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An Overview of Formation Damage

Mechanisms Causing a Reduction in

the Productivity and Injectivity of
Oil and Gas Producing Formations
lems for many oil and gas producing projects, and review some of
D. Brant Bennion is Hycal’s president
the associated technology being used to overcome these problems.
and is a project engineer with over 20
years of domestic and international
technical expertise in the area of forma- How Much of a Concern is Formation
tion damage and fluid flow in porous Damage?
media. Brant has authored or co-
authored over 170 technical papers on a A technical definition of formation damage would be “any
variety of subjects, including multi- process that causes a reduction in the natural inherent productivity
phase flow in porous media, formation of an oil or gas producing formation, or a reduction in the injec-
damage, underbalanced drilling, fluid tivity of a water or gas injection well.” Although the drilling
phase behavior and enhanced oil recovery. Brant received his process often bears the brunt of the blame, formation damage can
B.Sc. in chemical and petroleum engineering from the occur at any time during the life of a well including completion,
University of Calgary with distinction in 1984 and is pursuing production, stimulation, kill, or workover operations. Often the
his Ph.D. degree. He received Best Technical Paper of the Year problem is ignored due to a combination of ignorance and apathy
awards from the Petroleum Society in 1993 and 1995. Brant has with the common rationale that “We don’t care about formation
been a Director of the Petroleum Society on both the Calgary damage in this reservoir—we can always fracture through it.”
Section and National Boards for over ten years and has served Surprisingly, this pretense may make sense in certain situations,
in various capacities such as Continuing Education Director, particularly when the formation is of such low inherent quality that
Student Affairs Director, Secretary, ATM Technical Program it is obvious the flow area and driving differential pressure avail-
Chairman, ATM General Co-Chairman and Chairman, and able for production present in a normal cased and perforated or
Chairman-Elect of the Society. He is Chairman of the open hole completion are insufficient to sustain economic produc-
Petroleum Society of CIM for 2002 and is also a member of tion rates, even with a totally “non damaged” well. In this case,
SPE. Brant is married and has four children. since most drilling and completion related mechanisms of damage
tend to be localized in the near region and may be relatively easi-
ly penetrated by a fracture treatment, more technology and effort
Introduction may be associated with attempting to design a stimulation program
Formation damage is a hot topic these days—with justifiable that is reservoir compatible and non-damaging, rather than wasting
reason, as more operating companies move to the exploitation of a large degree of effort and expense on the initial drilling program.
more and more challenging oil and gas reservoirs in tighter, deep- However, in situations where near wellbore damage will be of
er, and more depleted conditions. Disappointing production or prime importance—most notably in open hole completions—the
injection results from an oil or gas well can be related to a number issue of near wellbore drilling and completion induced formation
of factors which may be difficult to diagnose. Some of these may damage becomes very significant. This is illustrated in Figure 1.
center about poor inherent natural reservoir quality characteristics,
others about mechanical considerations surrounding the condition
and type of the wellbore obtained, and still others under the nebu-
lous catch-all of “formation damage” which often (and sometimes
unjustly) absorbs the majority of the blame for the poor results of
many projects.
Formation damage in oil and gas wells is difficult to quantify in
many cases. This is due to the inability of the reservoir engineer to
retrieve exact samples and conduct detailed measurements on the
area of interest, usually represented by a volume of rock surround-
ing the wellbore which is generally several thousand meters below
the surface of the earth. However, ongoing research over the years
has allowed the development of a variety of techniques allowing
the use of the available information to obtain a much better indi-
cation of the type and degree of damage which different reservoirs
may be sensitive to, thereby adjusting operating practices to
attempt to minimize or reduce these permeability reducing factors.
This data would include information such as production and pres-
sure data, pressure transient data, log analysis, fluid and PVT data
and core, cuttings, and special core analysis data. The subject of FIGURE 1: Illustration of formation damage effects in open hole
this brief article is to provide a synopsis of some of the types of and cased completions mechanisms of formation damage.
formation damage which commonly present themselves as prob-

29 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

FIGURE 2: Common formation damage mechanisms.

Mechanisms of Formation Damage anhydrite, pyrobitumen, etc.). Generally, fines migration tends to
be more of an issue in clastic formations due to the higher con-
Figure 2 provides a chart summarizing many of the common centration of potentially transportable materials (such as clays).
formation damage mechanisms to which a reservoir may be sus- The problem can also be present in carbonates though, so careful
ceptible. Upon first glance, evaluating formation damage appears
daunting with the large number of mechanisms present. How can
one discern what might be the primary and secondary damage
mechanisms that may be operable in a given reservoir with such a
vast array of conceivable candidates to choose from?
The prospect becomes less disconcerting when formation dam-
age is considered from a mechanistic point of view. As can be seen
in Figure 2, there are four primary mechanisms of formation dam-
1. Mechanical
2. Chemical
3. Biological
4. Thermal

Each of these can be further subdivided into discrete sub-mech-

anisms. Technology exists in numerous situations to allow an
accurate determination of the types of damage to which a given
reservoir is susceptible.

