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Maximizing Oil Recovery from

Carbonate Reservoirs
Issue 9 2009

Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

Stimulation, monitoring, and Recovery

Average recovery factors in carbonate reservoirs are lower than those that can be achieved in clastic reservoir
sequences. Efforts to increase recovery will require the optimum location of new wells, careful monitoring of
the reservoir to locate bypassed oil, and the introduction of new technologies for moving oil from the rock
pores to the well.

In this article, Steve Davies and Bernard Montaron look at the stimulation methods, reservoir monitoring
systems, and enhanced oil recovery techniques that will help engineers to extract a larger proportion of the oil
from complex reservoir structures.


Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review Issue 9 2009

In most of the world’s producing oil fields, there are geological and economical barriers
to extraction that result in about two-thirds of the oil present in the reservoir being left
behind. Efforts to increase oil recovery are almost as old as the industry itself.

According to industry research groups, the average worldwide Figure 5.1

Issue 9 2009

oil recovery factor, the ratio of recoverable oil to the volume of oil 5.1: The world’s oil fields contain
900 Difficult to recover around 890×109 m3 of conventional
originally in place, is only about 35% (Fig. 5.1). The average for natural Proven reserves oil, of which 65% currently is
gas recovery is much higher, more than 70%, but the need to increase 800 Oil already produced considered nonrecoverable.
crude oil recovery remains one of the most difficult challenges facing About 150×109 m3 of oil has been
56 produced at a rate of 5 ×109 m3/a.

Volume of oil, billion m3

the industry. 600 Approximately 160 ×109 m3 of proven
oil reserves remain.
Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

The recovery challenge

The current, or effective, recovery factor is the quantity of oil
recovered from a reservoir to date, and the ultimate recovery factor 300
is the maximum quantity of oil that is considered recoverable. The 200
actual value of the ultimate recovery factor depends on the available 100
extraction technologies, the local processing infrastructure, and 0
the economic factors that prevail in the world oil market. Producing
Conventional oil

more oil from existing fields and wells generally makes good Nonconventional oil
economic sense, but when the cost of extraction exceeds the likely
return on production then the field will be shut in or abandoned.

Over the course of their life cycles, oil fields will generally pass
through three stages of recovery: primary, secondary, and tertiary Figure 5.2
(Fig. 5.2).
Primary recovery Secondary
Primary recovery is the recovery of oil through normal drilling and Tertiary
production depletion. In most fields, vertical and horizontal oil
production wells are drilled and cased with pipe that is cemented 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
in place. Oil companies then install pumps (such as surface
beam pumps and ESPs), gas lift completions, or normal depletion 5.2: Applying successful primary, secondary, and tertiary recovery techniques
to a conventional oil field might, under favorable conditions, boost recovery to
completions to ensure that the wells maintain their production around 80%. In most fields, however, the figure would be no more than 60% and
rates. The wells are then brought on stream and produced until for complex reservoirs it could be much less.
the reservoir pressure declines.

In some fields, pressure is maintained by the influx of water from recovery. The process can start immediately after first production,
adjacent reservoir rocks. This process, known as natural water but is normally implemented some years after startup.
drive, can provide high and sustained production rates. However,
when the water breaks through, wells quickly become uneconomic In complex reservoirs with poor lateral communication, water is
owing to the high water cut. usually injected in a grid pattern via injection wells distributed around
or across the field. In simpler reservoirs with good communication,
Secondary recovery injection wells may be drilled on one side of the field; then the process
In fields where there is no natural water drive, wells will normally of sweeping oil across the reservoir is called edgewater injection.
be produced until the pressure declines to a fairly low level. If the Carefully planned and executed water injection programs can double
well is producing only small volumes of water at this stage, then the volume of oil recovered during the primary recovery stage.
wells will be drilled for injecting water to maintain the pressure.
Miscible gas injection, which involves pumping natural gas or
The injection of water and/or gas into oil reservoirs to boost pressure carbon dioxide into the reservoir to increase sweep efficiency and
and/or increase oil sweep efficiency is termed secondary oil recovery factor, is much less common than water injection.
Tertiary recovery Recovery technology

Issue 9 2009
The principal tertiary, or enhanced oil, recovery processes are The progress in petroleum industry technologies and processes
steam injection and chemical injection. Steam injection is the more during the last 20 years has been remarkable and has made a
common option and involves injecting superheated water down significant impact on oil recovery factors. Despite these advances,
wells so that it floods through heavy oil accumulations. The steam boosting recovery in carbonates, however, remains a challenge.
heats the reservoir, thereby reducing the viscosity of the heavy oil Successful secondary recovery requires that the injected fluids
and increasing both the production rate and the recovery factor. sweep the reservoir efficiently, rather than going into isolated

Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

The process often has relatively high unit technical costs per barrel. compartments or bypassing reserves along high-permeability
These costs reflect the high capital and operating costs of the zones. In these situations, determining how the different carbonate
steam plants, infrastructure, and closely spaced production wells. rocks contribute to or impede flow is fundamentally important.
The economics of the process mean that it works best for relatively
large, shallow, and highly permeable heavy oil accumulations. The recent increases in crude oil prices have completely changed
the economics of oil recovery. If prices were to remain at current
levels, there would be ample reason for oil and gas companies
to research and develop new oil recovery technologies and to
implement them in more of their fields.

