Development of a coupled wellbore-reservoir compositional simulator for damage prediction and remediation




Shirdel, Mahdy

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During the production and transportation of oil and gas, flow assurance issues may occur due to the solid deposits that are formed and carried by the flowing fluid. Solid deposition may cause serious damage and possible failure to production equipment in the flow lines. The major flow assurance problems that are faced in the fields are concerned with asphaltene, wax and scale deposition, as well as hydrate formations. Hydrates, wax and asphaltene deposition are mostly addressed in deep-water environments, where fluid flows through a long path with a wide range of pressure and temperature variations (Hydrates are generated at high pressure and low temperature conditions). In fact, a large change in the thermodynamic condition of the fluid yields phase instability and triggers solid deposit formations. In contrast, scales are formed in aqueous phase when some incompatible ions are mixed. Among the different flow assurance issues in hydrocarbon reservoirs, asphaltenes are the most complicated one. In fact, the difference in the nature of these molecules with respect to other hydrocarbon components makes this distinction. Asphaltene molecules are the heaviest and the most polar compounds in the crude oils, being insoluble in light n-alkenes and readily soluble in aromatic solvents. Asphaltene is attached to similarly structured molecules, resins, to become stable in the crude oils. Changing the crude oil composition and increasing the light component fractions destabilize asphaltene molecules. For instance, in some field situations, CO₂ flooding for the purpose of enhanced oil recovery destabilizes asphaltene. Other potential parameters that promote asphaltene precipitation in the crude oil streams are significant pressure and temperature variation. In fact, in such situations the entrainment of solid particulates in the flowing fluid and deposition on different zones of the flow line yields serious operational challenges and an overall decrease in production efficiency. The loss of productivity leads to a large number of costly remediation work during a well life cycle. In some cases up to $5 Million per year is the estimated cost of removing the blockage plus the production losses during downtimes. Furthermore, some of the oil and gas fields may be left abandoned prematurely, because of the significance of the damage which may cause loss about $100 Million. In this dissertation, we developed a robust wellbore model which is coupled to our in-house developed compositional reservoir model (UTCOMP). The coupled wellbore/reservoir simulator can address flow restrictions in the wellbore as well as the near-wellbore area. This simulator can be a tool not only to diagnose the potential flow assurance problems in the developments of new fields, but also as a tool to study and design an optimum solution for the reservoir development with different types of flow assurance problems. In addition, the predictive capability of this simulator can prescribe a production schedule for the wells that can never survive from flow assurance problems. In our wellbore simulator, different numerical methods such as, semi-implicit, nearly implicit, and fully implicit schemes along with blackoil and Equation-of-State compositional models are considered. The Equation-of-State is used as state relations for updating the properties and the equilibrium calculation among all the phases (oil, gas, wax, asphaltene). To handle the aqueous phase reaction for possible scales formation in the wellbore a geochemical software package (PHREEQC) is coupled to our simulator as well. The governing equations for the wellbore/reservoir model comprise mass conservation of each phase and each component, momentum conservation of liquid, and gas phase, energy conservation of mixture of fluids and fugacity equations between three phases and wax or asphaltene. The governing equations are solved using finite difference discretization methods. Our simulation results show that scale deposition is mostly initiated from the bottom of the wellbore and near-wellbore where it can extend to the upper part of the well, asphaltene deposition can start in the middle of the well and the wax deposition begins in the colder part of the well near the wellhead. In addition, our simulation studies show that asphaltene deposition is significantly affected by CO₂ and the location of deposition is changed to the lower part of the well in the presence of CO₂. Finally, we applied the developed model for the mechanical remediation and prevention procedures and our simulation results reveal that there is a possibility to reduce the asphaltene deposition in the wellbore by adjusting the well operation condition.



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