Mechanical Formation Damage

Mechanical damage mechanisms are related to a direct, non-
chemical interaction between the equipment or fluids used to drill,
complete, kill, or stimulate a well and the formation resulting in a
reduction in the permeability of the formation. In some situations,
changes in the properties of the reservoir fluids themselves during
production operations may also cause certain types of mechanical
damage. Common mechanical impairment mechanisms would

Fines Migration
This refers to the motion of naturally existing particulates in the
pore system caused by high fluid shear rates. These may include
various types of uncemented clays (dominantly kaolinite and den- FIGURE 3: Effect of wettability on fines migration (illustration
dritic illite, quartz or carbonate fines and rock fragments, mica, shows a water wet case).

November 2002, Volume 41, No. 11 30

evaluation of the composition and degree of cementation of poten- Phase Trapping and Blocking
tially mobile particles in the pore system is essential. This is related to a combination of adverse capillary pressure
Fines migration is usually only apparent when the wetting phase and relative permeability effects. This is illustrated for a low per-
of the reservoir (which wets and encapsulates the fines) is in meability gas reservoir in Figure 4. The basis of a phase trap is a
motion (Figure 3). For example, in a strongly water wet formation transient or permanent increase in trapped fluid saturation (either
which is at the irreducible water saturation as seen in Figure 3, oil water, gas, or hydrocarbon) in the pore system surrounding the
or gas production can occur at high rates with limited or no prob- wellbore, causing a reduction in relative permeability to the phase
lem with fines migration. This is due to the fact that there is no which we desire to produce or inject. Frequent circumstances
impetus for physical migration since the phase that is encapsulat- which may result in phase trapping may include:
ing the fines is not in motion. It is only when the wetting phase sat- • Invasion of water-based fluids/filtrates into regions of low
uration increases to the point where mobility occurs (e.g. water water saturation and resulting trapping effects on ensuing
coning or water breakthrough), that fines migration becomes prob- drawdown. Certain low permeability gas reservoirs and some
lematic. If the formation is non-water wet, problems with fines oil wet oil reservoirs often exhibit this tendency;
migration may be apparent immediately on producing the forma- • Invasion of oil-based fluids/filtrates into zones of low or zero
tion (as in this case where the wetting phase (oil) will immediate- oil saturation and resulting trapping effects on subsequent
ly be mobile). drawdown—a common occurrence in some gas reservoirs and
also in water injection projects where slugs or “skim” oil is
Reservoirs displaying severe fines migration problems may be inadvertently injected into a zone previously highly saturated
treated by either: reducing production rates (not often a popular with water or oil-based fluids are used in dry gas reservoir or
choice); increasing flow area by high density perforating, open water injection well situations;
hole completions, horizontal wells, or fracturing to reduce intersti- • Production of rich retrograde condensate type gases below the
tial velocity; or by chemical stabilizers to adhere the mobile clays dewpoint pressure resulting in the accumulation and trapping
to the pore surfaces to reduce the propensity for mobilization(3). of a critical retrograde condensate saturation in the near well-
These chemical stabilizers are often high molecular weight poly- bore region;
mers and care must be taken in their use so they do not cause dam- • Production of black oils below the bubble point resulting in
age due to physical adsorption issues. the release of gas from solution and the formation of a trapped
critical gas saturation; and,
External Solids Entrainment • Injection of free gas (aerated fluids and foams during poorly
