Recovery of stranded heavy oil by electromagnetic heating
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High oil-viscosity is a major concern for the recovery of oil from heavy-oil reservoirs. Introducing energy to the formation has proven to be an effective way of lowering the oil viscosity by raising the temperature in the formation. The application of low-frequency heating, also known as electrical resistance heating, is limited by water vaporization near the wellbore which breaks the conductive path to the reservoir, and limits the heating rate as well as the resulting production rates. Electromagnetic (EM) heating, also called high-frequency heating, can be used instead. Although its potential was recognized during the late 70’s, no simulation results or detailed modeling studies have yet been published that completely model the complex interactions of EM energy and multiphase flow. One of the main drawbacks of proposed models is the use of the EM adsorption coefficient as a constant regardless of the properties of the medium, which can obscure the important effect of this parameter on the extension of the reservoir area heated. This dissertation presents a multiphase, two-dimensional radial model that describes the three-phase flow of water, oil, and steam and heat flow in a reservoir within confining conductive formations. The model accounts for the appearance and/or disappearance of a phase, and uses the variation in temperature and water saturation to update the EM absorption coefficient. This model allows determining the temperature distribution and the productivity improvement from EM heating when multiple phases are present. For the numerical simulations of EM heating, I used COMSOL Multiphysics, a Lagrange-quadratic finite element simulator, and its partial differential equations (PDE) application. Several simulations were made for hypothetical reservoirs with different fluid and rock properties. Also, analytical solutions for a single-phase EM heating model were developed and used to validate the numerical solutions. Special attention is focused on reservoirs with characteristics for which steam injection is not attractive or feasible such as low permeability, thin-zone, and extra-heavy oil reservoirs. Results showed that EM heating is feasible based on the power source and frequency used to maintain an optimum absorption coefficient and to obtain higher production rates. Comparisons showed that cumulative oil production and recovery factor obtained by EM heating are better than what is achieved by cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) for reservoirs with the above mentioned characteristics.