Seán Dolan
Seán Dolan is a senior petrophysicist for Shell and is currently on The stringers are self-sourcing reservoirs, generally mixed-wet
assignment with Petroleum Development Oman. Before taking up to oil-wet, and they often have residual hydrocarbons below
his position in Oman, Seán worked for Shell in the Netherlands, the pressure-defined, free-water levels. Further complications
USA, and Malaysia. include highly variable reservoir mineralogy and the frequent
plugging of pore space with halite and solid reservoir bitumen.
Q: There are carbonate formations in Oman that are reputed to So, in terms of reservoir evaluation, there is a lot to think about.
be among the oldest and most complex reservoir rocks in the
world. Can you tell us about them? Q: Which current and/or new technologies might help in
The carbonate stringer reservoirs of the South Oman Salt basin evaluating these reservoirs?
are Neoproterozoic to Cambrian in age, around 540 million years First, it is important to do the old stuff right. By this, I mean
old. The reservoir units are slabs of carbonate totally encased the interpretation of well logs and integration of these data
in salt, and they have undergone several diagenetic events and with results from core analysis. Many of the reservoirs are
been affected by halokinetic/tectonic movements. These are candidates for enhanced oil recovery, particularly miscible gas
certainly among the oldest economic hydrocarbon reservoirs flood. We are currently investigating NMR diffusion spectra as a
in the world, although they are not quite the oldest. As far as I surveillance technology to monitor the change in oil properties
know, that honor goes to the Riphean age reservoirs of the East under a miscible gas flood.
Siberian Platform in Russia.
Also, as I implied above, the saturation calculation in the
Q: Can you describe the petrophysical challenges in evaluating reservoirs is difficult because we are dealing with mixed- to oil-
these rocks? wet reservoirs, tight rock, and residual hydrocarbon in the water
Where to begin? The porosities encountered in these stringer leg. We are investigating alternatives to resistivity-based water
reservoirs are generally low and the corresponding permeabilities saturation determination. The new generation of electromagnetic
are also low, but they exhibit a degree of heterogeneity. Many of propagation tools might provide a way forward.
the reservoirs are overpressured, up to litho-static pressure, and
the hydrocarbon fluids they contain are sour: with high H2S and
CO2 contents.
The right place every time to refine the target for the next well. Exploration wells confirm the
Issue 9 2009

The optimal placement of oil, gas, or water wells involves decisions presence of a trap, development wells define its structure, and
that depend on reservoir and fluid properties; well and surface infill wells target individual compartments within the reservoir.
equipment specifications; and economic parameters. Accurate well Each target in this sequence is more tightly constrained than the
placement is important to the success of any drilling program, and it previous one.
becomes critical as E&P companies turn to extended-reach wells to
access oil that would be uneconomic to recover with conventional When attempting to maximize recovery, the placement of infill
Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

technology. As engineers select more extended-reach technologies producers and water or gas injectors is critical. The optimum
and introduce them in mature basins, the size and complexity of the placement of wells in mature fields requires an accurate description
drilling targets change. and simulation model of the reservoir (Fig. 5.3). By drawing together
all the available information, engineers can locate new wells and
The wellbore targets in an oil field become increasingly constrained injectors where they benefit from the presence of flow conduits
as development and production proceed. Each new well drilled rather than where they risk early water production.
provides geoscientists and engineers with data that helps them

Each new well drilled provides geoscientists and engineers with data that helps them to refine
the target for the next well. Exploration wells confirm the presence of a trap, development
wells define its structure, and infill wells target individual compartments within the reservoir.

Figure 5.3

5.3: The optimal placement of wells in mature fields requires an accurate description and simulation model of the reservoir. This waterflood front was monitored
using a high-resolution, 4D seismic survey. The horizontal well plan was modified from the black trajectory to the gray trajectory. The planned well was moved
vertically and laterally away from the flood front to minimize water production and maximize oil recovery.
In complex carbonate fields, optimal wellbore placement requires the ability to steer the well
along a path defined less by preconceived geometries and more by observed structural changes
and bed and reservoir boundaries. LWD technology plays a critical role in this process.

Figure 5.4

Issue 9 2009
5.4: Using rotary steerable systems
such as this PowerV* vertical drilling
system, engineers can drill faster to
deliver more accurate and longer
wells than ever before. 59

Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

The drilling and measurement challenge Rather than drilling geometrically to a point or points in the subsurface,
Drilling and measurement technologies have had to keep pace with well-placement teams have adopted methods that enable them to
the demands of E&P. To drill deeper, reach farther, or tap multiple steer the bit continuously in response to changing conditions and
targets, drilling trajectories have evolved from vertical to directional, so reach the farthest extents of the reservoir. In complex carbonate
high-angle, horizontal, and extended-reach wells. The introduction of fields, optimal wellbore placement requires the ability to steer the
rotary steerable systems has transformed directional drilling. Using well along a path defined less by preconceived geometries and more
the rotary steerable system drilling, engineers can drill faster to by observed structural changes and bed and reservoir boundaries.
deliver more accurate and longer wells than ever before (Fig. 5.4). LWD technology plays a critical role in this process.