This refers to the invasion of particulate matter suspended in designed UBD operations, non deoxygenated brines, nitrogen
drilling or other fluids which may be injected or exposed in an energized fluids, etc.) into a fluid saturated zone resulting in
overbalanced condition to the rock matrix surrounding the well- the creation of a trapped critical gas saturation.
bore. This matter often may consist of a variety of suspended
solids in drilling fluids (weighting agents, fluid loss control agents,
bridging agents, lost circulation materials, and naturally generated
rock flour or drill solids). In most formations, unless permeability
is very high (large fractures and vugs or Darcy-type permeabili-
ties) or overbalance pressures are extreme (in excess of 7-10 MPa),
the majority of this damage is confined to a region generally very
close to the wellbore (1-2 cm in depth). If perforated or fractured
completions are contemplated, this type of damage may not be sig-
nificant. However, as discussed previously, in an open hole or
uncemented liner situation this type of damage may be very severe
as production through this zone of thin, but possibly very severe
damage, is required. Since the majority of horizontal wells fall into
this category, this damage type is often one of the more primary
concerns in the proper design of low damage overbalanced “drill
in” fluids. These fluids may contain a variety of sized bridging
agents and other materials to assist in the rapid formation of a
bridging filter cake. Considerable research has been conducted in
the area of non-invasive filter cake building ‘drill in’ fluids in the
past several years (4 - 6). FIGURE 4: Illustration of water based phase trapping effects in a
The exact criterion for proper particle bridging depends highly low permeability gas reservoir.
on particle and pore system geometry, wettability, and flow
regime. Generally in turbulent flow conditions (high rate flow),
particles larger than about 25-30% of the pore throat aperture The severity of phase trapping problems is a strong function of
through which they are being displaced have the capability of the increase in trapped saturation, depth of invasion, reservoir
bridging and causing significant reductions in permeability. At pressure available for drawdown, and most importantly, the spe-
lower flow rates (laminar flow conditions), much smaller particles cific configuration of the relative permeability curve for the rock
(down to 5-7% of the pore throat aperture) have been illustrated to under consideration. Phase trapping has been documented in many
have the ability to form meta-stable bridges which can reduce per- situations to cause severe/total reductions in productivity and is
meability substantively. one of the few types of formation damage capable of causing total
Water injection and disposal operations also fall into the cate- occlusions (100% reduction) in permeability. This makes this dam-
gory of possible damage due to solids invasion because of the pres- age mechanism problematic, even in the design of fracturing treat-
ence of suspended solids in many injection fluids (produced fines, ments where, in general, fairly large amounts of fracture face dam-
corrosion products, scales and precipitates, dead and live bacteria, age can often be tolerated due to the large inflow area created dur-
etc). The dominant question often asked is how much filtration is ing a typical fracture treatment.
required to avoid large reductions in injectivity due to suspended Phase trap problems are often treated in a prophylactic fashion
solids injection. In general (depending on water quality), filtration by attempting to avoid the use of fluids most prone to trapping in
to about 20% of the median (D50) pore throat diameter is usually a reservoir. Even underbalanced drilling operations have been
adequate to avoid massive and rapid reductions in injectivity due demonstrated to be affected by phase trapping due to countercur-
to suspended solids plugging issues. rent capillary imbibition effects which can be operative in some
reservoir circumstances. Other techniques used to remove or

