CFD-based representation of non-Newtonian polymer injectivity for a horizontal well with coupled formation-wellbore hydraulics
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During injection of a high-viscosity, non-Newtonian polymer into a long horizontal well, a significant pressure drop occurs along the well length. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modeling of the shear-thinning flow of polymer in the wellbore, coupled with the viscoelastic flow in composite gravel-pack/near-well formation zone, was carried out to develop convenient correlations for axial pressure values of both Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids along the well length, for use in chemical EOR simulations. The detailed CFD modeling of the non-Newtonian flow behavior of polymer within the horizontal wellbore, completion zone and the near-well formation, not only allows accurate accounting of pressure distribution along the long horizontal well, but also can be employed for screening diagnosis for possible injectivity inefficiencies resulting from non-uniform pressure values. At both high and low injection rates, CFD modeling predicts non-uniform pressure distributions for highly viscous fluids. The inclusive pressure correlation was implemented into UTCHEM, a University of Texas at Austin research simulator, to determine the importance of including pressure drop in polymer injections. Early times (i.e., less than 100 days) yielded a significant oil recovery deviation from a uniform pressure wellbore. However, at later times the recovery loss generated by the pressure decrease was deemed negligible; therefore, the traditional assumption regarding uniform pressure in horizontal wellbores was still reasonable for highly viscous non-Newtonian flow. This CFD study is the first mechanistic investigation of the polymer injectivity with detailed description of the wellbore, completion zone and near-well formation, and with full accounting of the shear-thinning rheology for pipe flow and the viscoelastic rheology of polymer in porous media. With increased use of very high molecular-weight polymers for chemical EOR processes for mobility control, the latter mechanism is known to be critical.