Drillers now have a degree of control over the well trajectory that Propagation resistivity tools have been used in LWD applications
would have been inconceivable when drillers relied on bent subs to provide formation-evaluation measurements for some time. They
and the right combination of weight on the bit and revolutions per can also be used in well-placement applications, but propagation
minute to change trajectory. LWD tools do not provide directional information. For example,
they cannot be used to determine whether the well is approaching
Geosteering clear of trouble a nearby lithological or fluid boundary from above or below.
As geosteering technology evolves, the drilling targets that drilling Furthermore, propagation resistivity measurements are sensitive
engineers are aiming for must be defined in different terms. When to environmental effects. A tool that is designed to measure the
oilfield drilling was dominated by vertical wells that followed a resistivity of the surrounding formation can also be sensitive to
straight line to total depth directly beneath the rig, the well was easily the proximity of nearby shoulder beds or strongly affected by mud
described in geometrical terms. The targets for directional wells were filtrate invasion, anisotropy, or changes in borehole size. The depth
also defined geometrically, so that the driller created a trajectory that of investigation also limits the application of LWD measurements in
passed through a series of coordinates located at a defined depth, geosteering projects.
distance, and direction from the rig. However, in today’s drilling
operations where wells are being drilled to maximize productive
wellbore exposure, the drilling engineers needed a new approach.
A new approach Figure 5.5
Issue 9 2009

Deep-reading, directional electromagnetic (EM) measurements

help drillers to avoid unintentional exits from the pay zone. This can Conventional Measurements—Reactive Steering
Real distance to the boundary unknown. Measure point 12m behind the bit.
be a major concern when attempting to navigate in oil rims; drilling
reservoirs without significant stratigraphic markers; or drilling near
an unconformity where the local dip does not reflect the overall 2m No reaction distance
structure of the field. Loss of production
Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

In many oil fields, directional-drilling technology now plays a large

part in improving and enhancing oil recovery. For example, by
using the PeriScope* bed boundary mapper, specialists are able to
geosteer horizontal drains to the most favorable spot in the reservoir At-the-Bit Measurements—Reactive Steering
Real distance to the boundary is zero. Measure point 1m behind the bit.
using MWD and LWD technology (Fig. 5.5).

Information derived from the PeriScope service brings new 2m

No reaction distance
capabilities in mapping and navigating the reservoir. As well- Loss of production
placement teams monitor the streams of data transmitted from the
rig to the client office, they can share valuable information with
prospect geologists, petrophysicists, geophysicists, and engineers.
PeriScope Real-Time Boundary Mapping—Proactive Steering
Structural information derived from PeriScope measurements can Real distance to the boundary is 6.4 m. Measure point 12m behind the bit.
provide valuable input for modifying reservoir models as the wells
are being drilled. 6.4m

Importing these directionally sensitive EM and geosteering data
Reservoir exit avoided
into a 3D computing environment gives geoscientists the ability to Enough reaction distance
manipulate and view data from different angles to reveal previously
undiscovered features that may affect reservoir producibility.

Drilling over tar mats

Many of the world’s giant oil fields have an extensive layer of heavy oil 5.5: The PeriScope bed boundary mapper enables specialists to geosteer
at the base of the oil column. These heavy oil zones, or tar mats, may horizontal drains to the most favorable spot in the reservoir using MWD and
LWD technology.
act as partial permeability barriers between the aquifer and the oil-
bearing strata, but their extent, effect, and properties are generally
poorly defined. The influence of tar mats must be defined before
operations such as full-field waterflooding can be conducted.

Directional drillers who want to keep a well within the low-viscosity A new generation of extreme reservoir contact (ERC) technology
oil zone above a tar mat can geosteer it using the StethoScope* will enable the placement of several laterals in the reservoir. This
formation pressure-while-drilling service (Fig. 5.6). StethoScope technology involves the development of a downhole inflow control
measurements made during drillpipe connections provide real-time device (ICD) system that controls a large number of laterals. Using
calibration points for pore pressure models while the well is being this technology, operators can shut off the water-producing zones
drilled, which significantly reduces drilling risks. in a lateral while allowing the oil-producing zones to flow.

This technology has become particularly important for the

successful placement of the long producer and injector wells being
drilled in Saudi Arabia to achieve maximum reservoir contact.
Managing well-placement challenges methods could be applied in carbonate reservoirs, but for reservoir

Issue 9 2009
The success of any well-placement project depends on the engineers the main difficulty is predicting how these techniques
ability to act on new data. Detecting formation boundaries and will influence subsequent production.
water contacts, and transmitting data to surface are only half the
challenge. The geosteering team must be able to process and Carbonate reservoirs often have large and highly variable completion
interpret real-time well data rapidly then convey instructions to the intervals, which can greatly complicate stimulation and production
drill floor; the drillers must be able to rapidly implement the team’s operations. In many cases, these reservoirs exhibit marked vertical

Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

drilling decisions. and lateral heterogeneity caused by permeability barriers, natural
fractures, and complex porosity distributions. These variations can
Schlumberger Operation Support Center interactive drilling be problematic for engineers who are trying to devise effective
services facilitate remote monitoring, modeling, and control of stimulation strategies during well completion or workover projects.
wellsite processes, including drilling and measurement operations,
and enable Schlumberger and client engineers to optimize drilling The principle behind carbonate stimulation appears simple:
while increasing safety and reducing risk. The centers enable real- dissolve the calcite with hydrochloric acid to open new and more
time monitoring of drilling data, provide a collaborative workspace, effective flow paths to the producing well. Unfortunately, the reality
and support remote operations management. of applying acid stimulation is less straightforward.