31 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

reduce the effects of phase trapping include the use of surface ten- salinity water. The expansion and sloughing of these clays can
sion reducing agents to lower capillary pressure effects that are the cause severe reductions in permeability depending on the amount
basis for phase trapping. These IFT reducers include various sur- and location of the clay in the pore system. The problem is espe-
factants, alcohols, and carbon dioxide. Mechanical techniques for cially severe if the clay is lining the pore throats as only a small
water block removal would include dehydrated gas injection to amount of expansion can result in a very large reduction in perme-
evaporate trapped water as well as formation heat treatment and ability in this configuration. High salinity fluids, glycols, cationic
other more novel stimulation techniques (7 - 10). polymers and amines, and other inhibitors are often used to main-
To remove trapped hydrocarbon liquids, consideration is given tain clays of this type in a contracted or dehydrated state (16 - 18).
to various types of lean or rich gas injection, miscibility removed
entrained liquid, as well as more novel techniques such as in situ Clay Deflocculation
combustion via air injection. Less understood but often more common in occurrence than
clay swelling, clay deflocculation is caused by a disruption of the
Glazing/Mashing electrostatic forces holding the surfaces of individual clay units
This refers to direct damage to the wellbore face caused by that are attracted to each other as well as the walls of the pore sys-
bit/heat interactions (glazing) or poorly centralized rotating and tem in a bunched or “flocculated” state. A rapid salinity shock,
sliding pipe in a poor hole cleaning situation, resulting in the work- change in divalent ion concentration from high to low, or rapid
ing of fines and cuttings into the formation face. This damage transitions in pH (generally to a more caustic state) can all induce
mechanism is difficult to simulate on a laboratory basis, but has deflocculation. Kaolinite is an example of non-water sensitive clay
been clearly observed on a downhole basis from sidewall and con- which can be deflocculated under certain situations(19-22).
ventional full diameter core samples. This effect is generally min- Deflocculation is inhibited by avoiding cationic and pH shocks.
imized by proper lubricity at the bit (to reduce glazing which tends
to be most prevalent in pure gas/air drill operations due to heating Chemical Adsorption
effects associated with the poor heat transfer capacity of pure gases Polymers and other high molecular weight materials present in
in comparison to liquids). Mashing is reduced by good hole clean- some fluids may become bound or adsorbed on the surface of the
ing to avoid large amounts of solids present in the hole(11). formation matrix and clays and, by virtue of their large molecular
size, cause restrictions in flow area and hence permeability. This is
Geomechanics especially a problem in lower quality formations as illustrated in
The creation of a void space in the reservoir matrix (by the Figure 5. Oxidants, such as sodium hypochlorite or enzyme solu-
drilling of the wellbore) removes load-bearing rock and often tions specifically tailored to attack a given polymer substrate, are
results in the distortion of the geomechanical stress regime in a commonly used to reduce and desorb the polymer in these types of
region directly adjacent to the wellbore. Although this region is situations.
generally fairly small depending on the well orientation and the
reservoir stress field under consideration, either contractile or Formation Dissolution
compressive stress fields can be induced which may result in a Certain formation components (halite, various shales, anhy-
change in the pore geometry and permeability character in the near drite, etc.) may have limited to high solubility in water-based flu-
wellbore region (12, 13). ids. This can result in poor gauge hole formation washouts, or col-
lapse in certain conditions, as well as the release of mobile and
Perforation Damage potentially damaging fines. Oil-based fluids, inhibited fluids, or
The detonation of perforation charges may result in the creation saturated ionic systems are often used to combat these issues.
of a crushed zone and generate mobile fines adjacent to the perfo-
ration tunnel, possibly reducing the permeability in this region (14, 15). Paraffins and Waxes
The composition of the perforating fluid, if perforating overbal- Many oils exhibit low “cloud point” temperatures which can
anced, may also have a significant impact on damage effects. result in the precipitation of crystalline in non-alkane based solid
hydrocarbons, or “waxes,” from solution in the oil. These solids
Proppant Crushing and Embedment can result in the formation of bridging plugs of paraffin at or near
This is a damage mechanism which can reduce the effective the perforations (common in high drawdown elevated GOR wells
conductivity of an artificially generated hydraulic fracture. due to localized cooling near the perforations because of Joule-
Normally a proppant (sand or synthetic) is placed to hold the frac- Thompson expansion effects) as well as in tubing and surface
ture open after the fracture pressure has been released to maintain equipment. Often treated with solvents, diluents, heat, or crystal
high permeability to the newly accessed portion of the reservoir. At inhibitors, wax deposition can be extremely damaging in many sit-
high closure stresses, conventional sand proppants can be mechan- uations (22, 23). Although wax deposition tends to be reversible with
ically “crushed” which releases fines, reduces fracture diameter, the application of heat, generally a much higher temperature level
and may significantly reduce permeability. Embedment may be is required than the original level at which the paraffin precipitat-
associated with high closure stresses in plastic (soft) formations or
with angular, rough proppants which have minimal point contain
surface area. In both these situations, plastic extrusion of the prop-
pant into the formation face occurs, once again reducing effective
fracture diameter and permeability. Typically, high strength (e.g.
bauxite, carbolite, etc.) based spherical proppants are used to com-
bat these effects.

Chemical Damage Mechanisms

Chemical damage mechanisms fall into three broad classifica-
1. Adverse rock-fluid interactions
2. Adverse fluid-fluid interactions
3. Wettability alterations in the near wellbore region

Clay Swelling
This is another “classic” mechanism of formation damage and
involves the interaction and hydration of hydrophilic materials, FIGURE 5: Illustration of polymer adsorption effects and low and
such as smectite or mixed layer clays, by reaction with fresh or low high permeability porous media.

