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SPE 63148 Relative Permeability Measurements for Post-Waterflood Depressurisation of the Miller Field, North Sea

Peter Naylor, SPE, AEA Technology; Terrence Fishlock, SPE, AEA Technology; David Mogford, AEA Technology; Robert Smith, AEA Technology

Copyright 2000, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc. This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2000 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition held in Dallas, Texas, 14 October 2000. This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.

economics, and the data from this study can be used to reduce the risk associated with depressurisation. Introduction Significant quantities of hydrocarbons can be left in reservoirs after waterflooding. In those reservoirs with a high solution gas-oil-ratio, depressurisation as an improved recovery project can be an attractive possibility1,2 . An assessment of the potential for a depressurisation project in the Miller field, North Sea, has been published3 . Uncertainty analysis was used to quantify the economic impact of each perceived risk. Critical gas saturation was associated with the largest risk and highest impact on the net present value of the project. The impact of varying the critical gas saturation from 0 to 0.15 was a delay in the peak in gas production rate by about 12 years and a significant reduction in the total gas production. Many early papers used external gas drive experiments in order to investigate three-phase relative permeabilities. However, this flow regime is quite different to the in-situ evolution of gas during the depressurisation of a volatile oil. Consequently, laboratory studies of depressurisation must involve internal gas drive which is representative of the processes occurring in a reservoir4,5 . Most studies have focused on the critical gas saturation at which gas becomes mobile under virgin conditions. There appear to be less laboratory studies of the depressurisation of waterflooded oil and critical gas saturations in the range 0.030.27 have been observed6,7,8,9,10. This parameter is believed to be reservoir specific and dependent upon the: Depressurisation rate which effects the number of nucleation sites. Rock/fluid system which determines the wettability and spreading behaviour. Gas/oil interfacial tension which controls the nucleation process. Oil/water interfacial tension which controls the bubble movement.

Abstract This paper describes a determination of critical gas saturations and relative permeabilities relevant to the depressurisation of the Miller field. A series of reservoir condition coreflood experiments and associated numerical simulations is described. Three experiments were conducted with aged Miller core and fluids at 120C and each comprised of a waterflood at about 414 barg, followed by depressurisation at different rates. The laboratory data included extensive threephase in-situ saturation measurements which were used to derive gas relative permeabilities through the simulations. The rate dependent critical gas saturations varied between 0.06 and 0.21 and gas relative permeabilities of the order of 0.0001 were deduced. These laboratory results are consistent with published data and demonstrate that conventional Coreytype gas relative permeabilities are an order of magnitude too large and do not represent the depressurisation process. This paper is believed to be the first publication of: 1. 2. A reservoir condition study of the depressurisation of aged, waterflooded cores. Extensive, reservoir condition, three-phase in-situ saturation measurements which enable critical gas saturations and gas relative permeabilities to be determined. A slow depressurisation experiment with a duration of 141 days.


Mobilisation of gas in Miller has been found to have a significant impact on oil production profiles and project

It is believed that this paper is the first study of reservoir condition depressurisation experiments involving aged, waterflooded cores. Thus, these may be the most


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representative measurements of gas relative permeabilities during solution gas drive which have been published to date. These experiments involved the development of laboratory methods which are described in Reference 11 together with data from a reservoir condition depressurisation study of South Brae. Experimental Procedure Rig Description. The experiments were conducted in a high pressure rig constructed from mainly Hastelloy and other corrosion resistant materials and the design conditions were 690 barg and 150C. In these experiments the maximum conditions used were 414 barg core circuit (483 barg annulus circuit) and 120C. A simplified flow circuit is presented in Figure 1. It consisted of a vertical core holder, visual cell, separator vessel and two parallel extraction circuits, all housed within a large temperature controlled oven. Each extraction circuit comprised of a 15 mL vessel into which the visual cell fluids were withdrawn and a 500 mL vessel into which the nitrogen from the gas spring was collected. Flow rate was controlled by extracting fluid using alternate sides of a twin barrelled constant volume extraction pump. The ultra-low depressurisation rates required in these experiments were achieved by using the extraction pump in conjunction with a large nitrogen gas spring in the core outlet circuit. This arrangement enabled extraction rates to be as low as 0.0125 mL/hr over a depressurisation period of 141 days. Pressures, temperatures, flow rates, produced fluid volumes and in-situ saturations were measured throughout the experiments. During coreflooding experiments it is important that any leak rates are much smaller than the target flow rates. Since the flow rates were relatively low in these depressurisation experiments, an extremely high level of leak tightness was required. A great deal of effort was spent to ensure that the leak rates were as low as could reasonably be achieved. The rig was designed with a minimum number of valves and connections in critical parts of the circuit. Extensive leak testing was performed and confirmed that leak rates in critical parts of the circuit were as low as 0.0003 mL/hr at full test conditions. Three-phase in-situ saturation measurements have been conducted throughout these experiments using the gammaemission technique which involved labelling the oleic and aqueous phases with gamma-emitting radioactive tracers. This method has been used routinely by AEA Technology for nearly twenty years and is described more fully in References 12 and 13. Fe59 in the form of C H10 Fe was used as the 10 hydrocarbon phase tracer. Initially Co 58 in the form of K3 Co[CN]6 and latterly Cs 137 in the form of CsCl was used as the brine phase tracer. The characteristic gamma energy spectra of the Fe59 and Co 58 /Cs 137 isotopes are distinct and the intensity of each spectrum was measured using a multichannel analyser, connected to a pair of 76 mm diameter sodium iodide detectors, located inside a collimated lead housing. The detectors were mounted 300 mm apart vertically

above one another and each had a spatial resolution of approximately 30 mm. The detectors were moved along the whole length of the core assembly using a stepper motor under computer control and measurements were made at 30 mm intervals commensurate with the spatial resolution. The data was then analysed to determine the intensity of the gamma-ray emissions and hence respective fluid saturations. Core and Fluid Selection. A summary of the key parameters is given in Table 1. Three experiments have been conducted for the Miller field using core material supplied by BP Amoco. All cores were relatively homogeneous, well consolidated sandstone and two core assemblies were used in this study. Experiment 1 involved a relatively low permeability core (27 md) while Experiments 2 and 3 used a different core that had a higher permeability of 492 md. To obtain an acceptably large pore volume it was necessary to butt two cores together. The cores for each assembly were selected on the basis of matching porosity, absolute permeability and pore size distribution. There was concern relating to the possibility of calcium carbonate scaling during the depressurisation and although this may be an issue in some development plans, it was decided that it might obscure the fundamental mechanisms associated with depressurisation. The decision was taken to make synthetic formation brines without the calcium and a modified live brine recipe was supplied by the operator. To facilitate the in-situ saturation measurements, a radioactive tracer was added to the brine. Neither bottom hole fluids, nor separator gas was available for use in these experiments and so the live oil was made from stock tank oil and synthetic gas together with a radioactive tracer. The measured bubble point pressure was about 338 barg and the gas-oil-ratio was between 2290 and 2479 scf/stb (see Table 1). Conditioning. Before each experiment, the core assembly was given a mild clean with alternating toluene/methanol flushes and then flooded to 100% brine at ambient conditions. The core was then flooded to connate water in a vertically downward direction with a 21 cp paraffin at ambient temperature. The inlet pressure was maintained at 1.7 barg with an ambient outlet pressure. Following breakthrough, the inlet pressure was gradually increased to 8.6 barg and flooding was continued until brine production effectively ceased and a near connate brine saturation had been achieved. In all cases, the in-situ saturation measurements demonstrated that the water distribution was reasonably uniform throughout the core and the final water saturations were similar to field values. The paraffin was removed by injecting kerosene, which acted as a buffer between the paraffin and live oil. The pressure and temperature were then raised to reservoir conditions whilst maintaining a net overburden pressure of 69 bar. The kerosene was displaced by inactive live oil and the core was then aged for an extended period of time. The live oil was refreshed during the ageing period and towards the end


the inactive live oil was displaced by active live oil. permeabilities at connate water were determined.


