Potential for non-thermal cost-effective chemical augmented waterflood for producing viscous oils

Xu, Haomin
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Chemical enhanced oil recovery has regained its attention because of high oil price and the depletion of conventional oil reservoirs. This process is more complex than the primary and secondary recovery flooding and requires detailed engineering design for a successful field-scale application. An effective alkaline/co-solvent/polymer (ACP) formulation was developed and corefloods were performed for a cost efficient alternative to alkaline/surfactant/polymer floods by the research team at the department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. The alkali agent reacts with the acidic components of heavy oil (i.e. 170 cp in-situ viscosities) to form in-situ natural soap to significantly reduce the interfacial tension, which allows producing residual oil not contacted by waterflood or polymer flood alone. Polymer provides mobility control to drive chemical slug and oil bank. The cosolvent added to the chemical slug helps to improve the compatibility between in-situ soap and polymer and to reduce microemulsion viscosity. An impressive recovery of 70% of the waterflood residual oil saturation was achieved where the remaining oil saturation after the ACP flood was reduced to only 13.5%. The results were promising with very low chemical usage for injection. The UTCHEM chemical flooding reservoir simulator was used to model the coreflood experiments to obtain parameters for pilot scale simulations. Geological model was based on unconsolidated reservoir sand with multiple seven spot well patterns. However, facility capacity and field logistics, reservoir heterogeneity as well as mixing and dispersion effects might prevent coreflood design at laboratory from large scale implementation. Field-scale sensitivity studies were conducted to optimize the design under uncertainties. The influences of chemical mass, polymer pre-flush, well constraints, and well spacing on ultimate oil recovery were closely investigated. This research emphasized the importance of good mobility control on project economics. The in-situ soap generated from alkali-naphthenic acid reaction not only mobilizes residual oil to increase oil recovery, but also enhances water relative permeability and increases injectivity. It was also demonstrated that a closer well spacing significantly increases the oil recovery because of greater volumetric sweep efficiency. This thesis presents the simulation and modeling results of an ACP process for a viscous oil in high permeability sandstone reservoir at both coreflood and pilot scales.