November 2002, Volume 41, No. 11 32

ed to fully drive it back into solution in the reservoir oil. result in an undesirable increase in producing water-oil ratio if a
Other Solids mobile water saturation is present in the matrix (30 – 33).
A wide range of organic and inorganic solids may also precipi-
tate from reservoir fluids and result in plugging difficulties down-
hole, in tubing, or surface or injection equipment. Organic solids
would include materials such as asphaltenes, which are high
molecular weight organics, that can be precipitated from oils by
reductions in temperature or pressure, or generated by contact with
incompatible oils, acids or alcohols. Diamondoids, which are the
gas reservoir equivalent of asphaltenes, hydrates, and elemental
sulfur, are other solid species which may precipitate from gases or
A wide range of inorganic solids and scales can be formed by
mixing incompatible waters, or by changes in temperature, pres-
sure, and pH of a given formation water stream which is being
injected or produced. Scales may be of an acid soluble (calcite) or
insoluble (gyp) nature, and can be toxic and radioactive in certain
situations. A wide range of chemical inhibitors and solvents are
available for various types of solids precipitation problems, and
the selection of the proper handling technique for a given reservoir FIGURE 7: Effect of a near wellbore wettability alteration for a
often tends to be very situation specific (25 - 28). water wet producing well.
Emulsions often occur in oilfield operations. The most common Although this phenomenon is generally undesirable for a water
type of problematic emulsion is the “water internal emulsion” in wet producing well, there may be cases where a deliberate wetta-
which small droplets of water are encapsulated in a continuous bility alteration is performed to increase water injectivity in a
external oil phase (Figure 6). These types of emulsions can exhib- water wet injection well. This is illustrated in Figure 8.
it very high viscosity (up to 2 – 4 orders of magnitude above clean, Modification of the wettability around the injection well (by sur-
non-emulsified oil) and hence may result in the formation of per- factant or organosilane treatment, for example) may create a zone
meability-inhibiting “emulsion block.” Poorly designed spent of enhanced water phase permeability in the near wellbore region,
acids are a common offender in this area. “Foamy oil” would also which may allow significantly higher water injection rates at an
fall into the category of a stabilized emulsion where the oil forms equivalent injection pressure level. This is a common treatment in
the eternal phase and small bubbles of trapped gas form the inter- low permeability sandstone injection wells.
nal phase. Usually associated with high viscosity “heavy” oils,
these fluids have been documented to have viscosities substantial-
ly higher than non-foamy fluids (29).

FIGURE 8: Effect of wettability alteration to a more oil-wet state to

improve water phase injectivity.

FIGURE 6: Water-oil emulsion types. Alteration of wettability to a more oil wet state in a water injec-
tion and disposal well may also have the benefit of isolating reac-
tive and migratable clay in a non-mobile hydrocarbon phase. This
Wettability Alterations may reduce problems significantly with clay reactions and migra-
Many additives to oilfield fluids, particularly many surfactants, tion in the near wellbore area as illustrated in Figure 9.
defoamers, corrosion inhibitors, and some biocides, have polar
adsorptive tendencies which may cause them to establish an oil Biological Damage
wetting condition in the region of the reservoir in which they
invade. Figure 7 illustrates the phenomenon of a near wellbore This type of damage refers to problems created by the introduc-
wettability alteration. Water wet rock, due to surface frictional tion of viable bacteria and nutrient streams into a reservoir.
drag effects associated with the motion of the water phase, tends to Although most commonly associated with water injection opera-
have fairly low endpoint relative permeability. Conversely if a tions, bacterial contamination has the potential to occur any time a
rock is oil wet, the water can move easily through the central por- water-based fluid is introduced into a formation. Most bacteria
tion of the pore system, and effective endpoint relative permeabil- grow best at temperatures less than 90˚ C. However, long-term
ity and water mobility are often much higher. If a formation is ini- injection of large volumes of water into deep, hot formations may
tially water wet, transition to an oil wet condition is akin to plac- result in a reduction in bottom hole temperature to the point where
ing a semi-permeable membrane around the wellbore which tends bacteria may survive and propagate. The three major damage
to hold oil back and preferentially let water through. This may mechanisms associated with bacterial entrainment include:

33 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and mercaptans. The corrosive
nature and toxicity of some of these by-products can be problem-
atic in many cases.

Formation Damage in Horizontal Wells

Formation damage effects may be magnified in horizontal well
application situations. There are a number of causes of this, some
of them being:

1. Greater length of time is required to drill a typical horizontal

well, resulting in potentially deeper invasion depth (particu-
larly near the heel (first portion) of the wellbore).
2. Most horizontal wells are open hole or uncemented liner
completions. This means that shallow mechanical damage
which generally would not be a concern in a typical cased
and perforated well, now becomes a very significant barrier
to flow in a horizontal open hole application.
FIGURE 9: Wettability effects on clay reactivity. 3. Due to the large open hole area of a typical horizontal well,
often non-uniform cleanup is obtained due to permeability
Plugging-Most bacteria secrete a viscous polysaccharide variations in the encountered formation. This may result in
polymer as a by-product of their life cycle which may adsorb and the majority of the production being sourced from a small
gradually plug the formation. portion of the horizontal wellbore and the inability to apply
Corrosion-Some types of bacteria set up an electrokinetic enough drawdown to remove invasive damage from the
hydrogen reduction reaction which can result in pitting and hydro- remainder of the interval.
gen stress cracking on metallic surfaces downhole in tubing or in 4. U tube effects may exert sufficient backpressure to limit flow
surface equipment. in some high permeability-low drawdown situations.
Toxicity-A certain type of anaerobic bacteria, commonly 5. In comparison to a vertical well where very invasive stimula-
referred to as Sulfate Reducing Bacteria (SRB), reduce elemental tion treatments such as hydraulic fracturing or matrix acid
sulfate which may be present in formation/injection waters and squeezes can be conducted in a relatively inexpensive fash-
create toxic hydrogen sulfide gas. ion, similar "deep" stimulations on the large exposed area of
Bacteria problems are often treated with oxidants, such as sodi- a horizontal well are often prohibitively expensive. This
um hypochlorite, which reduce the excreted polymer and eradicate being the case, most horizontal well stimulation treatments
the bacteria. Various types of biocides are also often used. Due to often consist of tubing conveyed near wellbore washes with
the fact that bacterial invasion is a difficult problem to totally cure acid or other completion fluids and therefore tend to remove
if the depth of invasion is significant, a preventative approach with only very localized damage.
proper biological control in all introduced water-based fluids is 6. Wellbore collapse and geomechanical issues can result in the
advisable in most cases (34). Currently, rapid detection kits to mon- failure and loss of all or a portion of the effective length of
itor SRB activity by measuring hydrogenase levels can be used to the horizontal well.
"real-time" monitor the downhole activity level of bacteria and 7. Anisotropic flow effects associated with variations in hori-
determine if modifications in biocide concentration or type are zontal to vertical permeability ratio impact the flow of hori-
required to control the problem before it becomes severe. zontal wells (whereas vertical well flow is impacted solely by
horizontal permeability). Damage effects tend to be increased
in severity the more adverse the horizontal to vertical perme-
Thermal Damage ability ratio becomes. This is illustrated in Figures 10 and 11.
Thermal damage mechanisms refer to those associated with Conversely, high natural vertical permeability (e.g. natural
high temperature injection operations (steam injection, in situ vertical fractures) tends to reduce the severity of damage
combustion, etc.). These include (35-37): effects in a horizontal well situation.
Mineral Transformations-At temperatures over approximately
180' C, non-reactive clay species may be catalyzed and form
hydratable reactive products which may swell, desegregate, and
reduce permeability. These reactions are most pronounced at tem-
peratures above 250' C.
Dissolution-Mineral solubility increases with temperature.
Long-term dissolution may result in the release of encapsulated
fines or subsequent reprecipitation of the dissolved species when
the hot fluids move further into the reservoir or into production
wells and cool.
Wettability Alternation-Formations generally become more
water wet as temperature increases. However, there are isolated
circumstances of transitions to oil wet behavior on the application
to formations of superheated steam.
Reduction in Absolute Permeability-This has been document-
ed to occur under overburdened conditions at extreme tempera-
tures (in some cases). It is believed to be due to thermal induced
grain expansion and subsequent pore constriction. Thermal stress
cracking and manufacturing of mobile and damaging fines has also
been observed at high temperatures in some isolated studies.
FIGURE 10: Typical damage zone around a vertical well.
Thermal Degradation-Over 200' C thermal reactions of sul-
fur-bearing compounds in oil and rock, as well as carbonate reac-
tions, may result in the production of large concentrations of