Effective stimulation of carbonate Traditional acidizing systems, which generally involved pumping
reservoirs hydrochloric acid into the well by a technique known as bullheading,
During the early stages of carbonate field development, reservoir have severe limitations and cannot achieve effective stimulation
teams may have to use stimulation methods to counteract formation along the length of the well. In addition to distributing acid to the
damage or low natural permeability. During the later stages of right zones, there are issues with cleaning up after the stimulation
production, they may use similar techniques to extend the useful reaction is complete. For this reason, engineers have developed
lives of wells and avoid early abandonment. In clastic reservoirs, a range of increasingly sophisticated fluid placement methods
many different stimulation techniques can be applied with a high (Fig. 5.7). When engineers understand reservoir structure, they can
degree of confidence, and production teams routinely intervene use these placement methods to deliver the right fluid to the right
to create conductive flow paths. Many of the standard stimulation place at the right time.

Figure 5.6 Figure 5.7

Selective completion
Formation complexity

fracture acid
Packers Self-diverting

Ball CT placement
Foam Diverting

Bullheading Particulate

Length of producing intervals

5.7: Over the years, oilfield engineers have developed and introduced a range of
increasingly sophisticated fluid placement methods to deal with the challenges
5.6: The StethoScope formation pressure-while-drilling service of complex reservoir formations and the long drain sections in horizontal wells.
Tailored treatments for long horizontal wells Figure 5.8
Issue 9 2009

In many countries across the Middle East and Asia, horizontal wells
have become the preferred approach for developing carbonate 1 Low-permeability sandstone reservoir—hydraulic fracturing
reservoirs, but the long sections in some of these wells present 2 High-permeability carbonate reservoir—matrix fracturing
major stimulation problems.
62 3 Low-permeability carbonate reservoir—acid fracturing

The efficient placement of conventional acids is critical, especially

Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

in long horizontal sections. Owing to their fast reaction rates, acids

have to be placed using CT, foam, gel, or other diversion methods.
Significant care must be taken with treatment design when using
diversion methods, and there may be problems with gel residues.

Applying hydrochloric acid in extremely long horizontal producing

intervals to uniformly remove drilling damage has been identified 2
by several operators as being very challenging—the result is
usually disappointing well productivity. Long, openhole horizontal
wells provide an efficient way to develop complex carbonate
reservoirs, but there are challenges in attempting to stimulate these
wells. Schlumberger has proposed a new method to optimize the
stimulation process and boost the production in these wells, which
isolates zones along the well for individual treatment programs.

Mechanical isolation and individual treatments

Carbonate reservoirs can be extremely variable, and, therefore,
5.8: By matching the needs of the interval to a suitable stimulation technique,
the reservoir zones within a long horizontal well may have very engineers can treat permeable intervals with a scheme of matrix acidizing,
different petrophysical characteristics. Each of the zones could and tight zones in the same well can be acid fractured. This approach helps
respond differently to a standard stimulation treatment. The most to optimize production from each zone and reduces the risk of inappropriate
stimulation techniques damaging parts of the reservoir.
effective stimulation program would treat each zone in the most
appropriate way. Matching the needs of the interval to a suitable
stimulation technique would see permeable intervals being treated Smart fluids
with a scheme of matrix acidizing, while tight zones in the same well Injected fluids, such as the hydrochloric acid used in matrix
were optimized with acid fracturing (Fig. 5.8). stimulation, tend to follow the path of least resistance. This may
result in the least permeable areas of the reservoir receiving
Once all the zones had been optimized in this way, the whole well less treatment. To overcome this, reservoir engineers can use a
could be opened up for production. This pinpoint stimulation method diversion method to focus treatment on the areas that require it
has been used in North America and has clear applications in the most. There are two main categories of diversion: chemical and
Middle East and Asia. mechanical. An effective diversion method should be temporary, so
that full productivity can be restored once the treatment is complete.
A project run jointly by the Schlumberger regional technology center The advanced diversion methods developed for carbonate
in Abu Dhabi and the Schlumberger Dhahran Carbonate Research reservoirs include the use of self-diverting acid and an innovative
Center (SDCR) has focused on matching the optimum parameters for fiber-based system.
an acid job with each carbonate rock type. This kind of analysis and
the job planning that it enables can make the difference between a
stimulation program that boosts production and one that either has
no benefit or actually damages the reservoir.
Figure 5.9

Issue 9 2009

Moved water

1100 40 Oil flow rate Water 63

Water cut Oil
Oil production rate, m3/d

950 30

Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

Pyrite Gas flow Gas
Water cut, %

Orientation north Bound water Oil flow Water 0

Amplitude image
0 120 240 360 Lit Water flow Oil DEFT bubb.
800 20 Low High ELANPlus volumes 1
0 % 1,200 0 m3/d 190 0 m3/d 1,600

650 10

500 0
1 2 3 4 5

Average production Wells treated with

from 11 offset wells VDA fluid

5.9: The post-treatment production rates for five Middle East wells stimulated with VDA fluid were much greater than the average production rates from
11 offset wells where the stimulation program did not include VDA (A). In Egypt, a three-well stimulation campaign using VDA helped to increase oil
productivity by 1,300 m3/d (B).