Secondary Waterflood. A waterflood was conducted by supplying active live brine to the bottom of the vertical core at constant pressure and extracting fluids from the top of the core at constant flow rate. During Experiments 2 and 3 the flow rate was increased at the end of the secondary waterflood to bump the core in an attempt to remove any end effects and achieve a representative residual oil saturation. Depressurisation. The depressurisation was conducted by isolating the bottom of the vertical core and continuously extracting fluids from the top of the core. In Experiments 1 and 2 fluids were extracted at a constant flow rate and in Experiment 3 the flow rate was adjusted to give a linear pressure decline with time. The resulting variations of pressure with time are illustrated in Figure 2. The depressurisation rates were varied by a factor of nearly 30, with Experiment 1 being the fastest (52.7 bar/day) and Experiment 3 the slowest (1.82 bar/day). The dead volume between the outlet of the core and the visual cell meant that it was not possible to directly observe the commencement of gas production and the in-situ saturation measurements were essential in order to accurately determine when gas started to leave the core. This critical gas saturation was determined by comparing the measured in-situ saturation data with the value that would have occurred if no gas had flowed out of the core. Departure of the measured gas saturation profile from the no-gas-flow saturation profile indicated the point at which gas left the core. The no-gasflow profile was derived from constant composition expansion (CCE) data and details of the calculational method are given in Reference 11. A summary of the key parameters and results of the secondary waterflood and depressurisation is included in Table 1. Experimental Results As expected, the lowest permeability core (Experiment 1) had the highest connate brine saturation and highest waterflood residual oil saturation. The results in Experiments 2 and 3 were similar up to the point of depressurisation demonstrating that the core had not been damaged during Experiment 2. The production of oil during depressurisation varied significantly between the experiments. The percentage of waterflood residual oil produced during Experiments 1, 2 and 3 was 45%, 20% and 2% respectively. These results suggest an influence of rate, but it should be noted that the core permeability in Experiment 1 was much lower than Experiments 2 and 3. Depressurisation is traditionally seen as a means of producing gas, but this observation suggests that additional oil may be recoverable from low permeability regions. Figures 3-5 illustrate the depressurisation results from Experiments 1-3 showing the departure of the measured gas saturation from the calculated no-gas-flow line. It can be

seen that the critical gas saturations were approximately 0.21, 0.16 and 0.06 for Experiments 1, 2 and 3 respectively. This data has been compared with published data in Figure 6. The pressure decline rates have been normalised by the bubble point pressures and it can be seen that the results are broadly consistent. Since Experiment 1 had a much lower permeability than Experiments 2 and 3, quantitative comparisons are difficult, but it can be seen that rate had a strong influence on the critical gas saturations in Miller core. Field values are therefore expected to be lower than 0.06. In all three experiments the gas saturation increased during depressurisation until it reached an ultimate saturation which appeared to be independent of rate. The ultimate saturations were 0.28, 0.22 and 0.25 for Experiments 1, 2 and 3 respectively. It is believed that at these saturations the gas had expanded sufficiently to form a continuous conduit to the core outlet and the gas mobility was sufficiently high to enable any solution gas to reach the outlet without further saturation increases. Numerical Simulation In order to facilitate the use of these data in reservoir simulation studies, numerical simulations of Experiments 2 and 3 were conducted. Each of the two cores in the assembly was represented one-dimensionally by 10 gridblocks. The outlet dead volume and the visual cell were represented by one gridblock each. A tuned Peng Robinson equation of state with five C7+ pseudo-components was used. The imbibition capillary pressure was provided by the operator and the secondary drainage oil/water capillary pressure data was derived from mercury injection data. The secondary drainage curve is illustrated in Figure 7. Simplifications adopted in the simulation included using uniform properties throughout the core assembly and setting the gas/oil capillary pressure to zero since the gas/oil interfacial tension was low. The simulations were started at a uniform connate brine saturation and both the secondary waterflood and depressurisation stages were modelled. Corey-type relative permeabilities were used in the base simulation and these were manually adjusted to obtain a best fit to the mean in-situ saturation data for the depressurisation phase of the experiments. The measured and simulated mean saturations are plotted in Figures 8 and 9 and the corresponding gas relative permeabilities are illustrated in Figure 10. A good fit to the gas saturation as a function of pressure was achieved for both Experiment 2 and 3. The fit to the oil saturation (and thereby the water saturation) in Experiment 2 may be improved by altering the oil relative permeability, but this was not expected to have a significant effect on the gas relative permeability. It should be noted that significant oil shrinkage occurred during the depressurisation. An excellent fit to the oil and water saturations was achieved in Experiment 3 and there was little oil mobility. It can be seen that the fitted gas relative permeabilities were of the order of 0.0001 over the range of gas saturations accessed during the experiments. These data are consistent with the values reported in Reference 10 and are


