You are on page 1of 27

Immiscible Displacement

Buckley-Leverett Theory
One of the simplest and most widely used methods of estimating the advance of a fluid displacement front in an immiscible
displacement process is the Buckley-Leverett method

[1],[2]. The Buckley-Leverett theory [1942] estimates the rate at which an injected water bank moves through a porous medium. The approach
uses fractional flow theory and is based on the following assumptions:

 Flow is linear and horizontal

 Water is injected into an oil reservoir
 Oil and water are both incompressible
 Oil and water are immiscible
 Gravity and capillary pressure effects are negligible

In many rocks there is a transition zone between the water and the Oil zones. In the true water zone, the water saturation is essentially 100. In the
oil zone, there is usually present connate water, which is essentially immobile. Only water will be produced from a well completed in the true water
zone, and only oil will be produced from the true oil zone. In the transition zone both oil and water will be produced, and at each point the fraction
of the flowrate that is water will depend on the oil and water saturations at that point.

Frontal advance theory is an application of the law of conservation of mass. Flow through a small volume element () with length ∆x and cross-
sectional area “A” can be expressed in terms of total flow rate qt as:
Where q denotes volumetric flow rate at reservoir conditions and the sub-scripts {o,w,t} refer to oil, water, and total rate, respectively
and ƒw and ƒo are fractional flow to water and oil (or water cut and oil cut) respectively:

ko / kw is a function of saturation. So for constant viscosity ƒw is just a function of saturation.

Figure 4-1 is a plot of the relative permeability ratio, ko / kw, versus water saturation. Because of the wide range of ko / kw values, the relative
permeability ratio is usually plotted on the log scale of semi-log paper. Like many relative permeability ratio curves, the central or main portion of
the curve is quite linear. As a straight line on semi-log paper, the relative permeability ratio may be expresses as a function of the water saturation

The constants “a” and “b” may be determined from the graph, such as Figure 4-1, or determined from simultaneous equations from known data of
saturation and relative permeability.
Figure 4-1: Semilog Plot of Relative Permeability Ratio versus Saturation

Substituting eq. (4-6) into eq. (4-5) will end with:

If the water fractional flow is plotted versus water saturation, an S-shaped curve will result that is named fractional flow curve.
Figure 4-2: Fractional Flow Curve

Assume that the total flow rate is the same at all the medium cross section. Neglect capillary and gravitational forces that may be acting. Let the oil
be displaced by water from left to right.

The rate the water enters to the medium element from left hand side (LHS) is:

The rate of water leaving element from the right hand side (RHS) is:

The change in water flow rate across the element is found by performing a mass balance. The movement of mass for an immiscible,
incompressible system gives:

Change in Water Flowrate = water entering – water leaving

This is equal to the change in element water content per unit time.

Let Sw is the water saturation of the element at time t. Then if oil is being displaced from the element, at time ( t + Δt ) the water saturation will be (
Sw + ΔSw ). So water accumulation in the element per unit time is:

Where, φ is porosity. Equating equations (4-10) and (4-11) results:

In the limit as ∆t → 0 and ∆x → 0 (for the water phase):

The subscript x on the derivative indicates that this derivative is different for each element.

It is not possible to solve for the general distribution of water saturation Sw( x,t ) in most realistic cases because of the nonlinearity of the problem.
For example, water fractional flow is usually a nonlinear function of water saturation. It is therefore necessary to consider a simplified approach to
solving Eq. ((4-13)).
Figure 4-3: Horizontal Bed Containing Oil and Water

For a given rock, the fraction of flow for water ƒw is a function only of the water saturation Sw, as indicated by Eq. (4-13), assuming constant oil and
water viscosities. The water saturation however is a function of both time and position, which may be express as ƒw = F( Sw ) and Sw = G( t,x ).

Now, there is interest in determining the rate of advance of a constant saturation plane, or front ( ∂x / ∂t )Sw , where Sw is constant and dSw = 0. So
from eq. (4-14):

Substituting eqs (4-13) and 4-15) into eq. (4-16) gives the Buckley-Leverett frontal advance equation:
The derivative is the slope of the fractional flow curve and derivative is the velocity of the moving plane with water

saturation Sw. Because the porosity, area, and flowrate are constant and because for any value of Sw, the derivative is a constant, then
the rate dx / dt is constant.