VDA* viscoelastic diverting acid Fiber-based, nondamaging acid diversion system

The Schlumberger well services technology center in Houston has Schlumberger has developed a new acid system that uses
developed the VDA self-diverting, polymer-free acidizing system to degradable fibers to promote the efficient diversion of stimulation
increase zonal coverage in carbonate reservoirs without causing fluids in naturally fractured reservoirs. This innovative diverting
residual damage. Unique chemicals reduce fluid loss. The VDA system builds on Schlumberger experience of fiber technology in
system enables operators to optimize the removal of reservoir drill-in other areas of stimulation. It leaves no damage after the stimulation
fluid deposits and selectively plug zones with high water saturation. treatment and has particular application in reservoirs that are prone
to extreme fluid loss.
VDA fluid prevents the damage caused by solids and polymers
during matrix treatments. It can be used alone or in combination When a diversion stage is pumped using this fluid, the fibers form
with other treating acids for total zonal coverage in carbonate temporary bridges across the natural fracture networks to control
reservoirs. The high-viscosity barrier it produces is broken down fluid loss and enable the acid to stimulate other areas of the reservoir.
by oil production or dilution with formation fluids. VDA operations After the treatment, the fibers degrade to soluble products so that
can be conducted at low pressures, and recovery and well cleanup hydrocarbon production can occur from both the natural fractures and
are simple. the matrix.

Across the Middle East and Asia, VDA systems have been used for
matrix stimulation and diversion applications in vertical, horizontal,
and extended-reach gas and oil producers and water injectors;
and for acid fracturing in oil and gas producers and water injectors
(Fig. 5.9).

StageFRAC* multistage fracturing and completion services Figure 5.10
Issue 9 2009

StageFRAC completion technology enables the creation of hydraulic

fractures in multiple zones along the well (Fig. 5.10). Openhole
packers are run on conventional casing to segment the reservoir
and maximize reservoir drainage. Between each set of openhole
packers are hydraulically activated sliding sleeves. During pumping,
balls are dropped from surface to shift each sliding sleeve open and
Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

isolate previously fractured sliding sleeves.

StageFRAC enables precise placement of fracturing fluids to

maximize well drainage and productivity. When combined with
Schlumberger advanced stimulation fluids, StageFRAC services
enhance the ability to place a single, dominant fracture at selected
points or produce multiple fractures of greater effective conductivity
along the entire wellbore.

StageFrac technology has been applied in horizontal wells in the 5.10: StageFRAC completion technology can create hydraulic fractures in
Khuff gas carbonate reservoirs of Saudi Arabia. Field examples multiple zones along a well. Openhole packers are run on conventional casing
to divide the reservoir and maximize drainage. Hydraulically activated sliding
have shown how this technology improved gas production several sleeves are between each set of openhole packers.
times in one horizontal well. Several Khuff reservoir units were
intercepted by the fractures created by the StageFrac treatment,
and this provided a cost-effective method to achieve the client’s
Figure 5.11
stimulation objectives.

Treatment analysis Overall field

An integrated approach to carbonate stimulation data review
Engineers face three key challenges in managing production from
carbonate reservoirs. They must ensure that Onsite execution Individual well analysis
(formation evaluation)
n all the wells in the field are producing at their full potential

n oil is produced evenly across the reservoir zone to discourage Optimization

Treatment design Individual well analysis
water breakthrough (reservoir evaluation)
n the rate at which oil production is declining does not exceed the
Well completion and
reservoir pressure decline. performance design
Selection of treatment

To address all these issues, engineers have to develop an integrated

5.11: The CarboSTIM service offers an integrated approach to the stimulation
approach to stimulation that fits in with the reservoir management of carbonate reservoirs. It enables engineers to optimize productivity and
plans. The CarboSTIM* carbonate stimulation service offers production profile, and to extend treatment longevity.
a systematic engineering approach to optimizing productivity,
production profile, and treatment longevity.

Building on field data reviews and analyses of formations and

reservoir performance, CarboSTIM guides reservoir engineers
through the process of selecting the most appropriate treatment
and tailoring it to well completion and perforation design. Once the
stimulation treatment has been applied, engineers can review and
analyze results in order to optimize the next treatment (Fig. 5.11).
Treatment design Figure 5.12

Issue 9 2009
In carbonate reservoirs, stimulation engineers need to consider
issues such as matrix conditions and fracture locations.

Rock texture is a vitally important factor because it defines how the -1,737
rock will respond to injected acid. Schlumberger has introduced

Depth, m
new rock classifications that focus not on the rock matrix but on

Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

how the pore space is distributed and connected. This is useful
because pore distribution and connectivity are the factors that
control acid response. -1,920

Natural fractures are found throughout most carbonate reservoirs

0 100 300 500 700 900
and often dominate both production and stimulation. Before a
Horizontal length, m
stimulation program can be devised, engineers need to know 30
where the fractures are located, whether they are open or closed
(that is whether they allow fluids to flow or act as barriers), and
Natural fracture frequency

how they connect to the reservoir, for example, whether they 20 Conductive Conductive Conductive
fracture fracture fracture
stretch down into the water zone (Fig. 5.12).

