On an inverse-source problem for elastic wave-based enhanced oil recovery
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Despite bold steps taken worldwide for the replacement or the reduction of the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, economic and societal realities suggest that a transition to alternative energy forms will be, at best, gradual. It also appears that exploration for new reserves is becoming increasingly more difficult both from a technical and an economic point of view, despite the advent of new technologies. These trends place renewed emphasis on maximizing oil recovery from known fields. In this sense, low-cost and reliable enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods have a strong role to play. The goal of this dissertation is to explore, using computational simulations, the feasibility of the, so-called, seismic or elastic-wave EOR method, and to provide the mathematical/computational framework under which the method can be systematically assessed, and its feasibility evaluated, on a reservoir-specific basis. A central question is whether elastic waves can generate sufficient motion to increase oil mobility in previously bypassed reservoir zones, and thus lead to increased production rates, and to the recovery of otherwise unexploited oil. To address the many questions surrounding the feasibility of the elastic-wave EOR method, we formulate an inverse source problem, whereby we seek to determine the excitations (wave sources) one needs to prescribe in order to induce an a priori selected maximization mobility outcome to a previously well-characterized reservoir. In the industry’s parlance, we attempt to address questions of the form: how does one shake a reservoir?, or what is the “resonance” frequency of a reservoir?. We discuss first the case of wellbore wave sources, but conclude that surface sources have a better chance of focusing energy to a given reservoir. We, then, discuss a partial-differential-equation-constrained optimization approach for resolving the inverse source problem associated with surface sources, and present a numerical algorithm that robustly provides the necessary excitations that maximize a mobility metric in the reservoir. To this end, we form a Lagrangian encompassing the maximization goal and the underlying physics of the problem, expressed through the side imposition of the governing partial differential equations. We seek to satisfy the first-order optimality conditions, whose vanishing gives rise to a systematic process that, in turn, leads to the prescription of the wave source signals. We explore different (indirect) mobility metrics (kinetic energy or acceleration field maximization), and report numerical experiments under three different settings: (a) targeted formations within one-dimensional multi-layered elastic solids system of semi-infinite extent; (b) targeted formations embedded in a two-dimensional semi-infinite heterogeneous elastic solid medium; and (c) targeted poroelastic formations embedded within elastic heterogeneous surroundings in one dimension. The numerical experiments, employing hypothetical subsurface formation models subjected to, initially unknown, ground surface wave sources, demonstrate that the numerical optimizer leads robustly to optimal loading signals and the illumination of the target formations. Thus, we demonstrate that the theoretical framework for the elastic wave EOR method developed in this dissertation can systematically address the application of the method on a reservoir-specific basis. From an application point of view and based on the numerical experiments reported herein, for shallow reservoirs there is strong promise for increased production. The case of deeper reservoirs can only be addressed with further research that builds on the findings of this work, as we report in the last chapter.