34 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

ety of problems, however, are not often present in every reservoir.
Some formations are remarkably resilient and stubbornly resist the
efforts of even the most dedicated methods to damage them.
Others are sensitive to even the slightest misstep. A proper combi-
nation of integrating available field and laboratory analysis of the
rock, fluids, and specific practices used in a given situation can
result, in the vast majority of cases, with a considerable reduction
in the risk and potentially a large increase in the productivity of the
subject well. As with most things concerning formation damage, a
small bit a knowledge can go a long way towards allowing opera-
tors to make informed decisions as to the best practices to drill,
complete, and produce wells.
FIGURE 11: Typical horizontal well damage profile.
Evaluating Formation Damage I. MUECKE, T.W., Formation Fines and Factors Controlling Their
The potential areas of sensitivity to formation damage for most Movement in Porous Media; Journal of Petroleum Technology, SPE
reservoirs can be determined by increasing the understanding of 7007, February 1979.
the reservoir. This is often accomplished by obtaining information 2. OYENENIN, M.B., et a!., Factors to Consider in the Effective
from field data, fluid samples, and core analysis methods, including: Management and Control of Fines Migration in High Permeability
Sands; paper SPE 30112, presented at the SPE European Formation
1. Wettability Damage Conference, The Hague, The Netherlands, May 15 - 16, 1995.
2. Capillary pressure
3. RAHMAN, S.S., et a!., Prediction of Critical Condition for Fines
3. Initial and irreducible fluid saturations
Migration in Petroleum Reservoirs; SPE paper 28760, presented at the
4. Relative permeability character Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference, Melbourne, Australia,
5. Matrix and clay composition and location November 7 - 10, 1994.
6. Pore size and pore throat size distribution
7. Critical velocity (fines migration testing) 4. ABRAMS, A., Mud Design to Minimize Rock Impairment Due to
8. Whole mud invasion testing (return permeability testing) Particle Invasion; Journal of Petroleum Technology, SPE 5713, March
9. Critical filtration testing 1977.
10. Salinity and salinity shocking tests 5. FRANCIS, P., Dominating Effects Controlling the Extent of Drilling
11. Water-water, oil-water, and emulsion testing Induced Damage; paper SPE 38182, presented at the European
12. Scaling and precipitate modelling via geochemical analysis Formation Damage Conference, The Hague, The Netherlands, June
of fluids 2 - 3, 1997.
13. Proper knowledge of bubble and dewpoint of reservoir fluids
14. Evaluating cloud and pore point 6. AMINIAN, K., et a!., Influence of Pore Size Distribution on Damage
Profile; paper SPE 39587, presented at the International Symposium
15. Tests on the wetting properties of the proposed fluids on the on Formation Damage Control, Lafayette, LA, February 18 - 19, 1998.
16. Bacterial content and type in injection fluids 7. BENNION, D.B., et a!., Remediation of Water and Hydrocarbon Phase
17. Potential for thermal damage effects at high temperature. Trapping Problems in Low Permeability Gas Reservoirs; CIM paper
96-80, presented at the 47th ATM of the Petroleum Society of ClM,
All of these issues can be evaluated by proper screening work Calgary, AB, June 10 - 12, 1996.
conducted in the laboratory. Figure 12 illustrates the appearance of 8. WARREN, B.K., et a!., Development of the Pekisko Dolomite in the
a typical core displacement apparatus used to conduct this type of Bigoray Field. Issues in Formation Damage Mechanisms, Drilling
work in-house at Hycal Energy Research Laboratories in Calgary, Fluid Selection and Well Stimulation; paper SPE 39921, presented at
Canada. the Low Permeability Gas Reservoir Symposium, Denver, CO, April
5 - 8,1998.

9. HWANG, M.K. and ODEH, A.S., Estimation of Condensate Dropout

Effects on Well Productivity as Skin Changes with Multiplicative
Interactions Among Skin Components; paper SPE 29894, presented at
the Middle East Oil Show, Bahrain, March 11 - 14, 1995.


D.W. Water and Hydrocarbon Phase Trapping in Porous Media-
Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment; Petroleum Society of CIM paper
95-69, presented at the ATM, Banff, AB, May 1995.

11. BYROM, T.G. and COULTER, G.R, Some Mechanical Aspects of

Formation Damage and Removal in Horizontal Wells; paper SPE
31145, presented at the International Symposium on Formation
Damage Control, Lafayette, LA, February 14 - 16, 1996.

12. THALLAK, S.G., et a!., Deformation Effects on Formation Damage

During Drilling and Completion Operations; paper SPE 25430, pre-
sented at the Production Operations Symposium, Oklahoma City, OK,
March 21 - 23, 1993.
FIGURE 12: Hycal core displacement apparatus
13. MORALES, RH., et a!., Mechanical Skin Damage in Wells; paper
SPE 30459, presented at the ATe, Dallas, TX, October 22 - 25, 1995.
Summary 14. SWIFT, R, et a!., Micro-Mechanical Modelling of Perforating Shock
It can be seen that even when concentrating on only what are Damage; paper SPE 39458, presented at the International Symposium
on Formation Damage Control, Lafayette, LA, February 18 - 19, 1998.
considered to be "major" damage mechanisms, a large host of
potential problems may be present in a given reservoir. This vari- 15. ASADI, M., et a!., Effect of the Perforation Damage on Well

November 2002, Volume 41, No. 11 35

Productivity; paper SPE 27384, presented at the International 25. MINNSSIEUX, L., Core Damage from Crude Asphaltene Deposition;
Symposium on Formation Damage Control, Lafayette, LA, February paper SPE 37250, presented at the International Symposium on
7 - 10, 1994. Oilfield Chemistry, Houston, TX, February 18 - 21, 1997.