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an order of magnitude lower that a typical Corey-type gas relative permeability. The fitted gas relative permeability for Experiment 2 (Figure 10) was modified by making the relative permeability zero for gas saturations below 0.15. The corresponding simulated mean gas saturation in the core was increased by less than half a saturation point and demonstrated that the gas production was not strongly influenced by the critical gas saturation alone. This work suggests that focusing on establishing an appropriate critical gas saturation is not sufficient to represent the depressurisation of a waterflooded volatile oil. Conventional gas relative permeabilities do not appear to provide an adequate representation of depressurisation and much lower values are required. Conclusion A laboratory study of the depressurisation of waterflooded volatile oil has been successfully completed. Three reservoir condition coreflood experiments using Miller core and fluids have been conducted together with numerical simulation of the results. Extensive reservoir condition, three-phase, in-situ saturation measurements were necessary to determine critical gas saturations and gas relative permeabilities. The following conclusions have been drawn from this study: 1. The critical gas saturation was a function of depressurisation rate and varied from 0.06 to 0.21. Field values are expected to be less than 0.06. Gas relative permeabilities during depressurisation were of the order of 0.0001 and were similar in the medium and low depressurisation rate experiments. The ultimate gas saturation reached at the end of the depressurisation was between 0.22 and 0.28 and appeared to be independent of rate.















The data generated in this study can be used to reduce the risk associated with depressurisation of a waterflooded volatile oils. The data also provides an anchor point for network models of depressurisation and to test models which describe the influence of rate on gas release during depressurisation. Acknowledgements We thank the following project sponsors for funding the work and giving permission to publish: BP Amoco E&P, Enterprise Oil plc, Marathon Oil UK Ltd, Mobil North Sea Ltd, Shell Expro, Total Oil Marine plc and the UK Department of Trade and Industry. We also thank the ITF Technical Co-ordinator Professor Bob Hawes for his interest and helpful technical discussions throughout this programme. References
1. Foulser, R.W.S.: The Potential to Increase UKCS Hydrocarbon Recovery Techniques, SPE 25028, Europec, Cannes, France, 16-18 Nov. 1992.

Braithwaite, C.I.M., Schulte, W.M.: Transforming the Future of the Brent Field: Depressurisation The Next Development Phase, SPE 25026, Europec, Cannes, France, 16-18 Nov. 1992. Beecroft W.J., Mani V., Wood A.R.O., Rusinek I., Evaluation of Depressurisation, Miller Field, North Sea, SPE 56692, Ann. Tech. Conf., Houston, 3-6 Oct 1999. Firoozabadi A., Ottesen B., Mikkelsen M., Measurements of Supersaturation and Critical Gas Saturation, SPE Formation Evaluation, pp 337-344, Dec 1992. Kamath J., Boyer R.E., Critical Gas Saturation and Supersaturation in Low-Permeability Rocks, SPE 26663, 68th Ann. Tech. Conf, Houston, 3-6 Oct 1993. Kortekaas F.M., van Poelgeest F., Liberation of Solution Gas During Pressure Depletion of Virgin and Watered-Out Reservoirs, SPE Reservoir Engineering, pp 329-335, Aug 1991. Scherpenisse W., Wit K., Zweers A.E., Shoei G., van Wolfswinkel A., Predicting Gas Saturation Buildup During Depressurisation of a North Sea Oil Reservoir, SPE 28842, European Petroleum Conf, London, 25-27 Oct 1994. Ligthelm D.J., Reijnen G.C.A.M., Wit K., Weisenborn A.J., Scherpenisse W., Critical Gas Saturation During Depressurisation and its Importance in the Brent Field, SPE 38475, Offshore Europe Conf., Aberdeen, 9-12 Sept 1997. Hawes R.I., Dawe R.A., Grattoni C.A., The Effects of Wettability and Interfacial Forces on the Depressurisation of Waterflooded Reservoirs, 9th Euro. Symp. IOR, The Hague, 2022 Oct 1997. Grattoni C.A., Hawes R.I., Dawe R.A., Relative Permeabilities for the Production of Solution Gas from Waterflooded Residual Oil, SCA 9817, Int. Symp. SCA, The Hague, 14-16 Sept 1998. Naylor, P., Mogford, D.J., Smith, R.A., Development of In-Situ Measurements to Determine Reservoir Condition Critical Gas Saturations During Depressurisation, SCA 2000-37 Int. Symp. Abu Dhabi, 18-22 Oct. 2000. Bailey N.A., Rowland D.P., Robinson D.P., "Nuclear Measurements of Fluid Saturation in EOR Experiments", Proc. Euro. Symp of EOR, pp 483-498, Bournemouth, 21-23 Sept 1981. Naylor P., Puckett D.A., "In-Situ Saturation Distributions: The Key to Understanding Core Analysis, SCA-9405, Int. Symp. SCA, Stavanger, Norway, 12-14 Sept 1994.