Increased productivity and injectivity in the Middle East 10

In Kuwait, Schlumberger was asked to stimulate several multizone
oil wells where the formation permeability in the reservoir zone
ranged from 3 to 375 mD and there were marked permeability 0
2,200 2,400 2,600 2,800 2,885
contrasts within each of the five zones. Previous stimulation
treatments had provided little improvement in well performance.
Gamma ray Conductive fracture
Fracture density Partially conductive fracture
The CarboSTIM analysis and treatment using VDA fluid delivered full Conductive fracture on the well trajectory Resistive fracture
zonal coverage; tripled oil production, even at a lower drawdown; Partially resistive fracture
Possible fracture
and delivered a 6,900-MPa increase in flowing wellhead pressure. Total
The successful stimulation of previously shut-in wells led to a formal
increase in the reserves estimate. 5.12: Identifying the open (or conductive) fractures that allow fluids to flow is
one of the most important tasks in field development planning.
The objective of a project in Oman was to stimulate a long horizontal
injector well and increase the rate at which water could be pumped CT delivery is an extremely effective acid placement technique
into the reservoir. The zone selected for stimulation was more and offers a viable alternative to diversion methods. By using CT,
than 150 m of open hole in a well that had experienced drilling engineers can provide energy to the fluid at the injection point
damage and fluid losses. Previous efforts to stimulate the well thereby forcing the fluid out of the tubing under pressure. Using
using bullheaded hydrochloric acid and an enzyme soak method CT places live acid at the precise point of injection and makes it
had been unsuccessful. The combination of a VDA fluid and a CT possible to modify the contact time between the acid and the
delivery system led to a six-fold increase in the well’s injectivity. different zones.
Reservoir sweep in heterogeneous Completion technology for injectors
Issue 9 2009

carbonates The optimization of injector and producer well performance in

Sweep efficiency, the proportion of oil moved by a flood front towards highly heterogeneous formations benefits from ICDs such as the
producer wells, is often impaired by reservoir heterogeneities ResInject* solution, a mechanical option for maximizing sweep
(Fig. 5.13). This is particularly so in carbonate rocks where the risks efficiency and productivity in carbonate reservoirs (Fig. 5.14). The
of pumping injected water into a fracture corridor, early water ResInject ICD optimizes the injection rates across the full face of
production, and low recovery factors are well known. the wellbore and provides better reservoir sweep efficiency in the
Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

presence of large permeability heterogeneities such as fractures

The position and the quality of injector wells can have the greatest or superpermeable zones.
impact on recovery. Injector wells need to push large volumes of
fluid into the right part of the reservoir, and for engineers to optimize Enhanced reservoir control
production they must be able to modify the injection profile in For several years, the oil and gas industry has explored the
response to changes in the reservoir. potential benefits of improved reservoir monitoring using
permanently installed sensors.
Inflow control devices
Sometimes injector wells intersect open fractures and this distorts The Sensa* fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing system
the injection profile. By using ICDs to counteract this problem, (DTS) continuously monitors the temperature profile along the
engineers can ensure a more even sweep of the reservoir zones. wellbore to provide information about water and gas breakthrough,
Incorporating ICDs into a completion design requires detailed zonal isolation, and well integrity.
understanding of the reservoir’s dynamic properties, and this means
the development of a full-field reservoir simulation model. The DTS system continuously collects and transmits temperature
information to the surface using permanently installed fiber-optic
Figure 5.13 technology. This can deliver significant production management
Injection Flow Profiles in Heterogeneous Carbonates
advantages for a well or for an entire field. Sensa systems provide
A B engineering and management personnel with the information they
Do-nothing scenario Desired scenario
need to maximize reservoir performance, optimize well production,
and reduce operating costs.

Continuous temperature monitoring provides invaluable insight into

issues such as water and gas breakthrough, zonal isolation, steam
management, injection monitoring, artificial lift performance, and
well integrity.

Injector wells need to push large volumes of

Poor reservoir sweep efficiency: for example,
80% of the flow is captured by 20% of the
Possible technical solutions:
fit-for-purpose completion
fluid into the right part of the reservoir, and for
injector length chemical, smart injection fluid
engineers to optimize production they must be
5.13: Injecting water into a heterogeneous carbonate reservoir will sweep only able to modify the injection profile in response
the high-permeability layers (A). Modifying the injection profile so that more
water is injected into the low-permeability zones will help to ensure a more to changes in the reservoir.
even and efficient sweep (B).
Monitoring flood fronts in the reservoir Figure 5.15

Issue 9 2009
Techniques that enable reservoir engineers to visualize the
movement of injected fluids as they pass through reservoir zones
could help to increase recovery in some of the world’s most
complex oil and gas fields. Tracking production-related changes
helps production teams to gauge the success of development
strategies and to modify those strategies.

Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

Two different technologies, time-lapse seismic surveying and
electromagnetic imaging (EMI), have proved their value in the
field, and further technical developments will refine them and
deliver even more accurate pictures of flood fronts. Flood front
monitoring provides the information engineers need to reduce
water production, position infill wells, and promote more effective
reservoir sweep.

Figure 5.14

5.15: High-resolution 4D seismic surveys can be used to track the progress of

gas injection fronts as they move across a reservoir.

Seismic methods
Applying seismic monitoring in giant carbonate reservoirs is
technically difficult owing to the rock physics and because fluid
front movement can be extremely slow. Accurate surveys require
excellent repeatability and good control of noise sources, but the
potential benefits are clear. Seismic monitoring can help engineers
to identify vertical and horizontal fluid movements, map flood fronts,
quantify saturation changes, and identify pressure changes due to
depletion and injection.