16. MONAGHAN, GA, SALATHIEL, RA., MORGAN, B.E., and 26. PIRO, G., et aI., Experimental Study on Asphaltene Adsorption onto
KAISER JR, AD., Laboratory Studies of Formation Damage in Sands Formation Rock: An Approach to Asphaltene Formation Damage
Containing Clays; Transactions ofAIMME, II 62-G, 1959. Prevention; paper SPE 30109, presented at the European Formation
Damage Conference, The Hague, The Netherlands, May 15 - 16, 1995.
17. ZHOU, Z., et aI., Clay Swelling Diagrams: Their Applications in
Formation Damage Control; paper SPE 3II23, presented at the 27. JORDAN, M.M., et aI., Scale Inhibitor Adsorption and Desorption
International Symposium on Formation Damage Control, Lafayette, Versus Precipitation: The Potential for Extended Squeeze Life While
LA, February 14 - 16, 1996. Minimizing Formation Damage; paper SPE 30106, presented at the
European Formation Damage Conference, The Hague, The
18. ZAITOUN, A. and BERTON. N., Stabilization of Montmorillonite Netherlands, May 15 - 16, 1995.
Clay in Porous Media by Polyacryclamide; paper SPE 3II09, present-
ed at the International Symposium on Formation Damage Control, 28. CROWE, c., et aI., Scale Inhibition in Wellbores; paper SPE 27996,
Lafayette, LA, February 14 - 16, 1996. presented at the University of Tulsa Centennial Celebration, Tulsa,
OK, August 29 - 31, 1994.
19. MUNGAN, N., Permeability Reduction Through Changes in pH and
Salinity; Journal of Petroleum Technology, December 1965. 29. BENNION, D.B., CHAN, M., SARIOGLU, G., COURTNAGE, D.,
WANSLEEBEN, J., and HIRATA, T., The In Situ Formation of
20. SCHUERMAN, R.F and BERGERSEN, B.M., Injection Water Bitumen-Water Stable Emulsions in Porous Media During Thermal
Salinity, Formation Pretreatment, and Well Operations Fluid Selection Stimulation; Petroleum Soctiety of CIM paper 93-46, presented at the
Criteria; Journal of Petroleum Technology, SPE 18461, July 1990. 1993 ATM, Calgary, AB, May 9 - 12, 1993.
21. BAZIN, B., et aI., Control of Formation Damage by Modelling 30. SHARMA, M.M. and WUNDERLICH, RW., The Alteration of Rock
Water/Rock Interactions; paper SPE 27363, presented at the Properties Due to Interactions with Drilling Fluid Components; paper
International Symposium on Formation Damage Control, Lafayette, SPE 14302, presented at the 60th ATC of the SPE, Las Vegas, NV,
LA, February 7 - 10, 1994. September 22 - 25, 1985.
22. HAYATDAVOUDI, A. and GHALAMBOR, A., Controlling 31. BALLARD, T.I. and DAWE, R.I., Wettability Alteration Induced by
Formation Damage Caused by Kaolinite Clay Minerals - Part I; paper Oil Based Drilling Fluids; paper SPE 17160, presented at the
SPE 31II8, presented at the International Symposium on Formation Formation Damage Control Symposium, Bakersfield, CA, February
Damage Control, Lafayette, LA, February 14 - 16, 1996. 8 - 9, /987.
23. HAMMANI, A., et aI., Paraffin Deposition from Crude Oils: 32. CUIEC, L., Effect of Drilling Fluids on Rock Surface Properties; SPE
Comparison of Laboratory Results to Field Data; paper SPE 38776, FE, SPE 15707, March 1989.
presented at the ATC, San Antonio, TX, October 5 - 8, 1997.
33. SANNER, D.O. and AZAR, U., Alteration of Reservoir Rock
24. STRAUB, T.I, AUTRY, S.w., and KING, G.E., An Investigation into Wettability and its Flow Properties Caused by Oil Based and Water
the Practical Removal of Downhole Paraffin by Thermal Methods and Based Drilling Muds; paper SPE 27354, presented at the International
Chemical Solvents; paper SPE 18889, presented at the Production Symposium on Formation Damage Control, Lafayette, LA, February
Operations Symposium, Oklahoma City, OK, March 13 - 15, 1989. 7-10, /994.

34. HAYATDAVOUDI, A. and GHALAMBOR, A., A Study of Formation

Damage of Selective Clay and Other Minerals Caused by Bacterial
Plugging; SPE Drilling & Completions, SPE 27006-P, September

35. GUNTER, W.D., et aI., Modelling Formation Damage Caused by

Kaolinite from 25 to 300 C in the Oil Sand Reservoirs of Alberta; SPE
Advanced Technology Series, Vol. 2., No.2, SPE 23786, April 1994.

36. GUPTA, A. and CIVAN, F, Temperature Sensitivity of Formation

Damage in Petroleum Reservoirs; paper SPE 27368, presented at the
International Symposium on Formation Damage Control, Lafayette,
LA, February 7 - 10, 1994.

37. BENNION, D.B., THOMAS, FB., and SHEPPARD, D.A., Formation

Damage Due to Mineral Alteration and Wettability Changes During
Hot Water Injection and Steam Injection in Clay-Bearing Sandstone
Reservoirs; paper SPE 23783, presented at the 1992 Symposium on
Formation Damage Control, Lafayette, LA, February 26 - 27, 1992.

36 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology