Novel solvent injection and conformance control technologies for fractured viscous oil reservoirs
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Fractured viscous oil resources hold great potential for continued oil production growth globally. However, many of these resources are not accessible with current commercial technologies using steam injection which limits operations to high temperatures. Several steam-solvent processes have been proposed to decrease steam usage, but they still require operating temperatures too high for many projects. There is a need for a low temperature injection strategy alternative for viscous oil production. This dissertation discusses scoping experimental work for a low temperature solvent injection strategy targeting fractured systems. The strategy combines three production mechanisms – gas-oil gravity drainage, liquid extraction, and film gravity drainage. During the initial heating period when the injected solvent is in the liquid phase, liquid extraction occurs. When the solvent is in the vapor phase, solvent-enhanced film gravity drainage occurs. A preliminary simulation of the experiments was developed to study the impact of parameter uncertainty on the model performance. Additional work on reducing uncertainty for key parameters controlling the two solvent production mechanisms will be necessary. In a natural fracture network, the solvent would not be injected uniformly throughout the reservoir. Preferential injection into the higher conductivity fracture areas would result in early breakthrough leaving unswept areas of high oil saturation. Conformance control would be necessary to divert subsequent solvent injection into the unswept zones. A variety of techniques, including polymer and silica gel treatments, have been designed to block flow through the swept zones, but all involve initiating gelation prior to injection. This dissertation also looks at a strategy that uses the salinity gradient between the injected silica nanoparticle dispersion and the in-situ formation water to trigger gelation. First, the equilibrium phase behavior of silica dispersions as a function of sodium chloride and nanoparticle concentration and temperature was determined. The dispersions exhibited three phases – a clear, stable dispersion; gel; and a viscous, unstable dispersion. The gelation time was found to decrease exponentially as a function of silica concentration, salinity, and temperature. During core flood tests under matrix and fracture injection, the in-situ formed gels were shown to provide sufficient conductivity reduction even at low nanoparticle concentration.