Seismic reservoir monitoring involves the interpretation of

■ Fluid enters the ResInject housing (1), passes through the nozzles (2) into an successive 3D seismic volumes acquired over a producing reservoir
energy absorbing chamber (3), and out
to reveal production-induced changes. The concept is not new, and
recent case studies have demonstrated the technical viability of
■ The pressure drop is proportional to the velocity squared and the fluid density
time-lapse seismic methods to image reservoir changes and drive
■ The ceramic nozzles (2) and the energy absorbing chamber (3) avoid erosion risks
decisions on reservoir development.

■ The high-injection rate version with 20-mm axial rods is used for flow rates Successive 3D seismic surveys (4D seismic surveys), supported
above 200m3/day/joint by time-lapse borehole seismic imaging and repeat well-log
measurements, enable production teams to image production-
related changes in the subsurface away from the well (Fig. 5.15).
5.14: The ResInject ICD optimizes injection rates across the full face of the The extent to which 4D seismic studies can image reservoir
wellbore and provides better reservoir sweep efficiency when there are large
permeability heterogeneities such as fractures or superpermeable zones in changes depends on the reservoir rock type and the fluids that fill
the well. the pore spaces.
In general, less consolidated clastic reservoirs with good porosity Timing is everything
Issue 9 2009

and light hydrocarbons provide the clearest images in time-lapse The timing of a seismic reservoir monitoring program must fit the
surveys. It is not always clear what causes the difference in a reservoir management workflow, so that any intervention can provide
time-lapse signal. In some reservoirs, the changes may be due to economic benefit. The program design must relate the expected
fluid movements, in others, the cause may be fluid phase changes, time-lapse reservoir signal to the anticipated nonrepeatable noise
pore pressure changes, temperature effects, or the propagation of between the monitor survey and the reference, or baseline, survey.
stress changes into geomechanical elements within and beyond
Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

the reservoir. Interpretation will rely on information about the field’s In some parts of the world, seismic surveys are now being acquired
production history and cross-checking with data from other sources with reservoir monitoring as the main objective. However, the designs
such as new borehole logs. of these surveys are often governed by baseline surveys that were
acquired several years ago, which may not have been designed with
time-lapse studies in mind. In future, the goal for geophysicists will
be to ensure that the 3D surveys acquired today will be suitable for
4D applications tomorrow.

Monitoring changes in saturation during production is a key tool for reservoir management.
This information enables production teams to intervene in the production process and ensure
that the flow of hydrocarbons is maintained over an extended period.

Figure 5.16

Openhole producer Openhole producer

Cased Cased
injector injector

X,150 X,150

X,200 X,200

X,250 X,250
Cased Cased
X,300 producer X,300 producer

X,350 X,350
0 0
50 Original Original
saturation 50
100 100 saturation
Successful 150 Successful
injection 150
200 injection
250 Nonproduced oil 250

0 2 4 6 8 10 0 2 4 6 8 10
Resistivity, ohm.m Resistivity, ohm.m

5.16: The EMI system tracks resistivity changes across the reservoir and reveals areas of unswept oil between the survey wells.
Surface 4D seismic surveys can enable operators to increase or A new method for reservoir monitoring

Issue 9 2009
extend production and optimize ultimate recoveries by reducing Monitoring changes in saturation during production is a key tool
drilling risk and saving the costs associated with drilling unnecessary for reservoir management. This information enables production
or badly placed wells. Seismic surveying also helps with mapping teams to intervene in the production process and ensure that the
reservoir connectivity and compartmentalization, and identifying flow of hydrocarbons is maintained over an extended period. The
flow barriers to pinpoint bypassed pay zones. electrical resistivity of reservoir rocks depends directly on porosity,
pore fluid resistivity, and saturation. The EMI method can also be

Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

In addition to the more typical reservoir monitoring of producing used to monitor enhanced oil recovery in fields where either water-
oil and gas fields, time-lapse seismic technology has applications or steamflooding is taking place.
in monitoring several other oilfield operations, including enhanced
oil recovery water-alternating-gas projects; gas sequestration and In many of the carbonate oil fields across the Middle East, operators
storage operations; and the progress of steamflooding in heavy face the challenge of producing reservoirs that contain super-
oil reservoirs. permeable zones such as fracture corridors. These zones have
much higher permeability than normal rock matrix, and perforating
Saturation mapping to track waterflood fronts them with production wells usually results in large volumes of
EMI can provide detailed images of the fluids in the rocks between produced water.
wells that may be up to 1 km apart. This means that, in contrast to
monitoring using conventional imaging systems, engineers can Crosswell EMI can reveal the effect of these superpermeable
track fluid movements at the reservoir scale. This helps production zones by tracking the oil displacement during production. In addition,
teams to monitor and control reservoir behavior and so improve oil when applying water control methods in such high-permeability
sweep efficiency. channels, EMI can help the reservoir engineers to monitor progress
and, ultimately, to optimize recovery.
EMI maps resistivity distributions between wells by highlighting
the natural contrast in the electrical properties of oil (resistive) and The EMI technique is being adopted by operators throughout the
saline water (conductive). By using the technique at successive Middle East and Asia to monitor waterflood operations in carbonate
intervals, reservoir engineers can track the changes in resistivity that reservoirs. At present, there are several projects in various stages
are caused by fluid displacement (Fig. 5.16). Obvious changes in the of monitoring. Of principal interest is the large-scale distribution
resistivity value generally indicate an efficient oil sweep, whereas of oil/water contacts in the peripheral waterfloods of reservoirs in
smaller changes indicate that the oil has not moved. The resolution Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
of crosswell EMI surveys is typically 2–5% of the well separation.