SI Metric Conversion Factors bar cp md mL/hr scf/stb 1.0* 1.0* 9.869 233 2.777 777 1.781 076 E01 = MPa E03 = Pas E04 = m2 E10 = m3 /s E01 = m3 / m3


Table 1: Key Experimental Parameters and Results

Phase of Experiment Conditioning Parameter Core assembly Length of core assembly (mm) Diameter (mm) Porosity Pore volume (mL) Absolute permeability (md) Brine phase tracer Connate brine saturation Temperature (C) Conditioning pressure (barg) Ageing period (days) Oil perm at connate brine after ageing (md) Secondary Waterflood Initial flow rate (mL/hr) Bump (mL/hr) Waterflood residual oil saturation Experiment 1 A 355 37.8 0.155 61.7 27 Co58 0.33 120 414 64 24 4 0.48 367 337 2479 52.7 5.3 0.21* 0.28* 0.15 45 Experiment 2 Experiment 3 B 515 37.8 0.208 120.5 493 Cs137 0.24 120 414 57 383 6 40 0.30 356 339 2290 1.82 140.5 0.06 0.25 0.17 2

492 Cs137 0.27 120 414 20 340 6 40 0.27 369 339 2290 6.10 47.0 0.16 0.22 0.12 20


Depressurisation start pressure (barg) Bubble point (barg) Solution gas/oil ratio (scf/stb) Mean depressurisation rate (bar/day) Depressurisation duration (days) Critical gas saturation Ultimate gas saturation Ultimate oil saturation % of waterflood residual oil produced * Local value at position 285 mm below top of core assembly.



300 Pressure - (barg) 250 200 150 100 50 0

Exp 1 Exp 2 Exp 3








60 80 100 Elapsed Time- (Days)




Fig.1: Depressurisation Rig Flow Circuit

Fig.2: Pressure Decline Experiments 1, 2, 3

0.65 0.6 0.55 0.5 0.45 Gas Saturation 0.4 0.35 0.3 0.2 0.15 0.1 0.05 0 50 100 150 200 250



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Measured Gas Saturations No-Gas-Flow Local Core Value (285 mm Below Top)

0.6 0.55 0.5 0.45 Gas Saturation 0.4 0.35 0.3 0.25 0.2 0.15 0.1 0.05 0 Critical Gas Saturation

Measured Gas Saturations No-Gas-Flow Whole Core Average Values

Critical Gas Saturation













Pressure - (barg)

Pressure - (barg)

Fig.3: Exp 1 Critical Gas Saturation

0.65 0.6 0.55 0.5 0.45 Gas Saturation 0.4 Measured Gas Saturations No-Gas-Flow Whole Core Average Value Normalised Pressure Decline Rate (hr-1) 1.0E-03 1.0E-02 1.0E-01

Fig.4: Exp 2 Critical Gas Saturation

Model Fluid System Virgin Watered Live Crude Virgin

0.35 0.3

0.25 0.2 0.15 0.1 0.05 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 Pressure - (barg) Critical Gas Saturation

3 years 5 years

Ref 2 Data Exp 1 Exp 2

Reservoir Condition


10 years 20 years

Exp 3

1.0E-06 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 Gas Saturation 0.4 0.5 0.6

Fig.5: Exp 3 Critical Gas Saturation

1 0.9 Oil/Water Capillary Pressure - (bara) 0.8 0.7 Saturation 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0 0.00 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00
0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0

Fig.6: Comparison of Experiments 1, 2, 3 with Reference 2

Oil data Water data Gas data Gas CCE Oil Sim Water Sim Gas Sim




Water Saturation

200 250 Pressure (barg)





Fig.7: Oil/Water Secondary Drainage Capillary Pressure

Fig.8: Numerical Simulation of Experiment 2


0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 Saturation 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 Pressure (barg) Oil data Water data Gas data Gas CCE Oil Sim Water Sim Gas Sim

0.00070 Expt 2 Expt 3


0.00050 Gas Relative Permeability





0.00000 0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 0.25 0.30 0.35

Gas Saturation

Fig.9: Numerical Simulation of Experiment 3

Fig 10: Fitted Gas Relative Permeabilities During Depressurisation