This means that the distance a plane of constant saturation, Sw, advances is proportional to time and to the value of the derivative (

) at that saturation, or:


xSwis the distance traveled by a particular Sw contour

Qinj is the cumulative water injection at reservoir conditions.

In field units:

Example 4-1

Assume a cubical reservoir under active water drive with oil production of 900bbl/day. The flow could be approximated as a linear flow. The cross
sectional area is the product of the width, 1320 ft, and the true formation thickness, 20 ft, so that for a porosity of 0.25, eq. (4-19) becomes:
Consider that because we assume the fluids are completely incompressible, so the oil production rate is equal to the total flowrate in the different
cross sections of the reservoir.

Figure 4-4: Cubic Reservoir Under Active Water Drive

If we let x=0 at the first point of the transition zone, then the distances the various constant water saturation planes will travel in, say, 60, 120, and
240 days are given by:

The value of the derivative may be obtained for any value of water saturation, Sw, by plotting ƒw from eq. (4-7) versus Sw and graphically
taking the slopes at various values of Sw. Assume you find a=1222 and b=12 from Figure 4-1 (intercept = 1222 = ‘a’ and slope of the straight line =
13 = ‘b’) for eq. (4-7). For example at Sw = 0.4, ƒw = 0.129. The slope taken graphically at Sw = 0.4 and ƒw = 0.267 is 1.66.
The derivative may also be obtained mathematically using eq.(4-7):

Figure 4-5 shows the water fractional flow curve and also the derivative plotted against water saturation from eq. (4-21). Since Eq. (4-7)
does not hold for the very high and for the quite low water saturation ranges (see Figure 4-1), some error is introduced below 30% and above 80%
water saturation. Since these are in the regions of the lower values of the derivatives, the overall effect on the calculation is small.

Figure 4-5: Water Fractional Flow and its Derivative

A plot of Sw versus distance using Eq. (4-20) and typical fractional flow curves leads to the physically impossible situation of multiple values of
Sw at a given location. For example Figure 4-6 shows water saturation distribution according to eqs (4-20) and (4-21). For example, at 50% water
saturation, the value of the derivative is 2.87; so by eq. (4-20), at 60 days the 50% water saturation plane will advance a distance of:
This distance is plotted as shown in Figure 4-6 along with the other distances that have been calculated using eqs (4-20) and (4-21) for other time
values and other water saturations. These curves are characteristically double-valued or triple valued. For example, Figure 4-6 indicates that the
water saturation after 240 days at 400 ft is 20, 39, and 69%. The saturation can be only one value at any place and time. What actually occurs is
that the intermediate values of the water saturation have the maximum velocity (Figure 4-5 and eq. (4-17)), will initially tend to overtake
the lower saturations resulting in the formation of a saturation discontinuity or shock front. Because of this discontinuity the mathematical
approach of Buckley-Leverett, which assumes that Sw is continuous and differentiable, will be inappropriate to describe the situation at the front

The difficulty is resolved by dropping perpendiculars at point Xƒ (as flood front position) so that the areas to the right (A) equal the areas to the
left (B), as shown in Figure 4-6. In other words a discontinuity in Sw at a flood front location Xƒ is needed to make the water saturation distribution
single valued and to provide a material balance for displacing fluid.
Figure 4-6: (a) Fluid Distribution at 60, 120, 240 days (b) Triple-Valued Saturation Distribution (After Buckley and Leverett, 1942)
A more elegant method of achieving the same result was presented by Welge in 1952. This consists of integrating the saturation distribution
over the distance from the injection point to the front, thus obtaining the average water saturation behind the front Sw, as shown in Figure

Figure 4-7: Water Saturation Distribution as a Function of Distance, Prior to Breakthrough

The situation depicted is at a fixed time, before water breakthrough, corresponding to an amount of water injection. At this time the maximum
water saturation, Sw = 1 – Sor, has moved a distance X1, its velocity being proportional to the slope of the fractional flow curve evaluated for the
maximum saturation which, as shown in Figure 4-5, is small but finite. The flood front saturation Swƒ is located at position x2 measured from the
injection point. Applying the simple material balance:


Where, Qinj is cumulative water injection.