Crosswell EMI can reveal the effects of superpermeable zones by tracking the oil displacement
during production. When applying water control methods in high-permeability channels, EMI can
help reservoir engineers to monitor progress and, ultimately, to optimize recovery.
EMI in a Saudi Arabian carbonate reservoir Figure 5.18
Issue 9 2009

Figure 17
A joint Saudi Aramco and Schlumberger research project was set
up to investigate whether crosswell EM resistivity technology could
be used to study the Arab-D Formation at Ghawar, Saudi Arabia.
Haradh field, the southernmost part of the greater Ghawar field,
was selected as the study location because it is deemed to be
partially invaded by injection water from nearby injectors.
Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

The objective was to evaluate the fluid distribution between wells

using crosswell EM resistivity tomography in combination with
a sophisticated suite of wireline logs and formation evaluation
tools. These technologies combined have the potential to monitor
macroscopic sweep efficiency, identify current fluid contacts, and
locate bypassed oil, thus enabling effective infill-well placement.
H2 O
Crosswell EM work in Haradh field was conducted in July 2007. CO2 H2O CO2

Miscible zone

oil recovery
Oil bank
The three-well pair required about seven days for rig-up and data
collection. A sample field profile (Fig. 5.17) revealed that although
the signals were low (as expected), the data were repeatable.
In addition, the background noise level was found to be very
low, which suggested that future surveys could be successful.
In addition, to the tomography data, the joint research team also
collected background noise data to evaluate the influence of steel
and chrome casing on the ambient noise.
5.18: Many enhanced oil recovery projects inject carbon dioxide and water into
the reservoir in alternating pulses. This mobilizes the oil by lowering its viscosity
Figure 5.17 and increases reservoir pressure in order to push the oil toward the producer.



“The objective was to evaluate the fluid

distribution between wells using crosswell
Amplitude, V

Phase, °

EM resistivity tomography in combination
with a sophisticated suite of wireline logs and
0 formation evaluation tools.”

X000 X050 X100 X150 X200 X250 X300
Depth, m
Amplitude (main) Phase (main)
Amplitude (repeat) Phase (repeat)

5.17: A sample field profile of crosswell EM work in Haradh field revealed that
although the signals were low (as expected), the data were repeatable.
The return of enhanced oil recovery The future

Issue 9 2009
Whenever oil prices are high, there is a resurgence of interest Schlumberger has a long-term R&D strategy to enhance the industry’s
in methods that promise to extract more oil from the reservoir. understanding of carbonate reservoirs and to introduce tools and
Enhanced oil recovery is a generic term for techniques that increase techniques that extend field life and maximize oil recovery.
the amount of oil that can be extracted from an oil field.
The evaluation, characterization, and efficient exploitation of
Improved extraction is achieved by gas injection, thermal recovery, carbonate reservoirs are part of a major R&D theme that is

Middle East & Asia Reservoir Review

or chemical injection. Over the past few years, industry interest supported by investment in expertise and facilities across the entire
in enhanced oil recovery has focused on efforts to squeeze Schlumberger organization under the coordination of SDCR. The
more oil from carbonate reservoirs and on ways to develop large objective of this work is clear: to address all carbonate challenges,
accumulations of heavy oils. step-by-step, through the development of technologies and
integrated solutions that help Schlumberger customers develop
Enhanced oil recovery methods and manage their carbonate reservoirs as efficiently as possible.
Gas injection is the most common enhanced oil recovery technique
in use today. Gases such as carbon dioxide, natural gas, or nitrogen
are injected into the reservoir. Once in the rock, the gas expands
and pushes additional oil toward a production well. At the same
time, the gas dissolves in the oil, thereby lowering its viscosity and Figure 5.19
improving its flow rate (Fig. 5.18)
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3
Oil displacement by carbon dioxide injection relies on the phase Steam injection Soak phase Production

behaviors of carbon dioxide and crude oil mixtures that are

strongly dependent on reservoir temperature, pressure, and
crude oil composition. These mechanisms range from oil swelling
and viscosity reduction for injection of immiscible fluids (at low
pressures) to completely miscible displacement in high-pressure
applications. In these applications, between one-half and two-
thirds of the injected carbon dioxide returns with the produced oil
and can be reinjected into the reservoir to minimize the operating
costs. The remainder is trapped in the oil reservoir.

Other techniques include thermal recovery (Fig. 5.19), which uses

heat to improve flow rates, and, more rarely, chemical injection
in which polymers are injected to increase the effectiveness of
waterfloods, or detergent-like surfactants are used to help lower
the capillary pressure and encourage the movement of oil droplets
through the reservoir.

Ongoing research into potential enhanced oil recovery methods for Steam is injected Steam and Heated oil and
into the reservoir condensed water water are pumped
carbonate reservoirs covers the effectiveness of the numerous drivers, heat the viscous oil to the surface
the fluids that drive the oil through the reservoir, and their ability to
overcome the challenges that are unique to carbonate reservoirs.

Drivers such as carbon dioxide, methane, surfactants, polymers, fresh

water, steam, and combinations of these are used to target effects
such as oil volume expansion, viscosity reduction, interfacial tension 5.19: Thermal enhanced oil recovery is usually a three-stage process
reduction, wettability changes, and flood fluid rheology optimization. comprising steam injection, reservoir soaking, and production.