for the coarsening upwards geology. As expected gravity heavily dominated the
displacement yielding a very poor sweep; gas reached the producer after only injecting 4% of the pore volume for
the lowest velocity case. Recovery efficiency also flattened more rapidly for the lower velocities (more typical of
reservoir flow), whereas kept increasing in the 10ft/d cases (for the higher resolution models). This behavior is
consistent with the one we observed on the fully immiscible case4, however, as expected different degrees of
mixing are observed in the reservoir, yielding to a much larger overestimate of the recovery with the coarser grid
cells. As the flow rate increased, so the impact of averaging of the rock quality distribution was reduced as
viscous forces started to dominate the flow in the near miscible case; the miscible case preserved the large range
(consistent with the expected improved mixing in the reservoir of the larger scale cells). The impact of the
discretization of the sweep on contacted volume can be seen in the spread of the recoveries for all injection rates,
with the coarser scales always overestimating the recovery by up to 100%.

Figure 5: Coarsening Upward Case Recovery Profiles left partially miscible and right first contact miscibility
(FCM) cases (Solid lines correspond to 0.1ft/day frontal velocity, dotted lines 1ft/day and dashed lines 10ft/day)
for different model sizes (ranging from 2in in blue to 20ft in black). HCPV=1296rb, PV=1600rb.

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A different sweep was naturally observed for the fining upward case. Gravity and viscous forces acted together
resulting in the preferential sweeping of the lower part of the reservoir for the low velocity case, while middle and
high frontal velocity cases swept preferentially the higher permeability areas toward the base of the section.
Figure 6 shows the recovery profiles for the different frontal velocities and model resolution; sweeping efficiency
was higher for this case reaching > 50% after circulating 3 pore volumes of gas for the near miscible case and
nearly 70% for the miscible one. Solvent reached the producers after 0.2-0.3PV were injected (a function of model
resolution) a much smaller interval when compared to the coarsening upward case where 0.04-0.1PV intervals
were observed. Again, note the flattening recovery profiles for the lower velocity cases, where stepped profiles
indicate additional layering being swept. The effect of mixing is clearly observed on the large range of recoveries
observed in the miscible case when compared with the near miscible one.

Figure 6: Fining Upward Case Recovery Profile left partially Miscible and right FCM cases. Solid lines
correspond to 0.1ft/day frontal velocity, dotted lines 1ft/day and dashed lines 10ft/day) for different model sizes
(ranging from 2in in blue to 5ft in red). HCPV=1296rb, PV=1600rb.
The results of the random permeability distribution model showed the strongest dependence on the frontal
advancement velocity, low rates yielded similar results to those of the coarsening upwards model, with a poorer
recovery efficiency and gas reaching the producers only after 10% of the pore volume had been circulated thru
the model. High displacement rates however did show a higher efficiency with nearly 50% recovery after 3 pore
volumes had been circulated. Recoveries were still different (up to 10% in the high rate case) when different size
models were analyzed (as it was observed in the coarsening upward case). A smaller range of recoveries (for
different model resolutions) was observed in the fully miscible case, highlighting the effect of dispersion on the
frontal advancement.

Figure 7: Random distribution Recovery Profiles left partially miscible and right FCM cases .(Solid lines
correspond to 0.1ft/day frontal velocity, dotted lines 1ft/day and dashed lines 10ft/day) For different model sizes
(ranging from 2in in blue to 5ft in red). HCPV=1296rb, PV=1600rb.

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Random

Fine Up

Partially Miscible

Coarsen Up

Effect of Scale Up
To understand the influence of very fine scale heterogeneity and cell size on the results, all models at a given
injection rate can be compared, since at the 20ft coarse scale, all models are reduced to a single common model.
Figure 8 shows the results for the 1ft/d gas injection rate. The largest spread was observed for the coarsening
upwards case, where recovery may be over predicted by as high as 30%PV (for the near miscible case and 40%
to the miscible one) when a coarse model (20ft) is used with the same relative permeabilities as the fine scale.
Fining upward and random distribution models showed a similar trend, although with smaller differences in terms
of recovery. Of interest to note is that the upscaled (20ft) model has recovery efficiency close to that of the fining
upward model, indicating that any adverse heterogeneity effect was lost. This is an important point, clearly
illustrating the effect of underlying geology: if the geology was coarsening up or of a random nature, a significant
overestimation of the recovery would be made under miscible and near miscible scenarios, thus screening in
technologies which would not effectively contact the reservoir oil. The spread of profiles of the 10ft models still
retained some of the trend of the underlying heterogeneity; however, when compared back to the reference (2in)
cases, it is clear that scaling up beyond 1ft increases the divergence away from the underlying fine scale behavior
that the model aims to capture.

Random

Fine Up

Coarsen Up

Figure 8: Effects of Scale up on different rock quality distribution near miscible (frontal velocity 1ft/day).For
different model sizes (2in in Blue to 20ft in black) and three different property distributions.

Figure 9: Effects of Scale up on different rock quality distribution FCM (frontal velocity 1ft/day).For different model
sizes (2in in Blue to 20ft in black) and three different property distributions

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A closer look at the reservoir heterogeneity and displacement velocities reveals a strong relation between the
displacement efficiency and the frontal advancement velocities; the impact at lower injection rates (naturally
gravity dominated displacements) is less severe (Figure 10) than in mid and high velocities (Figure 9). However it
is evident that relative permeabilities (as function of injectant type) need to be upscaled as a function of grid size
and capillary number - combination of both viscous and gravity forces, if the small scale displacement
heterogeneities are to be preserved.

Figure 10: Effects of Scale up on different rock quality distribution left near miscible and right FCM (frontal
velocity 0.1ft/day). For different model sizes (2in in Blue to 20ft in black) and two different property distributions
(B, which is the coarsening upward sequence and R to the random distribution).
Whilst the recovery plots clearly highlight the differences, it is useful to compare the model saturations at common
points. Figure 11, Figure 12 and Figure 13 show the effect of model sizing on the front advancement at the point
where gas reaches the producers in the fine scale model. Consistent with the previous results, the balance
among capillary, gravity and viscous forces changes as the cells get coarser, as well as the oil which is contacted
(and displaced) by the EOR agent.
As a result displacement overall efficiencies increase as the grid cell size is coarsened up, as it is assumed that
100% of the oil within any single cell is contacted and displaced- by the gaseous EOR agent. Whilst this
contacting assumption (akin to frontal smearing) applies irrespective of the actual single cell dimensions, the
actual loss of grid discretisation upon increasing the cell sizes through upscaling produces the results observed
here once coarsening occurs beyond the actual physical process scale, the resultant recovery will always be
optimistic. Prudent choice of layering schemes23 can assist, but again, grids designed for one process may not be
applicable to another, since lumping of layers with similar properties will still tend to ignore the effects of gravity
segregation.

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Figure 11: Displacement Efficiency for 0.1ft/day FCM front advancement for different property distributions

Figure 12: Displacement Efficiency for 1ft/day FCM front advancement for different property distributions

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Velocity

Cell Dimension Coarsening Upward

Fining Upward

Random

2 in

4 in

10Ft/day
2f

5f

Figure 13: Displacement Efficiency for 10ft/day FCM front advancement for different property
Comparison of different injection EOR Agents
Whilst undoubtedly the greatest difference in the scales will occur when a highly dissimilar EOR agent is used
(such as immiscible gas into unswept oil), it is also of interest to observe the effect on recovery for different levels
of miscibility (different EOR agents).
Figure 14 shows the recovery efficiencies for the 1ft/d advance rates and different EOR agents. Wider recovery
ranges were observed for FCM compared with the partially miscible cases, evidencing once more the effect of
different mixing levels in the reservoir. A more efficient sweeping was observed on the cases where a solvent was
injected onto the reservoir (dotted lines) followed by the CO2 injection (dashed lines) and near miscible (solid
lines). Grid size effect was largest on the solvent and CO2 cases driven the different dispersion levels, as the
miscibility was reduced so was the effect of grid size mitigated. These observations confirm the scale dependency
of dispersivity1 and suggest an interative upscaling process for a proper representation of not only reservoir
heterogentiy but also the different mixing levels experienced at the fine scale.

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Figure 14: Displacement Efficiency for 1ft/d for different EOR injection agents
Discussion
Screening reservoirs for their suitability, both technically and economically, for EOR processes often relies on the
same models used for primary recoveries. That these models can be shown to be limited and often times
inadequate to properly represent the complexity of different displacement process and ultimately potential
recovery needs to be more widely understood and appreciated.
On our previous paper we dealt with the challenges of upscaling relative permeabilities, based on the spread of
the immiscible results we observed a consistent, scaleable, geological setting influence on the recovery; we
highlighted the importance of designing and properly utilizing pseudos to account for the proper translation of the
fine front advancements onto the coarser models. This new investigation revealed once again the importance of a
fit-for-purpose numerical model design, where upscaling and pseudo are designed to answer the specific question
at hand where many pseudo projects have failed in the past is trying to cover all angles (heterogeneity,
displacement type, etc). Dispersive flow on miscible and near miscible processes only strentghtens the need of a
coupled static-dynamic upscaling approach where viscous, capillary, gravity and diffusive forces are considered in
the design.
Lack of appreciation of the role that velocity plays in the convective and dispersive displacements is of a concern
albeit several authors have described these issues in detail1,19. Many commercial simulation codes have
included means of handling the velocity dependence on convective flow and have attempted to in an indirect
manner-compensate for the different scales of dispersive flow in the reservoir. However, it seems that such
features are often ignored. Core relative permeabilities continue to be used directly on most numerical simulations
under the assumption of their all purposes validity. The belief that core relative permeabilities are sufficient for all
purposes seems to be more prevalent today in a world accustomed to fine scale geological models than it was
previously, when models generally began at a coarser scale and closer attention was given to the understanding
of the displacement processes as a function of force balance at the pore and grid cell level, rather than
considering them one and the same.
The work presented here validated our previous observations in regards to the loss of heterogeneity at scales
which are often below that of a static model and their impact on recovery, particularly when dealing with dynamic
front advancements where diffusivity is high. Unfortunately all too often these vertical heterogeneities are
overlooked causing a lower-than-expected enhanced oil behavior in real life applications and in some extreme
cases has resulted in pilot failures. We strongly recommend the use of detailed 2D vertical sections which contain
as much geological character as can be identified in any EOR study, not only to reduce proof of concept risk
failure but also to guide the engineers on the translation of the displacements onto the coarser models.
Limitations of the two-dimensional representation of relative permeability became apparent (particularly for the
cases with high dispersive flow) and it is clear that a reconciliation between the fine and coarse model (process
dependent) will always be required, if the predicted capacity of the model is to be preserved. As demanding as

12

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this velocity-process characterization is, so are the implications of misuse of the saturation functions, zooming in
on our previous discussion on the need to break free of the two dimensional limitation for relative permeabilities
and moving towards an implicit formulation of fluid velocities (and compositions) which would be inline with force
balance at the pore throat level.

Conclusions
This paper studied several modeling issues when dealing with enhanced-oil-recovery in miscible and near
miscible floods. It showed the effect of heterogeneity and force balance on the recovery efficiency at different
parts of the reservoir, namely close to the injectors, producers and in the middle of the patterns. It demonstrates
the effect of velocity on the contacted oil at different scales, starting from core scale all the way to full field scale
simulation models. From this study we arrive to the following conclusions:

Fluid front velocity, dispersive flow and force balance determine the amount of oil likely to be contacted by
a miscible (or near miscible) EOR agent. These observations are consistent with the immiscible cases
where for a given reservoir, recoveries were a function of the convective forces; making upscaling an
iterative process which requires a process driven approach
Reservoir description to a high level of granularity is fundamental to increase the predictive power of any
EOR numerical model. With immiscible and miscible dominant forces being scale dependant and closely
tied to the permeability field of the model.
Mis-application of coarse scale models to screen EOR processes can dramatically over predict recovery;
with the current model limitations (one dimensional relative permeability) even at fine numerical gridding
resolution, a proper upscale of the saturation functions is required if the recovery efficiency of the fine
scale model is to be preserved.
The effect of scale up on the reduction of the high resolution model heterogeneity yielded very different
displacement efficiencies when the two-phase relative permeabilities were not upscaled according to the
new velocity field on the coarse model.
Fine scale models, both of core experiments themselves and at a log scale can give a much better
indication of likely contacted and mobilised oil, and thus typical incremental recoveries.

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