Using eq. (4-18):

At breakthrough time:


tbt = Breakthrough time,

qt = Total injection rate,

L = Medium length

From eq. (4-24):

Where PVI is the pore volume injected. So:

The average water saturation in the reservoir at the time of breakthrough is given by material balance as:
From eqs (4-26) and (4-27):


i.e. the slope of the fractional flow curve at conditions of the front is given by eq. 4-29).

To satisfy eq. (4-29) the tangent to the fractional flow curve, from the point Sw = Swc, where ƒw = 0, must have a point of tangency with co-
ordinates Sw = Swƒ; ƒw = ƒwƒ, and extrapolated tangent must intercept the line ƒw = 1 at the point (Sw = Swbt ; ƒw = 1). See Figure 4-8.

Figure 4-8: Tangent to the Fractional Flow Curve from Sw = Swc

The use of either of these equations ignores the effect of the capillary pressure gradient, ∂Pc / ∂x.

This simple graphical technique of Welge has much wider application in the field of oil recovery calculations.

As eq. (4-19) shows the velocity of every saturation front is constant, the graph of saturation location vs. time is set of straight lines starting from
the origin. This graph is often plotted in dimensionless form. The equation can be made dimensionless by defining:


xD = Normalized distance

tD = Pore volumes injected

Eq. (4-19) becomes:

Figure 4-9 is a graph of dimensionless distance vs. dimensionless time for the movement of water saturation predicted by the frontal advance
equation. Saturation Siw < Sw < Swƒ travel at the same velocity are located on the flood-front path. The region ahead of flood front has a uniform
saturation. Saturations greater than Swƒ travel at progressively slower velocities as indicated by the decreasing slopes in Figure 4-9.
Figure 4-9: xo vs. tD for a Linear Waterflooding

Saturation profiles or saturation histories can be constructed by making cross sections through the time/distance graph. A saturation profile is a
graph of the locations of all saturations along a cross section of fixed time, as illustrated by the continuous line at tD = 0.28 in Figure 4-9. Figure
4-10 displays the saturation profile at tD = 0.28 that was obtained from Figure 4-9.
Figure 4-10: Saturation Profile at tD = 0.28

The saturation history is the graph of saturation vs. time at a particular value of xD. A plot of water saturation vs. tD for xD = 1, shown in Figure 4-11,
illustrates the arrival of water saturations at the end of the linear system.
Figure 4-11: Saturation History at xD = 1, Producing Face of the Medium

Figure 4-12 represents the initial water and oil distributions in the reservoir unit and also the saturation distributions after 240 days, provided the
flood front has not reached the produced face of the cubic reservoir. The area to the right of the flood front in Figure 4-12 is commonly called the
oil bank and the area to the left is sometimes called the flooded or drag zone. The area above the 240-day curve and below the 90% water
saturation curve represents oil that may yet be recovered, or dragged out of the high-water saturation portion of the reservoir by flowing large
volumes of water through it. The area above the 90% water saturation represents unrecoverable oil since the critical oil saturation is 10%. This
presentation of the displacement mechanism has assumed that capillary force is negligible.

Figure 4-12 also indicates that a well in this reservoir will produce water-free oil until the flood front approaches the well. Thereafter, in a relatively
short period, the water cut will rise sharply and be followed by a relatively long period of production at high, and increasingly higher, water cuts.
For example, just behind the flood front at 240 days, the water saturation rises from 20% to about 60%-that is, the water cut rises from zero to
66% (see Figure 4-5). When a producing formation consists of two or more rather definite strata, or stringers, of different permeabilities, the rates
of advance in the separate strata will be proportional to their permeabilities, and the overall effect will be a combination of several separate
displacements, such as described for a single homogeneous stratum.
Figure 4-12: Saturation Distribution After 240 Days
Immiscible Displacement
Water Injection Oil Recovery Calculations
Before water breakthrough ( t= tbt ) in the producing face/well, eq. (4-18) can be applied to determine the positions of planes of constant water
saturation, for Swƒ < Sw < 1 – Sor, as the flood moves through the reservoir, and hence the water saturation profile. At the time of breakthrough and
subsequently, this equation is used in a different manner, to study the effect of increasing the water saturation at the producing well. In this
case x = L, the length of the reservoir block, which is a constant, and eq. (4-18) can be expressed as:


PVI = Injected Pore Volume (dimensionless)

Swe = Water saturation at the end (producing) face

Using equation (4-19), someone can find the saturation at the producing face after the breakthrough time. Before this time Swe = Swi, and at the
breakthrough time it is equal to the Swƒ and then it increased with time. Before breakthrough occurs the oil recovery calculations are trivial. For
incompressible displacement the oil recovered is simply equal to the volume of water injected, there being no water production during this phase.
At the time of breakthrough the flood front saturation, Swƒ = Swbt, reaches the producing well and the reservoir watercut increases suddenly from
zero to ƒwbt = ( ƒw )swbt a phenomenon frequently observed in the field and one which confirms the existence of a shock front. At this time
(breakthrough time) produced pore volume of the oil can be calculated as follows:


Npd = Produced pore volume of oil,

Npdbt = Produced pore volume of oil at breakthrough time.

After breakthrough, L remains constant in eq. (4-32) and Swe and ƒwe, the water saturation and fractional flow at the producing well, gradually
increase as the flood moves through the reservoir. During this phase the calculation of the oil recovery is somewhat more complex and requires
application of the Welge equation, for average saturation of a segment of porous medium:

Welge Equation – Average Saturation in a Segment of Porous Medium

The average saturation between two points, x1 and x2, behind the front in a linear system with uniform A and φ is:

The integral in the numerator of this equation can be evaluated using the method of integration by parts, i.e.
to give:

The value of x in the last term of the above equation can be related to Sw by the frontal advance equation:

Substituting eq. (4-18) for x in eq. (4-35) gives:

Average saturation between two cross sections at x1 and x2, could be found by substituting eq. (4-37) into eq. (4-34):

The above equation can be used to relate the average saturation in any segment of the linear system to the saturations at the two ends of that
segment. If we consider the situation after breakthrough and take x1 to be the injection face ( x1 = 0, ƒw1 = ƒwin ) and x2 to be the production (end)
face ( x2 = L, Sw2 = Swe, ƒw2 = ƒwe ), we can write an expression for the average saturation in the system as:
In the above equation, ƒwin is the fractional flow of water at the injection face, which would always be equal to 1. Hence:

Frontal advance equation can be used to relate the value PVI to saturation at the outflow end. The axial position of the saturation Sw2, which is
now at the producing end, is given by eq. (4-18):


Substituting eq. (4-42) in eq. (4-40), we get:

This is the Welge equation that relates the saturation at the end (producing) face to the average saturation in the linear system.

Subtracting Swc = connate water saturation, from both sides of eq. (4-43), and using eq. (4-33) gives the oil recovery equation:

Where, Npd is dimensionless pore volume oil production.

The following steps show the procedure for calculating waterflood performance using the frontal advance equation:
 Draw the fractional flow curve ( ƒw vs. Sw ), using eq. (4-7) and appropriate relative permeabilities and viscosities (as mentioned previously
capillary pressure is neglected in developing this equation).
 To find the front saturation and water fraction, draw the tangent to this curve ( ƒw vs. Sw ) from the point: Sw = Swc , ƒw = 0. As described in
the previous section, the point of tangency has the co-ordinates: Sw = Swƒ = Swbt , ƒw = ( ƒw )Swƒ = ƒwbt.
 Determine the average saturation behind the front (and at breakthrough time) by extrapolation of tangent line at front point to ƒw = 1.
 Using eq. (4-33) to calculate breakthrough recovery.
 Use eqs. (4-32) and (4-40) to calculate the values of average saturation ( Sw ) and Npd values corresponding to a bunch of selected
Swe values that are higher than Swƒ.
 Calculate the corresponding recovery using eq. (4-44).
Figure 4-13: Application of the Welge Graphical Technique to Determine: (a) The Front Saturation, (b) Oil Recovery After Breakthrough